Coach K to help make Olympic program long-term success

Updated: August 27, 2008, 9:52 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski isn't done with USA Basketball after coaching the Americans to the gold medal with a thrilling win over Spain in Beijing last Sunday.

He's just getting started.

Krzyzewski said Wednesday by phone from Durham, N.C., that he will continue to be involved in helping USA Basketball with the model that national team managing director Jerry Colangelo organized three years ago. A three-year commitment from players and coaches is being praised for creating a winning atmosphere around the national team. Currently, the lower levels of USA Basketball, notably the junior national teams in tournaments at the under-20 and under-18 levels, have yearly turnover of players and coaches.

"The only thing organized that way is the senior men's program," Krzyzewski said. Last month, the U-18 national team finished with a silver medal to host Argentina. Davidson coach Bob McKillop, who coached the team, told ESPN.com after the event that the Americans have to treat the international tournament as the most important event of the summer instead of just another event on their summer schedule.

Krzyzewski said that the NBA, NCAA and USA Basketball will convene sometime this fall to help restructure the national programs. He said the plan is in place to set a four-year schedule for the various teams.

The national team must make other decisions as well, like how to refresh the current pool of players, prepare for the 2010 World Championships in Turkey and get ready for the 2012 Olympics in London.

"It's a critical time to use the momentum we've gained over the past three years to make us even stronger in basketball," Krzyzewski said. He said that once the "gold dust" settles there will be movement on this topic.

When asked if he would coach the national team again, Krzyzewski said that it's too early for any decisions. He simply said: "I'll help in some capacity in consulting, in whatever they need to do."

Krzyzewski, an assistant on the 1992 Dream Team, the first team that used NBA players, said the thinking after '92 was to just send over the best players for each Olympics. But he said what the rest of the world did was different -- build national programs from the junior level up. That's exactly the type of thing McKillop said goes on in Argentina -- with a funneling of junior players up to the Olympic team.

"We won a gold medal, represented our country well, and the question is now where do we go from here and how do we get better?" Krzyzewski said. "How do we make this a much better program and make it fashionable [to play for the USA]. We want people to have an intense desire to play for their country out of high school, college and the NBA. I know the guys who did were ecstatic and a number want to do it again."

As for coaching the team again, Krzyzewski said, "right now I just want to help. I enjoy recruiting and coaching Duke but I'll see where all of it goes. All I can tell you is that I'll be involved. I want to be with how we go forward.''

Krzyzewski said being an assistant on the '92 team, which was coached by Chuck Daly, was invaluable in prepping to become the head coach of the '08 team. He said he learned then how to handle elite-level players. He said the difference with 2008 was the three-year commitment. He said the players' experience, which didn't match the '92 team, matured over the three years (especially those players who participated in each event -- World Championships in Japan, Tournament of Americas in Las Vegas and the Olympics).

The defensive effort put forth by the Redeem Team would be hard to duplicate with any roster, especially in college. But Krzyzewski said he learned plenty to pass on to his current Duke team.

"I know they're not LeBron James and Kobe Bryant,'' Krzyzewski said. But he said star players' mindset showed it can be done at any level. Krzyzewski mentioned the unselfishness of players who gave up scoring to help the greater team goal, another easy point to transfer to his Duke players. Defending the flex offense and ball screens will certainly be tweaked at Duke, too, after doing it in an international tournament.

"I"m so proud, so happy, I loved my guys,'' Krzyzewski said. "They represented themselves and their country. It wasn't anything the coaches did. The players went to all the venues, spoke and acted well. They were genuine. I'm proud of them and it was an honor to coach them.''

Krzyzewski said his Duke team gave him a sendoff before he left for Las Vegas in July for the training camp and then greeted him and his family when they arrived home Monday. He'll have the team over for a dinner this weekend before going on a much-needed vacation.

Surprisingly, Krzyzewski said he's not fatigued -- not even jet-lagged. He said he stayed sharp by working out, and remained mentally free of any Duke issues by not calling his office. His top two assistants, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski were advance scouts for the Olympic team and were in Beijing, too.

"My wife told me that I looked like I was back coaching at Army," Krzyzewski said in reference to his passion for coaching this team that he shared when he first got into the business decades earlier. "This meant so much. I feel great. It's not a feeling of relief, but of accomplishment. In our world everyone expects you to win so much and we focus so much on the victories, not the experiences. But this was genuine and there is an appreciative element, not relief. It's just a great feeling.

"This was so fulfilling and when it ends up that you do win, winning in a very good way, where our guys represented our game so well, it just can't get any better than that for me."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com