Men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski is back at Duke after a summer spent leading the U.S. Men's Senior National Team. He spoke to the media Monday about his thoughts on his experience coaching professionals, the NBA's age limit and his current Duke team.
Q: Was it different coaching professionals after coaching college athletes your whole career?
A: I really enjoyed it--it's definitely different. When you haven't recruited a player, a player isn't coming into your culture.... Everyone is just coming together. I feel like we all made adjustments to make sure we had great morale and we did. Now, going forward, we have to see how that culture is going to be. I immensely enjoyed coaching them. They gave their best. They all had good attitudes, and saying that, I'm happy with what I'm doing in coaching the Duke team. I have no great desire to coach in the NBA, but that doesn't mean these guys aren't great. I love what I do and you should do what you love to do if you have a chance.
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Q: Do you think a player needs to be with the U.S. team next summer to be able to play in the Olympics in 2008?
A: Personally, I think that [he] has to be there, because you can't have somebody just showing up for the Olympics. Also, we have a chance to bond as a team even more next summer so that when we go to the Olympics, we are already a team.... Unless there is an injury or something like that, there's always some life things that come into effect-but for the most part, I think you would need to play on this team next summer to be able to play for our country in Beijing.
Q: What is it like to be back with your Duke team, and what did you see this summer that you can apply to your plan with the Blue Devils?
A: I'm excited to be with them. I am a little tired but I'm very enthusiastic. I think some of the offensive concepts that I saw were pretty good and we'll incorporate some of them as soon as I get to know my team better to see if those concepts fit. Defensively, I don't know how much I'll use. I think we do a good job defensively. There might be a few tweaks, like in how we sub people. I just talked to my staff this morning about trying to take a few things each day and talk about what we liked and how it might apply to our team. It's not just learning from them, you learn from the guys on your staff.
Q: What did you notice about the U.S. compared to the other countries?
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A: We are falling behind in how we teach our skills of the game-just because the world doesn't have NCAA rules. I'm not blaming the NCAA, but my guys worked out yesterday, I could spend an hour with three four-man groups, we can't do that until Thursday.
In Spain or Italy right now, guys of that age have put in four to six hours [for] different things that they're doing. Somebody's going to say [something] about school--and there should be a way of figuring this out better--not by me, but by people in higher places.
Q: Did you enjoy being able to coach Shane Battier again?
A: Shane is a great player. He's the ultimate team player. He and Elton [Brand], I thought they played very well. It was nice. When you watch Battier play and see all the plays he's making, it's really beautiful basketball.
Q: Will your recruiting strategy change at all after this experience?
A: I'm not sure this 20-year old [age limit] is the "cat's meow," so to speak. Quite frankly, I'd rather have it the way it was than the way it is or have it [a mandatory] two years in college....There are a lot of people who are successful in this country who didn't go to college. They should be given the right to do that. Some of the richest men in the world didn't finish college, [and are] giving hundreds of millions of dollars all over. To me, I'd rather have it the way it was.
Q: So you think it should be left more up to the athlete?
A: Any kid has the right to leave college. I don't know why we have to put this requirement that they have to do this before doing something else, when a lot of kids are playing tennis and soccer and doing things in sports that are pros.... They should be given those opportunities and we should be able to adjust. It's not going to hurt the college game. The college game will be great no matter what. I think this puts the college game in more harm's way than it needs to be, and I don't think that was the intent. The intent was a compromise.