July 23, 2009
There is an argument to be made that Coach K is hurting the Duke program when he coaches USA Basketball. After all, as Noel Gallagher once wrote, a man's got a limit, and Coach K could be the best, most efficient multitasker in the world and still have a tough time juggling the dual responsibilities of his semi-dynastic college program and what he sees as his duty to his country. Neither is an easy job; combining them must be especially difficult.
But how do Duke fans feel? Do they care? Do they feel slighted? Are they proud? What's the common reaction? According to the Charlotte Observer's Kyle Tysiac, some Duke fans do blame USA Basketball for Duke's relative recent slide, even if they shouldn't:
Mike Krzyzewski's announcement Tuesday that he will coach the U.S. national team for three more years will be unpopular with some Duke fans.Some blame Duke's recent decline on Krzyzewski's involvement with Team USA, which he coached to the Olympic gold medal last summer in Beijing. It's logical to assume that Duke suffers if Krzyzewski is distracted by his “other” job – restoring the United States as the pre-eminent power in international basketball. But a closer look at Duke's shortcomings over the past few seasons shows recruiting failures are the cause of the Blue Devils' failure to advance beyond the regional semifinals in the past five NCAA tournaments.
Tysiac goes on to make the point that losing a few key recruits, and not playing a deep enough bench to be able to occasionally double up on scholarships and signings, has put Mike and his Devils at a greater disadvantage to North Carolina than any Olympic commitment ever could. And that's a great point. A few name players here, a few more guys pan out there, and Coach K might be right where Roy Williams is.
But the other question to ask is: why? Why is Coach K missing out on these recruits? Why are players choosing North Carolina over Duke? Much of it might be contextual, and maybe UNC is just a better, more attractive program at this point, but if Duke fans feel spurned, they have legitimate reason. They're losing to North Carolina on a yearly basis now. Roy Williams isn't coaching any national teams. His time isn't split. He's not melding LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. He's just coaching his program. You can understand why this might drive the Crazies, um, crazy. (Sorry.)