The independent news organization of Duke University

The most powerful man in basketball?

Several weeks ago, Coach K turned the college basketball world upside down with his public negotiations with the Lakers. For just a few days, Duke fans and college aficionados everywhere held their collective breaths, anxiously anticipating a decision that could have hurled Duke into mediocrity and punctuated an offseason full of misery for NCAA basketball.

But the college game's greatest ambassador is again safely entrenched in Durham, sending a sigh of relief through Duke fans everywhere. Krzyzewski appears to be here to stay.

"As I go forward, I want to continue to try and honor this great university and this great game of college basketball," Krzyzewski said. "That's how it all happened and I'm pleased it's all over and am looking to moving forward."

Most importantly, college basketball needed a victory over its increasingly powerful professional counterpart. The NBA is now consistently robbing the college ranks of what would be its top players, and even Stanford head coach Mike Montgomery defected to the Golden State Warriors. By staying, Krzyzewski increases his already strong influence over the college game--leverage that beyond the basketball court.

Krzyzewski garnered even more clout at the University when news of the Laker's interest broke on the on the opening day of Richard Brodhead's tenure as president. Just days into his term, Brodhead was sent scrambling to keep his Hall of Fame coach. Brodhead's effusive praise at the press conference announcing Krzyzewski's decisions made him appear particularly subservient to the University's most public figure. Krzyzewski appeared to exert pressure on the administration, fast-tracking plans for a $10 million basketball training facility.

Krzyzewski's attempt to exert influence in the wake of the public offer has not been limited to Duke. Just two days after news of his discussions with the Lakers surfaced, he publicly criticized NCAA restrictions that prevented him from adequately discussing early entry with freshman Luol Deng and recruit Shaun Livingston. Less than a week after Krzyzewski announced he was staying, the National Association of Basketball Coaches--of which he is a member--unveiled a new proposal for the NCAA's consideration.

The proposal--which recommends giving players five years of college eligibility and allows coaches more modified access to recruits--would drastically alter the face of college basketball. Currently, athletes can play for four years and coaches have strict recruiting boundaries. Should the proposal be instituted, Krzyzewski would benefit from increased continuity in his basketball program from the additional year of eligibility, and increased access to prospects would give him even more opportunities to dissuade recruits from jumping to the NBA. Given the parallels between the proposal and the Duke coach's vocal complaints against the college system, it is certainly plausible that the near-defection of Krzyzewski from the NCAA served as an expedient to the proposal. Also, considering Krzyzewski's already high profile, it is unclear how much the additional media exposure will help him on the recruiting trail. Duke already receives more publicity for its basketball program than any school in the nation, so any effect of the added exposure will be marginal. But the fact, however, that Krzyzewski turned down a lucrative offer from the one of the NBA's most popular franchises--and that it transpired with such fanfare--will give him credibility enjoyed by no other college coach in dissuading recruits and underclassmen from early entry.

With his increased influence, Krzyzewski has an opportunity to cement his status as one of the most powerful basketball coaches in college history. He has already established Duke as one of the premier powers in college basketball, and now he has the opportunity to fortify his program to all but ensure that Duke's basketball team will remain on top even after his retirement.


Share and discuss “The most powerful man in basketball?” on social media.