Men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski loves a challenge.
So when Jerry Colangelo, managing director of the USA Senior National Team, asked Krzyzewski if he was up for taking over the floundering national program, the answer was easy. The former West Point cadet was in.
Since Colangelo named him coach Oct. 26, 2005, Krzyzewski has taken charge of the challenge in repairing the image of USA basketball after disappointing finishes at the 2002 World Championship and the 2004 Olympics.
"It's already been a huge time commitment," Krzyzewski said. "It's been on my mind since I was selected and it will be on my mind until I don't have it."
The previous teams, composed of an incongruous collection of NBA stars who had free time during their summers to participate, struggled against improving international competition. Team USA's competition had stricter training schedules and practiced together more often. America's more recognizable stars could not overcome the challenges posed by the international game.
Krzyzewski, along with Colangelo, devised a new plan for the team. Instead of simply piecing together players for each tournament, Team USA will now function as a more continuous national program. Twenty-four players were invited to participate in the three-year commitment that kicks off this summer with a training schedule and the World Championship in Japan and ends in 2008 with the Summer Olympics in China.
"It hasn't been done before where you bring in 24 NBA players," Krzyzewski said. "Usually you have 12 coming in and that's it, they know they're on the team."
Krzyzewski won't be the only Blue Devil representing the United States. His right-hand man, associate head coach Johnny Dawkins, will serve as the team's "player representative" for the next three years, coordinating players' training schedules, among other responsibilities. Duke Director of Basketball Operations Mike Schrage will also work with the national team for three years, and assistant coaches Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski will serve as "court coaches" while the team trains in Las Vegas.
While most of the coaching staff will depart Durham for the latter portion of the summer, both Dawkins and Krzyzewski said their primary responsibility--the Blue Devils--will not suffer.
"It really hasn't affected what we do with our team," Dawkins said. "This time commitment we have is a summer commitment. During the summer we're not allowed to do anything with our guys anyway."
The summer is used mostly for recruiting, but two recruits--Nolan Smith and Taylor King--have verbally committed to Duke for 2007 and another top recruit, Kyle Singler, is rumored to be close to committing.
Krzyzewski said his team has not missed a beat in recruiting, and he has worked harder during the early summer to make sure everything in Durham is in order when he will return from China in September. In June, he said he has been doing the little things--even thinking about rearranging his office furniture--before leaving for training camp.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Krzyzewski, who has prior experience with Team USA as an assistant coach for the 1979 Pan-American Games under his college coach and current Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight and as an assistant coach for the 1992 Dream Team, said he hopes he will bring honor to his home country--and his home team.
"I would hope it would be an honor for the University that one of its members is doing that," Krzyzewski said. "Hopefully we'll win, and not just win but we'll play real well and act real well."