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Krzyzewski's Tasks Create Challenges

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff


June 29, 2006

DURHAM -- Mike Krzyzewski is just starting to find out what kind of impact his second job will have on his first.

Last fall, Duke's long-time basketball coach was named the head coach of the United States national team, which will try to win the World Championships later this summer in Japan and the Olympic gold medal in 2008. Preparing for those two tournaments is chewing up a lot of Krzyzewski's free time and will eat up some vital summer recruiting time as well.

"This has been the busiest year of my life by far," Krzyzewski said recently. "When (wife) Mickie and I talked about this, we said it's a huge honor and a huge commitment. There are going to be three priorities -- our family, our Duke program and USA Basketball. Some other things are going to have to be cut."

Krzyzewski said he's cut back on his speaking engagements by more than 90 percent. Even so, his job with USA Basketball is starting to intrude on his job at Duke.

"We're starting to gear up," Krzyzewski said. "I've been to a lot of meetings -- travel to Phoenix for meetings, meetings with individual players. I stayed away from (Miami Heat star) Dwyane Wade. I felt that if I got close to him, I'd get burned because he's so hot."

Krzyzewski spent a recent weekend in San Antonio watching tryouts for the USA 18-and-under team. That had to be a pleasant duty, with incoming Duke signee Lance Thomas one of the participants, along with 2007 commitments Nolan Smith and Taylor King. Also on hand was Duke's top remaining 2007 prospect Kyle Singler and potential Blue Devil targets Gary Johnson and Julian Vaughn.

In a sense, Krzyzewski's position helped him. The tryouts were during a dead period, so only a handful of other college coaches were able to watch the two dozen top prospects. Washington's Lorenzo Romar is the team's head coach, and his assistants include Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt, so they were there, too.

That small advantage will be more than offset this July, when Krzyzewski -- and much of his Duke staff -- misses the majority of that vital recruiting period while preparing for the World Championships. Krzyzewski will spend most of July picking the 12-man team of NBA players who will make the trip to the Orient. The team will spend the early part of August touring China and Korea, playing exhibitions and performing for U.S. troops, before moving on to Sapporo, Japan, for the World Championships, which run from Aug. 19-Sept. 3.

Winning the gold medal in Sapporo is important, not only for the prestige, but because it actually will help Krzyzewski's workload next summer. The reigning world champion earns a bye into the field for the Olympic Games. If Team USA fails to finish first in Sapporo, the American squad will be forced to compete in a pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer just to earn a spot in the Olympic field.

Krzyzewski said he's not concerned about the time Team USA will take from his Duke program because he has such faith in his staff.

"The infrastructure of our Duke program is so strong," he said. "(Assistant head coach) Johnny Dawkins could run any program in the country. I have people who will step up and they have. That's made it easier on me."

The only problem is that Krzyzewski's job with USA Basketball also is sucking in the rest of his Duke staff.

"(Dawkins) will be with me throughout," Coach K said. "Johnny will be a player rep on the team. He'll be involved with everything that I do over the next three years."

In addition, assistant coaches Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski will participate during the first week of July trials, helping Team USA assistants Mike D'Antoni, Jim Boeheim and Nate McMillan. And if that's not enough, Mike Schrage, Duke's director of basketball operations, also will accompany Krzyzewski both to the trials in July and the Oriental swing in August.

So who's going to be recruiting for Duke this summer?

"It puts a little bit of strain (on) how many times you can go see a kid," Krzyzewski admitted. But he pointed out that with Smith and King already committed for next season, he's in good shape heading into the next recruiting cycle.

"And we're not looking to bring in a huge class," the Duke coach said. "We may only bring in one more player, if he's the right guy."

According to most accounts, that "right guy" is Singler, a 6-9 combo forward from Oregon, who is expected to choose between Duke and UCLA.

Of course, July also is a time when coaches can get a good look at underclassmen and start mapping out their next recruiting class. It was a year ago that Krzyzewski targeted Smith, King and Singler. That's where Krzyzewski's commitment to USA Basketball might hurt the Blue Devils.

"That can set you a little bit back with looking ahead to the next class," he said. "So I'll have to do the Nike, adidas and those ABCD ... XYZ camps during that one week before I get going. But we feel we'll be alright, because most of the time I'm missing is August."

And if a prospect is offended that Krzyzewski isn't around as much as other coaches?

"If a recruit doesn't understand that and we lose him, then so be it," Krzyzewski said. "We should have lost him."

Duke's recruiting is not likely to suffer too badly during the three summers when Coach K will be tied down with Team USA. But it remains to be seen how much of a toll his extra duties will take in the coming months.

He expects to be on the run all summer, until his return from Japan in the first week of September. Until then, he said, "I'm going to be a busy little guy."

SOME GAMES COMING YEAR LATE

Duke's 2006-07 basketball schedule is shaping up, and it includes two non-conference games that would have been better played last season.

The Blue Devils will face Gonzaga in New York's Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21. Unfortunately, neither Duke's J.J. Redick nor Gonzaga's Adam Morrison -- the two players who waged an unprecedented duel for national scoring and player of the year honors last season -- will be around for the matchup. And when George Mason visits Duke on Dec. 9, coach Jim Larranaga's team will bear little resemblance to the one that upset Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut to reach the 2006 Final Four.

Duke will open in the Guardian Classic, a preseason tournament that also will feature Stanford, Marquette and Texas Tech. That could produce an interesting matchup, if Krzyzewski gets to go against his mentor Bob Knight, who will start the season 11 wins short of breaking Dean Smith's record of 879. Unfortunately, it will be too early in the season for Knight to be in range of Smith's record when he (potentially) faces Coach K and Duke.

The Blue Devils also will play Indiana, in Cameron, as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. That will be a rematch of last year's game in Bloomington and just the second time in eight seasons that Duke -- the only unbeaten team in the challenge -- has been allowed to play at home in the series.

Duke also has non-ACC games set with Georgetown, Temple and St. John's.