Mike Krzyzewski Rumors
“He’s a star in progress, so to speak, a work in progress,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said on ESPN radio this week. “I’m not sure anyone has come out any stronger at a wing position. He’s about 6-6, 225, and he’s strong – mentally and physically. … He’s going to kind of be his own guy. I think he’s got a chance to be a star, to be quite frank with you, because he’s got the mental makeup to do it also.”
To find a coach who does adapt his strategy year after year, I headed (by telephone) to the Research Triangle, to consult Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. “I never try to put my players in a system,” he said, not long before his adjustments enabled the Blue Devils to win the national championship. “I try to create a system that’s good for my players.” Had he thought of trying the triangle? The idea seemed to startle him. It was so successful, I ventured. “The triangle didn’t win crap!” he said sternly. “Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant! Whatever offense I run, that offense didn’t do it. Winning means you had the caliber of players capable of winning a championship.” Then he seemed to want to soothe the situation. “I have nothing against the triangle,” he said. “I think it’s a great offense. But it’s a lot better if Jordan loves it or Kobe loves it.”
Mike Krzyzewski has added his third recruit of the 2015 class. He’s not another 5-star talent like Chase Jeter or Luke Kennard, but he is the son of one of the best to ever play the game. According to 247Sports’ Adam Rowe, Justin Robinson—the son of former San Antonio Spurs great David Robinson—will join the Duke basketball team next season as a walk-on:
“What a great decision!” said Krzyzewski. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Jahlil and he has earned it. Obviously, he has done an incredible job here at Duke and he will always be a part of our Duke basketball family. We could not be happier for he and his family.”
As the USA Basketball coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was one of many who watched in horror when Paul George broke his leg during a USA Basketball scrimmage in August. And now, as George prepares to return to the court, a happy coincidence provided Krzyzewski an opportunity to wish him well on his return.
Quin Snyder may have been an assistant to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and a successful college head coach at Missouri. But at Snyder’s first coaches’ retreat seven years ago, he was the new kid in class trying to get away with mumbling an answer. “I was just listening, but then I got forced to say a few things, and Pop goes, ‘what the hell are you talking about, Quin?’” Snyder recalled. “But getting comfortable in those environments, where you felt like you earned the respect of the leader and the staff, to be accepted into that group was really important.”
Sixers fans are quick to point out that Philly has already drafted two big men in the last two drafts in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. But several NBA sources said Philly could easily trade one of their current bigs if they opt to draft Okafor at No. 1 (assuming they get the No. 1 pick). “They will probably trade one of the bigs they currently have instead of Okafor,” one NBA source said.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had just finished praising his potential one-and-done players Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones when he climbed down off the podium at Barclays Center and told me tanking for star players like them is “stupid.” “It’s stupid to have it because one, you don’t know if you are going to get somebody and it’s a disservice to your fans,” Coach K told me after his No.-4 ranked Duke team beat Stanford, 70-59, to win the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Some 50 NBA personnel, including Boston Celtics President Danny Ainge and Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough, were in attendance.
“I love Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) and (program director) Mr. (Jerry) Colangelo, because they understood everything. I didn’t want it to overshadow what they were doing, so that’s why I kind of felt bad about it. But at the same time, I knew I had to do it for myself, and this was one of the first decisions basketball-wise that was like, ‘All right, this is just for me. I’m worried about me right now. I was a little selfish, and sometimes that makes people, it made a lot of people, uncomfortable.” And to those who don’t agree or understand? “Seriously, to be honest, I was like ‘(expletive) ’em.’ You can write that, too. Seriously, though. I’m just going to be me, man, and that’s how I felt. “I was happy I took the hits, like, ‘All right, that’s going to teach me to be strong and not worry about what everybody has got to say.’ I heard it all — ‘you don’t care about your country’ to ‘you’re soft’ to all of that. Well I don’t care. These people don’t know me. They don’t know the work I’ve put in. They don’t know that I’ve done (the FIBA tournament) before, so it made me stronger.”
“I went back to the hospital the next day secretly. ESPN had cameras in front of the hospital. We were able to go through the back and go in. I spent a half hour with Paul, his mom, dad, two sisters, a couple of friends and his girlfriend. There was an emotional moment during it. I did not take any pictures. I did not know a picture was taken. I think his sister took a picture and she tweeted it because it was an emotional scene. “To say that I orchestrated that and used Paul George to show that I was a good guy is really wrong. For anybody to think that, if you want to think that, then you are a bad person.”
Unprompted, Krzyzewski brought up the columnist’s insinuation that Krzyzewski had arranged for someone to take a photograph of Krzyzewski embracing an injured Paul George in George’s hospital room — to both deflect attention from the NBA “losing a $100 million star in a worthless scrimmage” and “for all those moms and dads to see the compassion and caring of Duke’s coach.” Unprompted, Krzyzewski explained what had happened leading up to that photo. “That was a really bad thing, to bring up Paul George,” Krzyzewski said. “After he was injured, USA Basketball was in the trauma room — me, Jerry (Colangelo), a bunch of NBA people and whatever. There were too many people there, so they asked for only the family and the doctors. We went back. A few of the people from USA Basketball left that morning. I was staying with my family for a couple of days.
Krzyzewski never violated an NCAA rule when he climbed aboard a flight, flew cross-country and addressed the 2013 under-19 USA Basketball national team at its Colorado Springs training camp. He addressed players in a group, and talked to them individually, sources told Yahoo Sports. For the record, Krzyzewski is USA Basketball’s senior national coach and the visit gave him an opportunity to personally welcome those young men into the program’s feeder system.
