The Dagger

Mike Krzyzewski says he’s committed to coaching Duke through at least 2016

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Mike Krzyzewski (YouTube)

When Mike Krzyzewski and his wife were discussing earlier this spring whether he ought to return as U.S. men's national coach, she asked if that commitment would be easier for him if he resigned from his post at Duke prior to the 2016 Olympics.

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Krzyzewski's response will make all Blue Devils fans smile.

"Really it's just the opposite," Krzyzewski told reporters at a news conference in Durham on Thursday. "I don't think anybody should coach the (Olympic) team unless they're still coaching. You've got to stay sharp. I'm coaching in the best league against the best competition and the best players that I can. Doing that, it becomes easier."

Asked to clarify if that meant he'd definitely coach at Duke through at least the 2015-16 season, the 66-year-old Krzyzewski said, "Obviously I'm not going to end before the Olympics."

And with that, any chatter about Krzyzewski retiring soon should die down for the foreseeable future. Barring a sudden reversal, college basketball's winningest coach will be on the Duke bench for at least the next three seasons, and he doesn't sound as though he's certain he'll be ready to step down even then.

Krzyzewski has long maintained coaching the U.S. national team has energized him and rekindled his passion for his profession, a point he emphasized again on Thursday. He reiterated the point Duke president Richard H. Brodhead made earlier in the news conference when he said that Krzyzewski had become an even better coach as a result of taking on the challenge of coaching the NBA's biggest stars.

"I don't think I did it bad before the Olympics," Krzyzewski said. "We weren't bad before then. But I got better from doing it. Just like a player gets better from doing it, we all got better. That energizes you because it's like a teacher learning new material. I'm 66. I don't know how you're supposed to feel at 66, but I never think of my age. I may look my age, but I feel energetic, passionate, wanting to achieve."

That Krzyzewski remains enthusiastic about coaching is great news for everyone from USA Basketball, to Duke, to the sport as a whole.

Since taking over as coach of the U.S. national team at a time when many of the nation's best players weren't representing their country, Krzyzewski has helped change the culture of USA Basketball. In the process, he has accumulated a 62-1 record and captured gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics.

Many originally worried Duke's program might suffer if Krzyzewski was spread too thin, but the Blue Devils have remained one of the nation's elite teams. They won the national championship in 2010, reached the Elite Eight last March and are expected to begin next season in the top five in the polls.

Krzyzewski originally planned to let someone else replace him as U.S. coach, but the relentless courtship by Jerry Colangelo and the encouragement of his family and Duke officials helped change his mind. Once talks with Colangelo heated up after the college season ended, it didn't take long for Krzyzewski to agree to lead the team's quest for a third straight Olympic gold.

"The main thing is will you still have the drive and the energy and can you give the time that's going to be necessary to do it," Krzyzewski said. "The final decision was yes, I can do that."

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