Local News

Coach K: 'Duke Has Always Taken Up My Whole Heart'

Posted July 6, 2004

— Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday that he will remain the Blue Devils' coach instead of going to the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers.

Krzyzewksi turned down a five-year $40 million contract to be the Lakers' head coach.

Though he spent the Fourth of July weekend considering the offer, Krzyzewski said he never felt he was ready to leave the school where he has coached for 24 seasons.

"I am embedded here," he told WRAL's Jeff Gravley. "Something has to be unbelievable to take its place. It wasn't like Duke or the Lakers. It was: Can the Lakers do enough to change a love that I already have?"

At a press conference to announce his decision, Coach K said: "Duke has always taken up my whole heart.

"No matter how appealing another option was, to lead my Duke team with all my heart could only happen at this place.

"We're a part of this university in many aspects," Krzyzewski said of his family. "You can't put a pricetag on that. This has been the perfect place to coach and teach and learn."

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill coach Roy Williams said he was not surprised by Krzyzewski's decision.

"Mike has accomplished so much at Duke, and his roots are so deep that I thought it would be difficult for him to leave," Williams said. "I'm sure he felt it was in the best interest for him and his family. I know it is great for college basketball."

Krzyzewski told his family of his decision Sunday night. He notified Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak in a phone call about 10:30 a.m. Monday.

William Friday, head of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, said the decision was the best one for Krzyzewski as well as the best one for college sports.

Friday said the fact that Coach K considered the Lakers' offers indicated that there are issues confronting college basketball that need to be addressed, such as players leaving school early for the pros.

Krzyzewski has lost eight players with eligibility to the pros since 1999.

Duke players said Krzyzewski called them about 11:45 a.m. Monday to tell them he was staying. Associate Head Coach Johnny Dawkins and a couple of players left Krzyzewski's home about 12:25 p.m. after Coach K invited them over to get the news.

Players said Krzyzewski sounded upbeat during his conversations with them, indicating he was excited about continuing his Duke career.

Krzyzewski said his excitement was genuine.

"When my relationship with Duke was put up against my relationship with a storied franchise, I found myself even more committed to what Duke has," he said.

Krzyzewski was intrigued by the Lakers' offer, in part, because of the challenge it presented. But coaching next season's Duke team could be a challenge in its own right.

"I don't think I'll have too many problems talking about playing time," Krzyzewski told the media early last week. "If you're not getting playing time this year, you're bad."

Duke (31-6) reached the Final Four for the 10th time in 19 seasons last year, losing to eventual champion Connecticut. But the Blue Devils lost senior point guard Chris Duhon and freshman Luol Deng -- the team's second-leading scorer at 15.1 points per game -- from that squad.

Then, Shaun Livingston, a 6-foot-7 point-guard recruit , entered the draft and was selected fourth by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Duke heads into next season with just eight recruited players.

Monday's decision marked at least the third time Krzyzewski has rejected an NBA offer. He had discussions with the Boston Celtics in 1990 and the Portland Trail Blazers in 1994.

Three years ago, Krzyzewski signed a lifetime contract at Duke.

"I have never made a decision based on what will get me the most money," he said Monday. "To me, it's about what was going to give me the most happiness. I have been really happy at Duke and fulfilled at Duke."

When asked how many coaches can say they have turned down the Lakers and the Celtics, Krzyzewski said: "there's probably only one stupid one.

"It's a crazy thing to do," he said. "As a result of doing that, I feel like now I can join the Cameron Crazies because I feel like I've actually done a really crazy thing."

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