Lakers expect to hear in few days

Updated: July 2, 2004, 3:54 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has been offered the Los Angeles Lakers' head coaching job, ESPN's Jim Gray reported Thursday.

The K factor
Shaquille O'Neal
O'Neal
Mike Krzyzewski has a military (school) background and a sparkling resume, which means he should have plenty to impress Shaquille O'Neal. Except that O'Neal still doesn't want to play for him.

It's not because Shaq has anything against Coach K. Shaq simply sees his possible hiring as yet another slight, another concession the Lakers have made to Kobe Bryant without Shaq's consultation.

With the belief spreading that Krzyzewski is Bryant's hand-picked choice to replace Phil Jackson, Shaq may be even more determined to force a trade, insulted by the appearance of another player on his team being allowed to make all the decisions.

Problem is, a Shaq trade is even tougher now than it was when the week began, after the Mavericks lost free-agent point guard Steve Nash to Phoenix without compensation. Dallas and Sacramento are widely considered the only feasible destinations for O'Neal, but the Mavs, without Nash, suddenly don't have a spare star to build a trade package around.

The Lakers are insisting on receiving Dirk Nowitzki in any deal that sends Shaq to Dallas. The Mavericks insist they won't trade Nowitzki and were hoping to involve Nash in a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State that would route Warriors free-agent center Erick Dampier to L.A. as Shaq's replacement. That seems impossible now without Nash, and even if the Mavericks were suddenly willing to part with Nowitzki, O'Neal would probably hesistate to commit to a Dallas team without Nowitzki or Nash.

If obstacles keeping cropping up at their current rate, convincing the Lakers to move Shaq could prove as challenging as the Lakers' quest to lure Coach K away from his Duke empire.

-- Marc Stein
According to Gray, the Lakers expect to hear from Krzyzewski in the next few days and hope to have their coaching search wrapped up by next week. There are no firm details yet on the offer, described as multiyear and multimillion. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met with Krzyzewski in North Carolina, Gray reported.

The sudden developments with Krzyzewski may have additional ramifications for the Lakers. ESPN's Jay Bilas reports that Lakers free agent guard Kobe Bryant has made it clear to the team that he wants Krzyzewski to be his next coach.

Earlier Thursday, The Associated Press reported that the Lakers were in "serious discussions" with Krzyzewski about their coaching position.

Krzyzewski, a 57-year-old Hall of Famer, has led the Blue Devils to three national championships in almost a quarter-century at the school.

"Coach K has informed us that the Los Angeles Lakers have contacted him and entered into serious discussions to fill their vacant head coaching position," Duke athletic director Joe Alleva said.

Lakers spokesman John Black said Kupchak met with Krzyzewski. "They talked about our coaching vacancy," he said.

Black said the team hasn't made a decision, and was considering several other candidates to replace Phil Jackson.

Alleva said he didn't know if the Krzyzewski and the Lakers were close to a deal.

"I haven't been privy to their conversations," he said. "But obviously, they are a great franchise."

Duke spokesman Jon Jackson said Krzyzewski was in Durham earlier Thursday. The Lakers declined to say where the discussions were held.

An attempt to reach Krzyzewski by phone was unsuccessful.

By Thursday night, about 100 students and fans gathered at "Krzyzewskiville" -- the grassy plot outside Cameron Indoor Stadium where students camp out to attend Blue Devil basketball games -- with signs and flags urging the coach to stay.

Duke president Richard Brodhead told The Associated Press he and Alleva had dinner with Krzyzewski on Tuesday, after Brodhead became aware that the coach had talked with the Lakers.

Brodhead said he didn't know if the Lakers offered Krzyzewski the job.

"If he has the offer, he's going to have a big decision before him," said Brodhead, who officially took office as Duke's president Thursday, succeeding Nan Keohane.

Brodhead said he and Alleva urged Krzyzewski to finish his career at the school.

"He means more to this place than the record of his victories, impressive though that is," Brodhead said. "He's a real teacher. He teaches character as well as basketball."

Krzyzewski has a 621-179 record in 24 seasons at Duke, leading the Blue Devils to NCAA championships in 1991, 1992 and 2001. Under Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils have 10 Final Four appearances, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships and 10 conference regular-season titles.

His Duke teams have been ranked No. 1 in 12 different seasons, including each of the last seven years.

"If he decides that he's had a great ride at Duke, but something else calls out to him now, we'd have to understand that," Brodhead said. "In the meantime, you can be sure we'll do all we can to persuade him that Duke and the college game are the right place for him."

The mother of incoming freshman David McClure, said her son was first informed of the news in a call from assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski on Thursday.

Betty McClure said she spoke with Krzyzewski over the weekend when the family brought the 6-foot-7 swingman to Durham for summer classes, and the coach gave no indication of leaving.

"They said that every year he gets approached by some team or another," she said from her home in Ridgefield, Conn. "And so, how can you really expend a lot of energy being angry or anything until you know what he's going to do?"

David McClure, reached Thursday night, said he had been told by the coaching staff not to comment.

The Lakers announced June 18 -- three days after losing to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals -- that Jackson wouldn't return as coach next season. Jackson, who signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Lakers in June 1999, guided them to championships in his first three seasons.

Former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich has been considered the front-runner to succeed Jackson. He met with team owner Jerry Buss and Kupchak last week.

Former Lakers coach Pat Riley, an executive with the Miami Heat, also met with Buss and Kupchak, but issued a statement saying he wasn't a candidate.

Among others mentioned have been Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons, members of Jackson's staff. Kupchak said he planned to interview more than one person and less than 10 for the job and hoped to have a coach in place as soon as possible.

Last month, Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown became the first coach to win titles in both the NBA and NCAA. But Brown is the exception to the general trend of college coaches struggling in the NBA.

Rick Pitino went from two straight appearances in the national title game with Kentucky to the Boston Celtics, before quitting in 2001 and later returning to the college ranks with Louisville.

In 1992, Jerry Tarkanian, whose UNLV team won a national title in 1990, lasted just 20 games before being fired by the San Antonio Spurs with a 9-11 record.

More recently, former college coaches Lon Kruger, John Calipari, Leonard Hamilton and Tim Floyd have struggled during short tenures with the Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets, respectively.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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