Krzyzewski sees no negatives in pulling double duty
By J.P. Giglio
Raleigh News and Observer columnist
To Mike Krzyzewski, there is no downside to coaching for USA Basketball.
The Duke coach, who led a star-studded U.S. team to an Olympic title in Beijing in 2008, said on July 1 that he was considering a second run with the national team but a final decision would not be made until July 21.
However, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told The Associated Press that “all leads point to Coach K coming back” to pursue a second gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. And the Boston Globe, citing two unnamed sources, reported Wednesday that Krzyzewski has decided to make another three-year commitment, through the 2012 Summer Games.
Could another tour of duty with USA Basketball adversely affect Duke? Not according to Krzyzewski.
“There was not one negative thing for me, my program, my family,” Krzyzewski said last week. “It helped our program, it helped me (and) it helped our school. It was just a good thing.”
Krzyzewski originally agreed to coach the national team, which was coming off a third-place finish in the 2004 Olympics, on Oct. 26, 2005. In the four college seasons since, Duke has won slightly fewer games (three less) and half as many in the NCAA tournament compared to the previous four seasons.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas doesn’t see a correlation between Krzyzewski’s decision to work with USA Basketball and the slight drop in the win column at Duke or the relative lack of success recently in the NCAA tournament.
Bilas, who played for Krzyzewski at Duke and who later was an assistant on his coaching staff, said any negative effect of the time Krzyzewski has spent away from the Duke program has been offset by the positives.
“It has been incredibly energizing for him,” Bilas said. “He has also learned more from the coaches on his (USA) staff and seen a different way of doing things. It has expanded his basketball horizons.”
Krzyzewski has adopted new offensive sets from assistant Mike D’Antoni, an NBA head coach in Phoenix and New York, and has occasionally borrowed a 2-3 zone defense from assistant Jim Boeheim, Krzyzewski’s contemporary at Syracuse.
But Duke’s relative postseason struggles ó a first-round NCAA tournament loss in 2007, a 5-4 NCAA tournament record the last four seasons ó open the door to questions about Krzyzewski’s ability to juggle both jobs. Plus, there’s the North Carolina factor.
Since Krzyzewski started pulling double duty, the Tar Heels have won more games than Duke (124 to 112), have reached two Final Fours and have won a national title ó facts not missed by fans on either side of the rivalry.
Bilas chuckled at the notion that Krzyzewski’s involvement with USA Basketball could be construed as a bad thing. He remembered when Krzyzewski took the job in 2005, opposing college coaches and others speculated that it would result in an unfair recruiting advantage for Duke.
“Just goes to show you how baseless some of this speculation can be,” Bilas said.
Duke’s recruiting has been at a consistently high level, before and after Krzyzewski’s decision to rub elbows with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, according to Dave Telep’s recruiting rankings for scout.com. But there hasn’t been the expected spike in recruiting.
The four classes signed since Oct. 2005 have been ranked No. 4 (class of 2006), No. 6 (2007), No. 13 (2008) and No. 9 (2009), which is on par with the previous four classes.
Telep said Krzyzewski’s Olympic success could pay off in a big way with the class of 2010, the first recruiting cycle since the U.S. beat Spain in the gold-medal game in last August.
Wing Harrison Barnes, the top-ranked player in the class, and point guard Kyrie Irving, also a top-10 prospect, are both considering Duke.
“If they get one or both of those guys,” Telep said, “there’s your spike in recruiting.”
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