First Posted: 1/15/2009
Look for Coach K to stay
College basketball fans around the ACC and the nation were shocked when the news broke late last week that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was entertaining thoughts of taking over as court boss of the Los Angeles Lakers.
That shock quickly turned to panic for Blue Devils fans, who are fearful that the architect of college basketball's most successful program might walk away from his creation to tackle a new challenge.
It's easy to understand the temptation for Krzyzewski to take his intense persona to Tinsel Town.
The game of college basketball is changing rapidly, and the new direction will penalize a program like Duke.
The elite high school players of today have no intention of spending four years in college, a realization that makes recruiting even tougher for the nation's top programs as they can never be certain what their roster will look like from year to year.
And Duke's a perfect example, having lost its best player, Luol Deng, and top recruit, Shaun Livingston, to this year's NBA draft.
The result is the reality of a 2004-05 season with a roster depleted of depth and the kind of talent Krzyzewski has been accustomed to having in Durham.
Coach K, as well as coaches at other top programs, will have to re-examine their recruiting philosophy. Do you take a high school stud that might leave after one year and disrupt the continuity of the program and make it tough to recruit depth at that position?
Or do you search for a solid four-year guy who will improve a little bit every year?
There's no easy answer, which is one of the reasons the overture from the Lakers may look appealing to Krzyzewski at this time.
Coach K, who's won better than 600 games and three national titles at Duke, has been approached by NBA clubs throughout his career, but this looks like the most serious chance of him actually leaving.
The Lakers are the highest-profile NBA team of the modern era, and they're willing to make Krzyzewski the highest-paid coach in professional sports.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, ironically a former North Carolina great, has been in Durham and will continue to keep the pressure on Krzyzewski.
What's funny is that as good as Kupchak was in Carolina Blue, if he can get Coach K out of Durham, many UNC fans will view the move as his greatest accomplishment.
But will it happen? My guess is no.
Krzyzewski has been as successful as he's been because he's been able to get his players to play harder than the other team. The fact that his players were also better made winning easy.
That won't be the case at the next level. The opposing players will be as good and Krzyzewski will come to the realization that he won't be able to get the same intensity out of the typical NBA player.
Look for Coach K to stay put.
Chris Wallace can be reached at 739-4322, Ext. 119 or by e-mail at [email protected]