The lovefest surrounding USA Basketball right now is something that could almost make you puke. Everyone is speaking well of Coach Mike Krzyzewski, the leader of this squad, when not leading the Blue Devil horde — and of course, Kobe Bryant is making some of the louder statement, not entirely surprising, given how the rumors swirled about Krzyzewski possibly coaching the Lakers when Phil Jackson first left. And they’re all talking about how Coach K. would do awesome in the NBA. Quoth Kobe:
“He can be so intense because he’s so passionate about the game, but at the same time he has a great sense of humor. I don’t think a lot of people know that about him.
“There’s no question in my mind that he would be a great NBA coach. . . . He has that passion about what he does and when you have that commitment to winning, you can’t help but be successful.”
Either the players are just being rah-rah about the coach or there’s a little bit of denial going on. Krzyzewski is a great college coach, no doubt, but his most effective strategies of recruiting — touting the Duke name in college basketball much like Notre Dame is bandied about by its football coaches — his system where he plugs in recruits and they play his game, and his authoritarian control over the program would all be gone.
I’m aware it’s perfectly cliche to write this by the point, but the motivations between the college and pro level are drastically different, and I’m in the crowd that doubts Krzyzewski’s ability to survive in the environment. There is a reason John Calipari and Rick Pitino are bandied about as cautionary tales. While your players may be perfectly supportive of you when the country’s team is not their primary commitment, when money gets involved, the rules change.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the renewal program with Coach K and Jerry Colangelo helming helped bring the U.S. team back to competing in a way fans are accustomed to. Just don’t believe that the success could cross over to the NBA. Krzyzewski works as a college and possibly as a national program coach because it’s his agenda; he’s in control. In the NBA, he’d be just another coach fighting to keep his job and dealing with the personalities and egos of professional players.
(Photo: Getty/Andrew D. Bernstein)