Coach K eyes end to Team USA stint
DALLAS -- The forthcoming Summer Olympics will serve as Mike Krzyzewski's farewell to the world stage.
The longtime Duke coach, who has doubled as coach of Team USA since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, announced Monday at the U.S. Olympic Committee's media summit in advance of the London Games that he intends relinquish the post after his fourth major competition in charge.
Calling the opportunity to serve as national-team coach "the best honor" of his career, Krzyzewski said: "I think this is the last time. I hope we can win the gold medal."
Following the humbling disappointments of a sixth-place finish at the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis and a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Greece, USA Basketball installed Jerry Colangelo as chairman, which led to the hiring of Krzyzewski and the program's return to the summit of the international game.
Under Krzyzewski, Team USA narrowly beat Spain in a dramatic gold-medal game at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, then won the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey without a single Olympian on the roster. And Team USA will arrive in London in late July as the gold-medal favorites again -- ahead of Spain, France and Argentina -- despite a flurry of injuries during the lockout-compressed NBA season that has already ruled out the likes of Dwight Howard (back) and Derrick Rose (knee).
Coaching the star-studded Americans might be the one job where Krzyzewski is under even more pressure than he faces at Duke, but the 65-year-old insists that he finds the ramped-up expectations far more exhilarating than suffocating.
"I think it will always be [that way] for whoever the men's coach is ... just because there's an assumption that the U.S. should just win and that it wouldn't take very much," Krzyzewski said. "And I think that assumption led us to not winning during a long period of time, so we've stopped assuming and started working.
"There's no question [that] you put your career a little bit on the line when you're coaching the national team if you don't win the gold. ... [But] I'm excited about it. I've not looked at it as pressure throughout my whole time. When we won in 2008, I wasn't relieved. I was in la-la land. And that's a big difference."
Krzyzewski added: "As good as I thought [this job] was. it's better. It's the ultimate, really."
Yet it's bound to be a tricky job this summer given the injury crisis that has plagued the program ever since USAB announced a 20-man preliminary roster in January. Four of those 20 players have since suffered season-ending injuries -- Chauncey Billups (Achilles) and LaMarcus Aldridge (hip) before Howard and Rose went down -- and Chris Bosh has just been felled by a strained abdominal muscle that potentially weakens a frontcourt rotation that was considered thin even with Bosh.
After Oklahoma City's James Harden and University of Kentucky star Anthony Davis were added to the preliminary roster last week, there are only four recognized centers or power forwards on a roster that will be pared to 12 players on July 7: Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Davis. That number rises to five if Bosh heals in time.
But the crisis is eased somewhat by the fact that, against most international opponents, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant can all be used at power forward. Krzyzewski and Colangelo also confirmed Monday that Lamar Odom -- who started at center on the 2010 squad that won gold in Istanbul -- will be allowed to report to training camp in Las Vegas on July 5 and make his case to be selected for London despite a nightmarish season with Dallas that ended with Odom deactivated by the Mavericks before the playoffs began.
Colangelo, meanwhile, said Monday that Krzyzewski's forthcoming move away from the bench to an advisory role greatly increases the likelihood that he'll stay on as Team USA chairman. Colangelo spearheads the recruiting effort that has prompted the overwhelming majority of the country's top NBA players to make themselves available for national-team duty since 2008.
"I think it's important for a lot of reasons to maintain continuity," Colangelo said. "So I'm tending to think that might be the best thing for the program. Plus I don't have much else to do. I have the ability to continue to do it, and so I'm leaning that way."
USA Basketball had originally planned to announce the 12-man squad for London on June 18, which is eight days before the last possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals. But Colangelo secured special dispensation from the USOC last week to make that announcement July 7, enabling USAB officials to wait until after the NBA season before committing to anything.
Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Chandler, Durant, James, Love, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams are widely regarded as locks for the final roster, which would leave two open spots for contenders such as Bosh, Griffin and Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala. Besides Harden, Davis and Odom, Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon are also on the preliminary roster.
Injuries, however, have consistently scuttled USAB's plans over the past few months, with Bosh's situation creating fresh uncertainty. His Miami teammate Wade, furthermore, said earlier this month that he'd need to see how he feels physically after the playoffs before committing to the Olympics.
Colangelo insisted Monday that the two practices Krzyzewski will be able to hold in Las Vegas before the July 7 cutdown deadline are "not a tryout" for players on the bubble, saying those sessions will be used for "taking inventory" of player health.
Joining the seniors for the Vegas camp will be a select squad of up-and-comers to scrimmage Krzyzewski's team before its first exhibition game July 12 against the Dominican Republic at the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of UNLV. The select squad, according to CSNBayArea.com, will include Orlando's Ryan Anderson, Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, Indiana's Paul George, Chicago's Taj Gibson, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, New York's Jeremy Lin, Golden State's Klay Thompson, Washington's John Wall, San Antonio's DeJuan Blair and Kawhi Leonard, and Utah's Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward.