Wooden will be surprised if coach leaves Duke

Updated: July 6, 2004, 2:43 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- John Wooden knows what Mike Krzyzewski is going through, having once been at the pinnacle of college basketball and approached by NBA teams.

And Wooden, who knows Krzyzewski but has not spoken with him about this matter, expects Coach K to stay at Duke.

Krzyzewski met with Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Thursday to discuss the NBA team's coaching vacancy, created with the announcement June 18 that Phil Jackson wouldn't return next season.

ESPN's Jim Gray reported Thursday night that Krzyzewski was offered the job. Lakers spokesman John Black refused comment Friday.

"I'd be very surprised if Mike Krzyzewski took the job with the situation he's had there and the setup with Nike," the 93-year-old Wooden said. "He wouldn't leave, I don't think, for financial reasons.

"I would be very surprised to see him take the job, but I was very surprised to see Mike Montgomery take the job he took, too. So I guess you shouldn't really be surprised."

Krzyzewski has a 621-179 record in 24 seasons at Duke, leading the Blue Devils to NCAA championships in 1991, 1992 and 2001. Under the 57-year-old Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils have 10 Final Four appearances, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships and 10 conference regular-season titles.

Montgomery left Stanford in May after 18 years at the school to become coach at Golden State, signing a four-year, $10 million contract. Like Krzyzewski, he has never coached in the NBA.

Wooden coached UCLA to 10 NCAA championships in a 12-year span before retiring in 1975. The Bruins were 620-147 in 27 seasons under Wooden.

He said he was approached several times by NBA teams, but never considered leaving UCLA.

"Not once," he said. "I don't think you have real control. Who got Jackson fired, or was he fired? Did he get forced out? Players can get you fired, there's no question about that. Owners have complete control, they're going to favor a star player over a coach. The only thing that was ever enticing was the money.

"Everybody loves [Krzyzewski], he has a great situation there, he gets the cream of the crop, some of them, every year. Success breeds success, good players want to go there. It's a fine university."

Wooden said that unlike most college coaches, Krzyzewski would command respect in the NBA, but his strength as a coach -- teaching -- wouldn't be as significant.

"He's one of the best teachers of the game," Wooden said. "When you go into the pros, you don't do as much teaching. You've got to teach them a particular philosophy. You're not going to be able to change their fundamentals too much."

Wooden said he has much respect for Krzyzewski.

"A few years ago, when I was there for the McDonald's All-Star game, he invited me to speak with his team," Wooden said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it. I could see how he conducted his practices. Very impressed, indeed I was.

"You just have to consider him, and not because of the championships, one of the best there's been in the collegiate game."

Former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich was believed to be the leading candidate for the Lakers' coaching job until the news concerning Krzyzewski surfaced. Jesse Brown, Tomjanovich's business manager, refused comment Friday.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press