Yes, Coach K has hit 1K as of Sunday, but that does not even count 75 wins he has had at an even higher level of basketball.
Really, he is at 1,075. I have been fortunate enough to cover Mike Krzyzewski while he coached the U.S. men's senior national team at the past two Olympics. That team has won a gold medal in both 2008 and 2012 and has proved emphatically that Krzyzewski is not just a college coach -- he's a basketball coach. He treated the pro players a little differently -- giving them more rope, talking to them more as peers -- and it worked beautifully. He has coached the men's national team since 2005, compiling an overall 75-1 record in various world championships and Olympics. The team's lone loss under Coach K came in 2006.
Coach K's close relationships with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were key to the past two gold medals for the U.S. As Bryant said after the 2012 gold medal game of Coach K: "He’s brilliant. Very intelligent. Communicates very well. And he’s fun. Doesn’t take himself too seriously. We all have enjoyed him immensely.”
Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball's chairman, once told me a story. In 2005, Colangelo had been charged with helping the U.S. men’s team rise from the ashes of the 2004 Olympic squad. That team had been coached by Larry Brown and had lost three times in Greece after many of the top NBA players found convenient excuses not to play.
Brown obviously wasn’t going to get to come back after that performance. So Colangelo started asking lots of basketball people who should next coach the team in 2008.
One of those he asked at a meeting in Chicago was Dean Smith, the legendary UNC coach who had directed the 1976 U.S. team to an Olympic gold medal. That was back when the U.S. used only college players – Smith put four of his Tar Heels on the squad.
Colangelo showed Smith a blackboard filled with possible head coaches from the NBA and college ranks.
“Dean Smith said there’s only one college guy up there who I believe I can get the job done, and that’s Coach K,” Colangelo told me. “Which was really a statement, coming from his biggest rival.”
Coach K was recommended by many others, too, of course. But that one carried particular weight with Colangelo. And Smith was right -- Coach K sure got the job done, and still believes he has the energy to do it again. He will return as the Olympic men's head coach for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
1 year ago