At a press conference in Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday afternoon, Athletic Director Joe Alleva confirmed that men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski is participating in discussions with the Los Angeles Lakers to fill their vacant head coaching position.
"Obviously when you have the best coach in the country, it's not unusual when one of the best franchises in the country comes after him," Alleva said. "He has meant so much to Duke basketball, and so much to college basketball, that obviously we're going to do everything we can to keep him in college basketball."
Sources close to the situation told The Chronicle that Lakers representatives have visited Durham to meet with Krzyzewski. Alleva would not specify how long the two parties have been in discussions, simply stating they had begun "recently."
The Los Angeles Lakers' front office released a statement Thursday evening confirming that the franchise had contacted and "had a discussion" with Krzyzewski.
“We have long believed that Mike is the best coach in the country," Alleva said in a statement released to the press earlier Thursday. "The Lakers' interest in him merely confirms what we have known. We hope that Mike will decide to stay in college coaching at Duke, a place that has been so special to him throughout his outstanding career. Mike has been an incredible asset to our institution and on a much larger scale, to the sport of college basketball. President [Richard] Brodhead and I met with Mike for dinner the other night to express at the highest level our desire for him to finish his coaching career at Duke.”
This marks the third time in Krzyzewski's tenure that he has publicly contemplated leaving Duke for the NBA. The first came in 1990, when the Boston Celtics attempted to acquire Krzyzewski's services. In June 1990, United Press International reported that Krzyzewski said, "I would be a fool not to listen [to the Celtics].... Whether I'd do it or not is another thing."
He ended the courtship a week or so later, after the Celtics sent in their legendary coach, Red Auerbach, to try to lure Krzyzewski to Boston. At the time, Krzyzewski was adamant that money and potential problems with the University and his program were not at all responsible for his interest in the Celtics.
"It wasn't anything to do with money or anything like that," Krzyzewski said, according to The Boston Globe. "It came to what I liked doing and what I think I'm well-suited for, and that's working with college athletes."
In 1994, Krzyzewski spurned the NBA after mass speculation that he was considering leaving the Blue Devils, declaring he was “very comfortable and happy” coaching Duke.
"I love coaching, and I'm comfortable and happy coaching at this level," Krzyzewski told the News and Record of Greensboro, N.C. "My family and I love Duke, this state and the ACC."
Neither Krzyzewski nor his players were available for comment Thursday evening. It is unclear whether or not the players were informed by Krzyzewski or any member of the coaching staff about his conversations with the Lakers, as Alleva said that "he didn't know" if the players knew or not.
Dave Paulus, father of Greg Paulus, a rising high school senior and commitment to the Blue Devils, said assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski contacted Greg Thursday to make him aware of Krzyzewski's discussions. The other commitment in Paulus' class, Josh McRoberts, also said he had been contacted, but declined to comment further.
Current Duke students are more than willing to speak out, however, as a candlelight vigil and rally are planned for 9:45 p.m. in Krzyzewskiville. The second summer session is in its first week for undergraduates.
Please stay tuned to The Chronicle Online for further news, commentary and photos of this breaking story.
Karen Hauptman contributed to this story.
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