Coach K would turn down Lakers
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The last time Phil Jackson retired from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 the team made a strong push to lure Mike Krzyzewski away from Duke. It was an offer Krzyzewski seriously considered before eventually turning down.
Krzyzewski said Wednesday his answer would be the same if the Lakers, who could be in the market for a head coach if Jackson goes through with his plan to retire after the season, decided to call him again.
"I've never thought of ever leaving Duke for another school but there were three serious times where I almost left to go to the pros," Krzyzewski said. "One was when Dave Gavitt took over the Celtics [in 1990], another was with the Trailblazers [in 1994] and the one that I took to a really far level was the Lakers situation. They were great with me. I just could not give up what I've done and gotten at Duke. It just wasn't worth it."
Krzyzewski, who has won four national titles at Duke, was reportedly offered a five-year, $40 million deal after Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met with him around the time of the 2004 NBA draft. Kupchak would later fly to meet Krzyzewski in North Carolina while Kobe Bryant reportedly tried to recruit Krzyzewski to come to the Lakers over the phone.
Ultimately Krzyzewski decided to stay, saying at the time, "Your heart has to be in whatever you lead. It became apparent that this decision was somewhat easier to make because you have to follow your heart and lead with it and Duke has always taken up my whole heart."
Bryant addressed the 2004 Krzyzewski-to-L.A. hypothetical briefly after practice Thursday.
"There would have been a lot of sad people down at Duke," Bryant said, had the move happened. "I know that."
Despite forming a close relationship with Bryant and Lamar Odom as the head coach of Team USA, Krzyzewski, 64, said he will continue to watch his NBA players from afar during the season but has no intention of coaching them full-time.
"I didn't know I'd have the opportunity to coach internationally again until Jerry Colangelo asked me," Krzyzewski said Wednesday. "I love that. It's made me a better a coach and it's made me love the NBA even more but I'm good with where I'm at. I'm too old to do anything else."
Arash Markazi is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.