This week in Duke history: Krzyzewski courted by the Lakers
Although Duke basketball has recently seen many players make the jump to the pros, the NBA perhaps was never more directly connected to the Blue Devils' fate as in the summer of 2004.
On July 1, 2004, news broke that the Los Angeles Lakers offered Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski a five-year, $40-million contract to replace Phil Jackson as head coach of the defending Western Conference champions. Lakers brass later said they knew courting Krzyzewski was essentially a shot in the dark.
"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,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said at the time.
Even though he said Krzyzewski "would have been a wonderful coup for our organization and the city of Los Angeles," Kupchak already offered the job to North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, who declined.
But according to then-athletic director Joe Alleva, the Lakers and Duke's longtime head coach were in "serious discussions.” Krzyzewski admitted that the NBA was a nice fit due to his increasing age, and he also had a strong relationship with Kobe Bryant dating back to when Krzyzewski was recruiting the Philadelphia native in the mid-1990s.
When the news broke that Krzyzewski had received the offer, students and faculty campaigned heavily for the head coach to stay with the Blue Devils. Students gathered in Krzyzewskiville to set up a tent, start chants and form a "K."
Among the campaigners was a prominent new administrator: Richard Brodhead. In his first day as the university's president, Broadhead took a megaphone and pleaded for Krzyzewski to stay.
Brodhead—who is stepping down Friday after 13 years—and Alleva also took Krzyzewski out to dinner that week, and the rest is history. After hearing offers from the Boston Celtics in 1990 and Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat in 1994, Krzyzewski is here to stay at Duke for the remainder of his coaching career.