Exclusive Interview With Coach K: Day 1

Every year, The Chronicle’s sports editor sits down with Mike Krzyzewski  in the summer. This year, Gabe Starosta met with Coach K June 15  to to talk about last year's roster, incoming prospects Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee and the craziness of recruiting, among a collection of other topics. This is the first of four clips that The Chronicle will post this week (the rest will come at noon each day).

In the first excerpt, Coach K discusses his first summer since the Olympics, his relationship with some of the people that played for him in Beijing and Gerald Henderson's decision to declare for the NBA Draft. Feel free to leave any comments below.

Q&A with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski:

The Chronicle: What has this summer been like?

Mike Kyzyzewski: “Different from the last three summers. Our summers are always busy, because we are more than a basketball program. I’m involved in a lot of things nationally, whether it be in coaching and basketball, coaches associations, charity, USA Basketball—I’m now on the board, we just had a press conference in Orlando, about iHoops.

When Myles Brand took over the NCAA [in 2005], he has done an amazing job for college basketball. Coaches never had a voice in anything. He has made inroads there. On a personal level, he asked me  behind the scenes just if we would talk every once in a while, to get the “low down”. One of the things I asked is that the NCAA and NBA had never talked.

TC: That sounds like a potentially worthwhile partnership.

K: Well, it should be, because in every other country, basketball is seamless, but in our country it’s not. As a result, we had a first meeting in 2005, and this initiative occurred because of Myles Brand and David Stern wanting to help youth basketball, the 23 million people who play basketball. It’s funded, over $50 million dollars, promised by the NCAA, NBA, and Adidas and Nike are also founding partners. It is to help youth basketball, organize it, and the people who teach it and play it. I am on the board, there are six people—three from the NBA and three from the NCAA.

TC: [Duke Sports Information Director] Jon Jackson told me you were in Orlando for that announcement last week?

K: It was right before Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

TC:  Did you watch last night [Game 5]?

K: I watch every game, I’m a basketball coach. And it was a great game—Kobe played great. And J.J. [Redick] played great. J.J. is very good, and has become a really good pro. His defense and passing, he’s become a really good player so I’m proud of him.

TC: You haven’t spoken to Kobe since yesterday, have you?

K: Not yesterday. But I speak to him, during the playoffs on the phone like once every 10 days. He’s a good friend, and obviously we shared a really good experience. [Keeping in touch with the Olympic team] is not all buddy-buddy like with your own players.

On Gerald Henderson’s pro prospects:

TC: What kind of influence did you have on Gerald’s decision to go pro?

K: Well, we are fully supportive of that decision. When our guys go into the Draft, we like it where they are not going in to test the waters. We know enough people and we can get enough knowledge to determine where he might be drafted. And if it is in a good spot, he can improve that in his workouts and interviews, and he was in a good spot. So once his name was in, we knew he wasn’t coming back, and we were part of helping with the selection of an agent. We were a part of whatever Gerald and his family wanted us to be a part of.

We think that Gerald has a great chance of being a lottery pick, and what happens is that I work with his agent in talking to teams. In the last eight days, he has had three workouts and interviews, so I will call the General Manager or the coach of those teams after the interview and give them input. And obviously people call us to talk about Gerald.

TC: What kind of pro do you think he’ll end up being?

K: I think he’ll be a very good pro, and a pro for a long time—potential starter early. The game is still young for Gerald because he was a golfer for a long time, and also, he hasn’t had a full summer of preparation for a while because last summer, he was out four months with his wrist injury. I think he is going to be a good pro because he works at it, he is no problem, he will be a good team member, and he’s got talent.

TC: Was his process of declaring for the draft different than some of the other players you’ve had go early in recent years?

K: Everyone has their own way of doing it—we don’t have, like, a protocol, but he was really up front. That’s what we try to have with each of our players, so you know what they are thinking and so they feel you are an ally so you can help them, not just while they are here, but afterwards. There is a relationship you want to continue to have [with former players], and we do.

TC: Do some of the former players have a relationship with the current players?

K: Oh yeah, that is why we bring them back. Actually, Gerald has developed a little bit of a relationship with Kobe [Bryant]. I’ve wanted him to help G—obviously he couldn’t do it during the playoffs, but when he’s up there, you want to be able to know you have people who not just played at Duke, but the fact that I coached the national team, they share a little bit of a common bond.

TC: Did you sort of figure G would go pro after the season he had this year?

K: Yeah, I think G might have gone pro earlier than this if he had not encountered injury problems. I felt when we recruited him that he had a great chance to be a pro and we had that vision for him. He did a great job here, and is a really good guy. And for us, we want all these guys to do well, make a lot of money, and have good lives, so we are going to continue to help him.


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