- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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We knew Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was going to return to USA Basketball earlier this week; the man himself all but confirmed it to SI.com Saturday. That made today's announcement with Jerry Colangelo, available via the wonder of YouTube, rather anticlimactic.
There was some fun backstory: Colangelo said he never really accepted the idea that Krzyzewski was totally done with the Olympics and thus engaged in a full-court press (basketball lingo!) to persuade Coach K to return for the 2016 Rio Games. Those efforts included a recruitment dinner with the coach's wife, Mickie Krzyzewski, as well as a pivotal room service meal of "pizza and chicken fingers," which are two fantastic foodstuffs probably best eaten outside the confines of a hotel room. Eventually, Colangelo's timing and persistence managed to get Coach K back into the job, and Coach K, feeling newly energized about coaching even at the age of 66, agreed to go full steam ahead.
"I got better doing it," Krzyzewski said of his time as U.S. coach. "Just like a player gets better from doing it, we all got better. And 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. I never think of my age. ... But I feel energetic, passionate, wanting to achieve."
The only remaining question, then, was what all this means for Coach K's time at Duke. When he first took the USA job seven years ago, he was a younger man without his fourth national title and the all-time Division I men's wins record. How long did he plan to stay at the collegiate level? Would he transition out of one role and into the other before retiring? Would he have to start slowing down?
Of course not. This is Coach K, and there's a better chance of Coach K scowling from the sideline at the age of 80 than there is of him leaving the Blue Devils anytime soon. At the very least, he isn't leaving the program before 2016. (Hat tip to Jeff Eisenberg for culling the relevant quote here.)
"Really it's just the opposite," Krzyzewski said. "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 there you have it. Team USA fans thrilled with the success of Krzyzewksi's tenure -- which restored the team to its appropriately dominant heights after the bronze disaster in Greece in 2004 -- can rest assured that LeBron James & Co. will still be managed by their two-time gold medalist coach, while Duke fans can breathe easily. The winningest coach in men's hoops history can't do it forever, but he won't be stopping anytime soon.