July 20, 2005
DURHAM - Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gradually has become one of the least accessible coaches in all of college athletics, but once a summer, he throws open his doors and invites the local media in to talk about any subject that interests them.
It's such a rare opportunity that writers and broadcasters try to cover a wide variety of topics. Among those addressed by Krzyzewski on June 27:
* His controversial American Express ads: The Duke coach suggested that people complaining about them should stop whining.
"To me, that's juvenile," he said. "The thing that knocked me back (was the suggestion that it was) going to produce all these unfair advantages. Like we have never been good before. We're going to recruit good players whether I do that commercial or not.
"There's a certain group, that I didn't think about when I did it, that will be negative. When one of your competitors is doing something good, you don't want to see it all the time."
In other words, the complaints are nothing but jealousy.
"I always say, the easiest way of having people like you is to lose," he said. "Then you're everybody's friend."
Krzyzewski claimed that most of the feedback he's gotten has been positive.
"A number of people have come back and said, 'Boy, it's good for coaching and good for the college game,'" he said. "I would hope more coaches would do those things, because it sells our brand. If Lute Olson does something for Chase or Jim Boeheim for Morgan-Stanley, I'd be happy for them. I'd rather have them on there than pro coaches."
The Duke coach pointed out that American Express made a huge contribution to a couple of his favorite charities, including the Emily Krzyzewski Center he established in his mother's honor. But he also pocketed a nice sum for himself, and he won't apologize for it.
"Yeah, I've made money on it," he said. "I would hope you make money in your job. It's a capitalistic country, I think."
* On speculation that he's a candidate to coach the 2008 U.S. Olympic basketball team:
"I haven't been approached by anybody about it," Krzyzewski said. "Certainly, it would be a great honor, but I don't think it's a position that anyone should politic for. They have really good people (making the decision). Let them choose who they feel is the best at this time to represent the United States.
"I would love to be considered, but if I'm not, I'm not going to be hurt by it. I'll be supportive of whoever they choose."
Krzyzewski did talk briefly of his vision for putting together a winning Olympic team. He focused on the need to include role players and the need to give the pro players, used to the NBA's 24-second shot clock, time to adjust to the 30-second clock used in Olympic play.
"That six seconds," he said, "makes a huge difference in the game."
Krzyzewski said he wouldn't mind the time demands of the job, should he be selected.
"I'm always active," he said. "The whole time I've been in coaching, I've been involved. It's what you do. Also, if you're chosen, it's a duty. You should be proud to accept that duty."
* In the wake of Shavlik Randolph's departure, Krzyzewski defended himself from suggestions that he's not always supportive of players who turn pro early.
"That's the only thing I've been upset about, is when people say I didn't support them," he said. "That's absolutely wrong."
He claims that his honesty has produced the wrong impression.
"I was being too frank with everyone - saying, 'I don't think you should go,'" he explained. "Am I supposed to say, 'I think you should go' if I don't think you should go? That would be lying. Why would you lie about something like that?"
He claimed that he's backed even the players who rejected his advice.
"You're going to be supportive of all the kids," Coach K said. "I remember when that first class went, I didn't think William (Avery) and Corey (Maggette) should go at that time. And so I said that. Everybody said I wasn't supportive. That was wrong. I just didn't think they should go at that time."
* The Duke coach has mixed feelings about the new NBA labor agreement, which installed a 19-year-old age limit and will delay the entry of prospects until at least one year out of high school.
"Is it a step in the right direction?" he said. "I think certain aspects of it are. I think the primary one is how (NBA commissioner) David Stern has said he doesn't want NBA people at high school games and these events in the summer. That helps tremendously.
"For the last few years, you've heard this cry from college administrators to clean up the summer. I think we have. Then all of a sudden you've got this wave of NBA guys coming in. We're sitting at one end of the gym, and they're sitting there next to the parents and talking to the coaches, and they're out there all the time. So our brand took a hit with younger kids, because that's all they saw - the NBA."
But Krzyzewski also has questions about other aspects of the new agreement.
"It's 19 and one year," he said. "What does that mean? What do you do now? Do you go to college? What about that third party that's always part of the equation - the agents, the shoe companies. What if LeBron James was not allowed to play? Would he have still gotten his Nike contract?
"I think he would have, so I don't think he's going to college. So what does he do? Does he play in Europe? Does he play in the development league? Does he go to a place like IMG and work on his game all year around?
"It's a real complex thing. Overall, I think it's better than what we had, but I'd like to see how everyone reacts before making a final judgment."
* Krzyzewski often has stated that he would never recruit a prospect who said he was coming for only one year before turning pro. But he also said he may recruit kids who end up turning pro after one year, as Maggette and Luol Deng did.
"If I kid says, 'I want to be a pro player and I value education,' and he goes in a year, that's a different starting position," he said. "Luol came in, and he didn't know he was going to go in one year. It just clicked."
* Rising sophomore David McClure probably will not play during the upcoming season, after undergoing offseason knee surgery.
"He's coming along with his rehab," Krzyzewski said. "I still think he'll probably end up being a medical redshirt. We'll see how that goes along."
* All five of Duke's incoming freshmen are on campus this summer, getting a head start on their academic work and training with their teammates.
Martynas Pocius was supposed to spend the summer in Europe, playing for the Lithuanian junior national team, but the 6-4 guard came down with a case of tendonitis and was not able to play. He arrived in Durham a few days after his classmates.
"They'll be here for about six weeks," Krzyzewski said. "There are a number of great values to this. The very first thing is just the adjustment of being away from home and getting that done during the summer. Secondly, the adjustment academically. ... It's a huge adjustment (from high school). That gives them a great base.
"Another advantage is just conditioning-wise. They'll go through a really hard conditioning program, harder than they've ever been through."
Krzyzewski said the NCAA legislation passed several years ago that allows for the schools to pay for their incoming players to attend summer school is one of the best moves that organization has made. The rule since has been applied to other sports as well.
"It's really a step in the right direction," he said. "It helps in graduation rates, keeping kids eligible, all those things. There's not a downside."