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Krzyzewski: Olympics helped me and Duke

Posted August 15, 2012

— Mike Krzyzewski, head basketball coach of Duke University and Team USA, is back in the states after coaching the US to an Olympic gold, a success he highly attributes to the play of LeBron James.

"I love LeBron. I thought he was our leader and our best player and I think he’s going to keep getting better," said Krzyzewski. "In 2008 he was already really good. He was terrific. He had become an outstanding defender. Now in '12, he’s the best player on this planet.

"Physically he can play every position on the court, both offensively and defensively, and play it at the highest level. He’s brilliant. He has a great voice and is an outstanding leader."

Mike Krzyzewski interview with Adam Gold on 99.9FM The Fan

Coach K started coaching James in 2006 and said in 2008 the young superstar went through one of the worst years someone could have without being in any legal trouble, but he challenged him to learn from those experiences.

"He’s been in a lot of situations ... He’s gotten beat. He’s probably said a couple things he didn’t mean but we’ve all done that. When he does it or doesn’t do it, it becomes something bigger," said Krzyzewski. "In the last few months, winning the championship like he did and then stepping forward and committing again, eight to ten days after they won, he’s in training camp with us. For 38-40 days he’s been our leader. He’s never complained about anything. After it was over I had a talk with him in the locker room and said 'Man don’t do anything with basketball for a while, just get away from the game. You had a year that only two other people have had, with MVP, championship and Olympics, and that’s Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. You deserve to be in that company'."

This past Olympics James was older and more mature, and the entire team Krzyzewski brought to London was much different than the team he headed up in 2008.

"In ’08 you had a team that was 'the redeem team', you’re coming off of losses in 2002, 04 and 06 when the gold medal was not won in those competitions. So there was that aspect of it. We had big guys in Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh, we had a younger LeBron James, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Carmelo (Anthony). We had more of a conventional basketball team, an outstanding team but you had centers and forwards and guards. Now in '12 we’re coming off the win in Beijing, the World Championships in Istanbul.

"It’s different when you keep winning. And then we lost all these big guys, Dwight, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin, LeMarcus Aldridge, and all of a sudden we had a different type of team that we all had to put together. And I thought the competition was better. The world keeps getting better. There are more teams capable of winning the gold medal. I think in Beijing there were probably three... us, Spain and Argentina. Here there were probably at least six, those same three teams, Russia, France and Brazil. I think all had a shot. It’s getting better and our guys had to adjust to a different style of play, which they did really well."

But even throughout those adjustments Krzyzewski admitted that at one point he thought they might fall short of the gold. And it all came down to one play, when Argentina guard Facundo Campazzo hit Carmelo Anthony in the groin while he was shooting a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter during the Americans' eventual 126-97 victory.

"I don’t know what the rule is about suspensions and stuff like that," said Krzyzewski. "But at that point I’m thinking, 'Are we going to lose the Olympics because this guy punched Carmelo in the groin and my guys get in a fight?'."

Krzyzewski said he talked to his friend, Argentina and Phoenix Suns player, Luis Scola in the hotel following the game. 

"I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was like ‘Do you know what your guy just did?’," recalled Krzyzewski. "In Chicago if someone did something like that there’d be something going on right now. I mean he hit him right in the groin, I mean not hit him he punched him right in the groin."

Krzyzewski said if anything were to come from the uncalled for hit, he wanted to be the person to say something because he didn't want to risk his players being suspended.

Unlike his usual demeanor, Krzyzewski stayed fairly even keeled throughout the games. 

"When I’m coaching the National Team I try to be less visible during a ball game and not as demonstrative. I think the ACC officials would like it better if I did that," joked Krzyzewski. "You have to be careful because you have [the referees] once, ...you have to make sure you don’t jump on anybody or get emotional because that could screw things up for a game."

After seven years at the helm, Krzyzewski says his time as head coach is done but knows it helped him, and Duke, to be a part of it.

21 Comments

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  • fbguru Aug 17, 7:37 a.m.

    ...Did those guys play for UNC? ....Nope. They wanted to go to Duke and major in something other than "African-American Studies"!!! LOL!

  • americaneel Aug 17, 12:09 a.m.

    Yeah it must be nice for Coach K to not have to worry about developing a big man and just plug... View More

    — Posted by scousler

    Let's see... ever heard of:
    Elton Brand or
    Shelden Williams or
    Carlos Boozer or
    Christian Laettner... View More

    — Posted by FE

    ...Did those guys play for UNC?

  • FE Aug 16, 9:09 p.m.

    Yeah it must be nice for Coach K to not have to worry about developing a big man and just plug... View More

    — Posted by scousler

    Let's see... ever heard of:
    Elton Brand or
    Shelden Williams or
    Carlos Boozer or
    Christian Laettner or
    Shane Battier or
    Grant Hill ???

    Thought not !!!

  • scousler Aug 16, 8:42 p.m.

    Yeah it must be nice for Coach K to not have to worry about developing a big man and just plug in the already fully matured pieces and watch them go.

  • FE Aug 16, 7:47 p.m.

    "Olympics helped me and Duke"

    Nice grammar!

    — Posted by dmccall

    Sorry...I fail to see your point or his error.

    Please explain!

  • dmccall Aug 16, 4:13 p.m.

    "Olympics helped me and Duke"

    Nice grammar!

  • mac240 Aug 16, 12:49 p.m.

    Great job Coach K, looking forward to the start of the college season!

  • FE Aug 16, 10:56 a.m.

    Bag, D.

    True Jersey traits.

    Take care

    — Posted by bnb1969again

    So, has "BackInBlack1969" arisen from the WRAL grave now as "bnb1969again" ? If so, I noted that person has now settled in as a newbie towel boy. I'm not sure if that is a promotion or a demotion!

    This irrelevant and immature post is very indicative of the former "sports legend" who went by that name on these boards. Virtually all posts by that person were marked by vitriol and/or childish comments toward anything related to Duke sports. (Too bad these boards do not have a "block" feature...)

    bnb1969again might even wish to read the earlier post by AppState ("As a true UNC fan, it's hard not to respect Coach K."), which shows that even rivals can respect the other schools for their overall accomplishments. With the events now being revealed in the Chapel Hill area, "respect" might be an uphill climb for that institution to muster! Repeated and regular negative comments by some posters here might make the climb even steeper!

    In any case, any TRUE sports fan should admire the recent accomplishments and Coach K, his staff, and his team. They all represented the USA well, and I feel certain there was no animosity among that group of men such as that demonstrated by some (former) "sports legends" regularly here.

    FE

  • Lars Marson Aug 16, 10:51 a.m.

    As an NCSU and Gonzaga fan, Coach K was the right person for the job....it even makes us Pack and Zags fans more anxious to want to get a "W" against the Bluedevils when we play you guys!!!! The ACc is going to be rocking in the triangle this season..and cant WAIT to see the Pack hold their own against the nations elite!! GO PACK! GO ZAGS!!!

  • BlueDevils00 Aug 16, 9:12 a.m.

    Great article WRAL. Coach K truly represented the USA amazingly during his tenure as head coach. 62-1 record is nothing short of amazing. As an NC State fan, i still have to give credit where it is due. This man is the best of all time. Honored to live close and be able to witness some of his greatness.

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