The end’s coming for USA Basketball’s grip on the game in the States, but once change goes into effect come the 2018 World Cup, it won’t matter much to Krzyzewski anymore. He still has two full summers of USA Basketball access left to him, and that’ll make it a full decade of control. As one Duke alumnus would tell you: There is a USA Basketball storefront selling patriotism and duty with a backroom reality that peddles the Blue Devils and Nike swooshes.
“It took us to another level relationship-wise,” said Irving, who played for Krzyzewski at Duke for a year. “Nobody’s invincible, but one thing we can do is come together as a team and we did a great job of that. Every single day, for however many coach said it was, 50 days or something like that. I’ve gotten to know all these guys and this is something I’m going to remember the rest of my life.”
“They’re probably the hottest team, and they’re playing at a high level,” USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Serbia. “They have stars on their team, and Teodosic, I loved him when I saw him in the World Championships in ’10, Bogdanovic is a rising star. Their big guys (including former NBA big man Nenad Krstic) are good, they’re well coached, and they’re strong. They can hurt you from many different positions. “They’re just playing great basketball right now. Actually, it’s beautiful to see. I hope I don’t see that beauty tomorrow night.”
So the guy from Slovenia brought a bottle of wine with him Friday night, and he was not going to take “no” for an answer from Krzyzewski under any circumstances, no matter how uncomfortable it was making the FIBA media officials. “I have a gift for you,” the reporter said. “Don’t bring anything up here,” Coach K warned. But security being just a tad lax at this event compared to previous versions of the World Cup (back when it was known as the World Championship), the reporter was undeterred. “It’s not such great wine, but sometimes you have to be modest,” the reporter said as he walked the bottle up to the podium and handed it to Coach K, who was gracious enough to go with the flow and accept it.
Beyond hiring Krzyzewski as coach in the wake of the Athens debacle, USA Basketball also made a point of getting its players to buy into the meaning of international competition. “We knew we had ask our players for a new level of commitment than was expected previously and we had to get them to realize we weren’t going to win international competitions doing things as we had,” Colangelo said. “We needed them to see themselves not as basketball players but as representatives of our country, doing our service, our piece. We had to get them to feel patriotism and selfless service.”
But over in Spain, where the U.S. will play for the FIBA World Cup title on Sunday, Mike Krzyzewski believes he has the answer. It is a bit sentimental, but to this point, you can’t argue with the results. He calls it “feel-it” moments: team visits to cemeteries, trips to military bases, anything to drive home the significance of representing one’s country. “When it’s time to change the culture of a team, your players have to hear it, see it and understand what you’re trying to do,” said Krzyzewski, the coach of the U.S. national team since 2005. “But to really make change stick”—and when he describes this, he drags out the word really—”they have to feel it. “To do that,” he said, “you have to create moments.”
“I think we’ve played well,” Krzyzewski said. “I don’t know what everybody has been watching, but our guys have played our butts off, have great camaraderie. “We’ve developed into a really close group, a good group. If we don’t win, it won’t be because we haven’t put the effort and developed the camaraderie and all that kind of stuff. We’re proving worthy of winning. Now whether we do or not …”
“Remember, the Olympics is every sport, so you’ve got a bunch of people who are excited about swimming, track, all the events, and you put them together and it creates this spectacle that basketball is a part of. ‘Basketball’s not a part of this event. Basketball is the event and there’s a big difference and we’ve learned that.”
The question is whether it’s as important as the Olympic basketball tournament, which has always been more popular in the United States. “To the basketball people of the world, this is the event,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said earlier in the tournament.
In 2006, after two poor international showings by Team USA, Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski called a lock-down defensive specialist: Bruce Bowen. They wanted the then three-time NBA All-Defensive first-team selection to be the glue guy the national team had missed in previous tournaments. But he was cut just three days before the start of the World Championship that Japan hosted that year. It seems Bowen hasn’t forgotten. “I’m an american, I had an opportunity to represent my country and I was thrilled about that. It was one of the highlights of that year… Until I was cut”. “It’s not that I couldn’t make the team, I got cut. I still have problems with that”, Bowen said half-jokingly, half seriously in Madrid, Spain.
There is, then, a lack of familiarity with this mixture of players that Krzyzewski wishes weren’t there but certainly understands. What’s more, the question of leadership and who the alpha dogs are in this group remains unanswered because, well, there aren’t as many of those types as they’d expected. “Alpha dogs are Kobe Bryant, LeBron, Carmelo,” Krzyzewski said. “But leaders are different, and I think with leadership you have to have experience — experience (not only) in this type of competition but also experience with me, so James and Steph have naturally done that along with Anthony because all three of them have been part of teams that I’ve coached and there’s a familiarity there for them to know me and what we’re trying to get across.”
“It’s fine; we’re winning basketball games, and that’s the most important part about this experience,” Drummond said when asked about his reduced role. “If I don’t get the opportunity to play, the coaching staff knows what they’re doing, and it just wasn’t the right time for me to be on the court.” Drummond’s limited playing time comes as no surprise on a stacked Team USA roster that includes NBA All-Star and 2012 Olympian Anthony Davis and rising star DeMarcus Cousins at center. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has taken advantage of international opponents’ inferior size by pounding the ball inside, and the Americans have relied primarily on Davis, Cousins and power forward Kenneth Faried to carry the scoring load.