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Lakers offer Krzyzewski head coaching job

Duke Athletic Director Joe Alleva confirmed today that men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been contacted by the Los Angeles Lakers and has had "serious discussions" regarding their vacant head coaching position. 

The Associated Press reported that Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak met with Krzyzewski in Durham earlier this week. ESPN.com has confirmed that the Lakers have offered Krzyzewski a multi-million, multi-year contract for the job. 

"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 at a press conference Thursday afternoon, adding that Krzyzewski has not yet made a decision. "The purpose of this press conference is simply to let you know that they're talking." 

He later added that the athletic program would go to great lengths to keep Krzyzewski at Duke. 

"I've had a lot of conversations with [Krzyzewski] in the past few days," 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."  

President Richard Brodhead is also doing his part. The University's new leader-Thursday was Brodhead's first official day in office-had dinner with Alleva and Krzyzewski Tuesday night and discussed the coach's future at Duke.  

"We talked about a thousand things, it was just a long, thoughtful, searching conversation," Brodhead told The Chronicle. "I was eager to speak with him, to let him know how very important his continued presence is to Duke and to me personally.... We talked about Duke, we talked about the challenges of college basketball, I learned about his concerns, and I stressed his special role as a teacher and University figure." 

The Lakers have been coach-less since they announced Phil Jackson would not return to the organization June 18. Although the Lakers have confirmed that Kupchak has contacted Krzyzewski, they would not comment further on the issue. TheDevilsDen.com, however, has reported that the Lakers may still be in Durham making their pitch to the Duke coach. 

"It's a flattering thing for him to be approached by a great franchise like the Lakers," Alleva said. "The state of college basketball is not the greatest in the world, and I'm sure that that's frustrating." 

Nonetheless, Alleva expressed guarded optimism that Krzyzewski would stay with the Blue Devils. 

"I hope and I believe in my heart that Coach K loves college basketball-he's an educator," Alleva said, adding that Krzyzewski had been approached for other job offers "numerous" times over the course of his career. 

Dave Paulus, father of basketball recruit Greg Paulus, was even more optimistic. He said assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski had called Greg Thursday to inform him of the situation. 

"I don't think Greg's very concerned about it," Dave Paulus said. "I don't think much is going to come out of it." 

Fellow recruit Josh McRoberts confirmed that he too had spoken with the coaching staff earlier in the day, but declined to comment on the situation. 

Krzyzewski, affectionately called Coach K by much of the Duke community, has been at the helm of Duke's men's basketball team for the past 24 seasons. During that run, he established himself as one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history, garnering 621 wins, including 64 in the NCAA Tournament, and three national championships. A 13-time National Coach of the Year winner, Krzyzewski received the University Medal, Duke's highest honor, in 1997, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in October 2001. The next month, he became the first person in Duke history to receive a lifetime contract, ensuring that he could finish his coaching career in Durham if he were so inclined. 

Though he has been offered a variety of NBA coaching jobs, Krzyzewski has spurned the professional ranks publicly on two occasions, most recently in 1994 after mass speculation that he was considering leaving the Blue Devils.  

He assuaged Duke fans' fears, however, at a press conference, claiming to be "very comfortable and happy" coaching Duke.  

"I wasn't in a career crisis," Krzyzewski said at a news conference June 1994. "It wasn't looking so much as professional as it was just looking at everything." 

He also snubbed the Boston Celtics in 1990 after discussions with then-NBA Executive Vice President Dave Gavitt. 

"It wasn't anything to do with money or anything like that," Krzyzewski told 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. I love the kids on my team. I think you have to find your place. To say anyone is going to be fantastic in any situation is ridiculous. If I would've been the Celtics coach, I think I would've done a good job. I don't know if I would've done the best job. What I'm doing here, I think I do that pretty well." 

Among others, Krzyzewski has also said no to interview requests and job inquiries for head coaching positions from the Atlanta Hawks, the Houston Rockets, UCLA and Kentucky. 

Meanwhile, the Duke community will have to wait and see if Krzyzewski will refuse the NBA publicly for a third time. Both Alleva and Brodhead are urging him to remain in Durham. 

"Coach K's role here goes far beyond the amazing number of his victories," Brodhead said. "He's a person of high integrity who teaches character as much as he teaches basketball. He's also been very, very active in public service, very generous with his time in a hundred causes, and he helps to emblematize the importance of service at Duke." 

The community, eager to do its part, has responded in full force to the breaking news, scheduling a candlelight vigil and pep rally at Krzyzewskiville in front of Cameron Indoor Stadium at 9:45 p.m.  

Stay tuned to The Chronicle Online for a report on the rally.

 

Mike Corey and Karen Hauptman contributed to this story.

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