USA’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski, center calls over Chris Paul during a men’s quarterfinals basketball game against Australia at the 2012 Summer Olympics, ….
LONDON — It is the only coaching job he could have taken, probably anywhere in the world, where the expectations can actually dwarf those back in Durham.
What’s it like coaching a team of NBA superstars with a nightly margin for error that makes Duke’s seem Shaq sized.
There were doubts if the Duke coach would be able to get the top pros — players accustomed to always getting their way — to accept a team first concept.
Let Johnny Bach, assistant coach to Henry Iba on the 1972 US Olympic team, give you a glimpse into life on the Team USA bench Mike Krzyzewski has bossed for his country’s past 62 senior national team games.
With a win, Krzyzewski will join Henry Iba (1964 and 1968) as the only US coaches to lead teams to consecutive Olympic gold medals.
“We invented the game, so people expect us to win every single [international] game we play,” Bach said this week by phone from Chicago, where the 88 year old lives in retirement.
Perhaps USA Basketball won’t be sentenced to that fate forever, but those are still the ground rules in play for program chairman Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski entering the gold medal game here Sunday afternoon against Spain that’ll wrap up an 18 day stay at the London Games.2012 Olympics Blog: Team USAMarc Stein provides all the latest news and analysis on Team USA’s journey at the Olympics.
Team USA blog | 2012 OlympicsVowing to leave the US bench after these Olympics, no matter what happens in Sunday’s finale, Krzyzewski was only half kidding when he said, “It’s a great job if we win this whole thing.”.
Krzyzewski led the Redeem Team back to the gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and then to a world championship victory in 2010.
In his less fatalistic moments, Coach K has mostly loved these past seven years, not only for the major successes — gold in Beijing in 2008 followed by triumph at the 2010 worlds in Turkey and that gaudy overall record of 61 1 — but also because they’ve allowed him to satiate any yearnings he’s had to coach in the NBA.
He doesn’t need to entertain that thought ever again, or play what if games in his head about leaving his Duke empire, because he already knows what it’s like to coach the most talented players in the world and take them places they haven’t been.
However, Iba, for all his successes, didn’t have to worry about convincing NBA superstars to buy into his program, juggle the demands of coaching one of the nation’s top college teams or compete with an international basketball community filled with talented players.
Yet the whole enterprise, as Colangelo describes it, is an undeniable “drain,” this grind of coaching game after game in which anything less than a double digit win, never mind losing, triggers a full blown domestic crisis.
Back in Dallas in May, as part of the USOC’s quadrennial media summit before every Olympics, Krzyzewski made it clear that he’d be stepping down post London after a run of four straight major tournaments.
“When we watch Duke games, we’re an absolute wreck because we just know the pressure on them to win every game,” said Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins, who is here in London calling Team USA’s games for NBC and whose son, Chris, serves as an assistant to Krzyzewski both with the Blue Devils and with Team USA.
Some of Team USA’s prominent players nonetheless plan to try to convince Krzyzewski to keep going, at least through the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain, since pretty much all of them hold the 65 year old in such high regard.
He would essentially be taking the same role that Team USA teammate James Harden plays with the Oklahoma City Thunder, a bona fide playmaker that gives the team depth, energy and a lethal scoring option off the bench.
One of those stalwarts, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, told ESPN.com: “we’re sure we can get him to come back.”.
Colangelo has said repeatedly this week that he’ll make one more run at it, after giving Krzyzewski some time to decompress when this is all over, but sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich have indeed already moved to the top of the list to take over in 2013 for Krzyzewski, who is expected to remain with the program as a top aide to Colangelo if he can’t be convinced to extend his coaching tenure.
Sources say Louisville coach Rick Pitino has also expressed strong interest in the position, but the general expectation in USAB circles is that Krzyzewski will be succeeded by an NBA coach.
Current Team USA assistants Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan, meanwhile, are regarded as long shot contenders in part because both are out of work at present, meaning it would likely be too much to ask either of them — when they do inevitably resurface in the NBA in the near future — to take on the national team in addition to the rigors of a new pro job.
Colangelo, whose own loose timetable calls for resolving the coaching situation by the start of 2013, said Saturday that he still remembers the meeting back in 2005 in which North Carolina coaching legend Dean Smith, surveying all the various names on Colangelo’s blackboard from every segment of the coaching population as a USAB consultant, said there was only one man in the college game who could handle all those NBA millionaires.
You’ll hear the same thing from the small ballers who’ll be trying to offset Sunday’s significant size disadvantage against the Spaniards.
“He’s been the perfect guy,” Team USA elder statesmanKobe Bryant said.
At the morning buffet Friday, Team USA players like Sue Bird came over to offer him a bear hug.
He’ll go down in history for what he’s done [with Team USA].
His 9.4 points per game through the preliminaries ranks him just sixth on Team USA, an embarrassing mark for a player who finished second in the NBA in scoring last season (27.9 PPG).
Durant, not typically prone to such hyperbole, went so far as to brand Coach K “just the coolest guy in the world” Friday night at a postgame press conference where Krzyzewski, for the first time all summer, misplaced his cool for a moment and had to stifle a more biting response when a television news reporter from the States asked how much coaching really has to be done with players this good.
“The truth, of course, is that Team USA’s coaches wound up staying up well past 4 a.m. after Friday night’s semifinal rout of Argentina, studying film of Spain to prepare for Sunday’s rematch of the 2008 gold medal game that was so uncomfortably close in Beijing.”.
Coach K told the Associated Press that he will step down as USA coach following the gold medal game.
“When asked Saturday to rate his chances of convincing Krzyzewski to reconsider his exit strategy, after Coach K’s involvement on 12 different USA Basketball coaching staffs since 1979, Colangelo said: “Chances are not.
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