Local News

Moment Of Truth Draws Closer For Coach K

Posted July 5, 2004

— As Duke fans, players and officials await word from coach Mike Krzyzewski about his coaching future, the moment of truth draws closer.

After the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers reportedly offered him their head-coaching job, Krzyzewski spent Fourth of July weekend at the beach with his family. But an announcement about whether or not he will accept the offer could come Monday after he is expected to return to campus and meet with his staff.

As WRAL first reported over the weekend, the Lakers have upped the ante, trying to make Coach K an offer he cannot refuse. The five-year, $40 million contract that's being reported appears to be accurate but is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Lakers also are offering the title of team president, thus taking care of any control issues Krzyzewski would have. The Lakers also are offering Coach K a 5-percent ownership stake in the team.

Meanwhile, former Duke All-America Grant Hill weighed in on the debate this weekend, telling the

New York Times

he believes Krzyzewski faces a tough decision.

Hill said he knows the Lakers' job is appealing to the coach.

"He's a man that likes challenges," Hill told the Times in a story published Sunday. "One of the greatest challenges on one of the greatest stages is the Lakers. I think it would be an awesome experience for anybody."

Hill said he knows Krzyzewski has found it hard to connect and build relationships with his players in recent years as many of them have left early for the pros.

That ability to connect with players is one of Coach K's strengths. He may have a better chance connecting with the Lakers than with Duke players who leave every one or two years.

"I hope he stays," Hill said. "There are problems and issues he has to deal with at the college level. I'd rather have him deal with those issues than the issues he's going to have to deal with in the NBA."

WRAL's Julia Lewis reported that the Lakers gave Coach K through the weekend to decide about their offer.

The Lakers offer would make him the highest-paid coach in professional sports. Those who know the coach have said his final decision will not be based on the money.

Krzyzewski's compensation package at Duke pays somewhere between $1.6 million and $2.5 million annually. He signed a lifetime contract with the school three years ago.

Krzyzewski was approached by the Lakers about being Phil Jackson's successor after Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said he wanted to play for Krzyzewski and then reportedly spoke to Krzyzewski about it.

Bryant was recruited by Coach K and would have played at Duke had he not chosen to enter the NBA right out of high school.

The trend of college players leaving early for the NBA and high-school players bypassing college altogether reportedly has been frustrating enough for Krzyzewski to be a possible factor in any decision to leave. Coach K has lost eight players with eligibility remaining since 1999.

At a press conference two days before any mention of the Lakers job surfaced, Krzyzewski said Duke suffered a "double loss" when Luol Deng turned pro after just one season and high-school signee Shaun Livingston also jumped to the NBA.

"You can't replace a kid that goes, and you lose a kid you would have gotten," he said. "So it's a double loss."

The double loss ultimately could make it a triple loss for the Blue Devils.

"In the end, we had them for one year," Krzyzewski said of Deng and Livingston. "All the time that was spent, you have to figure out if it's worth doing that or not doing that."

As Krzyzewski pondered his decision over the weekend, a common refrain on the Duke campus was: "I can't imagine Duke without Coach K."

"The kind of intensity he pulls from the whole school is crazy," student Kenneth Stanford said.

Student Ed Venit said Krzyzewski's possible departure was "the talk of the town."

Even people in the know seemed to know very little. Women's basketball coach Gail Goestenkors said she was playing the same waiting game as everyone else.

Duke officials promised they will not easily let go of Krzyzewski. President Richard Brodhead said the school will do everything it can to persuade Coach K to stay.

John Burness, Duke's senior vice president for public and government relations, said it would be "perfectly reasonable to assume" the school would modify Krzyzewski's lifetime contract in an effort to keep the coach.

In the meantime, Duke fans and officials continued their anxious wait to find out whether Krzyzewski will leave the elite program he has guided for 802 games over 24 years.

"I think people are honestly clueless about what's going to happen," Duke senior associate athletics director Chris Kennedy said. "I don't think Mike knows what's going to happen right now."

That didn't stop people on campus from getting in their two cents' worth.

"He's definitely not going to get the atmosphere he has at Duke (if he goes to LA)," student Kevin Ford said. "It's special. He'd be losing a lot."

The university would lose a lot, too.

"I've heard a lot of people say the reason they come here is Duke basketball," Stanford said. "Even with the great education here, people come here because of Coach K."

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