Any Duke follower, or ACC and perhaps even just a college basketball fan, had their world thrown into brief disarray and doubt upon hearing the news that Mike Krzyzewski, the venerated coach of the team, was offered the head coach job for the L.A. Lakers. He had been offered NBA jobs before and turned them down, but this time was a little different. Changes in the landscape of pro and college basketball, namely the early entries of college and now high school students into the pro game, have had quite an impact on the NCAA game. Now programs that could count on at least 3 if not 4 years of contribution from quality recruits have found that they may be lucky to even get 1 year if at all. (Duke's prize recruit this year skipped out and went in the top 10 of the NBA draft, for instance.)
One of the reasons (certainly, one of the top) that Duke gets top players every year is Krzyzewski, a great teacher of the game, has created an environment where young kids can learn and grow under his tutelage. Parents know that their progeny will be under great care and will, if nothing else, have the skills upon leaving to make them successes in life. Coach K is, like Dean Smith before him, a role model and representative of the best conference in college basketball (not subject to debate, and I went to Penn State).
Now that the rules have changed, and the kids are no longer staying or even stepping foot on campus, I think that Krzyzewski saw an opportunity where there wasn't one before to lend his knowledge and experience and guidance to the kids in the NBA, to help where it is needed most. This led him to take a long hard look at the Lakers' lucrative offer. And led a lot of fans to hold their breath; this would seem to be the textbook definition of some fans (and maybe even myself) of selling out.
Thankfully, it's all over. Coach K turned down millions and the Lakers to stay at Duke. When I saw the news flash on the TV today, I let out a victory cry (not unlike Xena's yelp) for NCAA fans everywhere, and for myself. I've been a fan of Duke basketball for the last 20 years, and a Laker-hater for longer than that; let's just say that if he signed on I would have felt like the dark side won.
I think Mike Celizic encapsulates it very well:
- By staying at Duke and turning down $8 million a year, Krzyzewski said as emphatically as possible that the job he has is the best job he can get. He said that coaching college kids, even if they come for a year or two and leave, has more intrinsic value than trying to get NBA players to do what you tell them to do. He said that education is important, that a college can be as big a franchise as a city.
Most important, Krzyzewski said money isn’t everything. He said there is a point at which a bigger paycheck doesn’t justify tearing apart your life, leaving a place you’ve loved for nearly a quarter century and come to think of as your own, and moving to a land of bigger headlines and more camera crews. He said that personal satisfaction and a sense of belonging has a value that can’t be measured in digits to the left of a decimal point.