L.A. kept Carolina on its mind
LOS ANGELES, July 6 -- Throughout Mike Krzyzewski's flirtation with the NBA last week, the Lakers certainly reciprocated the crush, but team officials indicated here today that it was by no means a Hollywood love affair.
Meeting with reporters at the Lakers' practice facility the day after Krzyzewski spurned the franchise to remain at Duke, general manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged that his hiring "would have been a wonderful coup for our organization and the city of Los Angeles" but made clear that bringing Krzyzewski to L.A. was always a "remote possibility" and that he actually courted North Carolina head coach Roy Williams first.
Kupchak, the 1976 ACC player of the year at UNC, called Williams at least a week and a half before he made the five-year, $40-million offer to Krzyzewski Thursday in Durham, but the first-year Tar Heel coach turned him down after taking two days to consider. The GM also said he offered Williams the job while he was still at Kansas six to seven years ago, before the hiring of the now-departed Phil Jackson.
"He's been at the top of our list many years," Kupchak said of Williams. "And I read a report today where he's about to be contacted. He was contacted two weeks ago, and he said he had no interest, he had business to take care of down in that area."
Krzyzewski now has pressing business in North Carolina himself, but he admitted yesterday at his press conference in Durham that he doesn't necessarily see himself as "just a one-place kind of guy" and that he is quite enamored with the Lakers franchise. "Though there may be some problems now, I found them to be very much a family organization," he said.
He also dispelled any notion that Kobe Bryant, who created problems for the L.A. family as an unrestricted free agent, was trying to turn the tables on Krzyzewski's recruitment of Bryant out of high school by trying to do some recruiting of his own from the West Coast. Kupchak, meanwhile, indicated that he spoke to Bryant very soon after he was informed of the decision early Monday morning.
"I would think that [Bryant's] response would be the same as everybody's: a sense of disappointment," Kupchak said. "I think that would have been a good change or a good move for us, to go to something a little bit different, a coach that has his command of the game, his reputation. So there was a sense of disappointment, but I don't think anybody who was close enough to it or follows college basketball--even NBA basketball, for that matter--thought that it wasn't a remote possibility."
And no matter how many sparks flew on the sports talk radio shows here this week, even the slimmest chance of reeling in the coach who has led Duke to 10 Final Fours in 24 years did not seem to seem to phase laid-back locals resigned to accept Rudy Tomjanovich.
"This is a tough-luck town. I don't think the city changes one way or another," Dayo Ogunmola, a driver with Checker Cab Co., said as radio hosts chatted whimsically about Krzyzewski's deliberations on his car stereo. "Sure, they talk about him coming, but all L.A. cares about is if [a coach] comes in and wins."
That, however, may not be the case now that Krzyzewski has joined Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal in directing a Hollywood ending.
"Well, I would have liked to have him, that's for sure," financial services officer Troy Frattura said of Krzyzewski while sitting over a beer with a colleague at Home Turf Sports Bar inside Los Angeles International Airport. "I think he's a great coach, I think we have brought the Lakers a lot because I think they're going to be in a rebuilding stage probably with the loss of Shaq.
"And I don't think bringing in a professional coach is the right choice at this point because the only thing that I can say about not getting Mike is probably the fact that Kobe doesn't get his way. But the team is Kobe's team obviously now, and obviously he chose [Krzyzewski] because he still feels he's got to learn. And he would have learned a lot from him, but, oh well."