Duke wins heart of Krzyzewski over Hollywood

Lakers' offer is rejected in favor of the chance to build on Durham legacy

Basketball

July 06, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Mike Krzyzewski isn't going Hollywood after all.

Rejecting a reported five-year, $40 million offer from the Los Angeles Lakers, Krzyzewski announced during a nationally televised news conference in Durham, N.C., yesterday that he will remain at Duke and likely finish out his legendary career among the crazies at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Instead of trying to replace Phil Jackson and continue a Lakers legacy that includes 14 NBA titles, Krzyzewski will try to build on his own 24-year legacy at Duke that includes a 621-181 record, 10 Final Four appearances, three NCAA championships and a basketball court named in his honor.

Krzyzewski, 57, said he made his decision late Sunday night. It came down to several factors - the life he had built for himself and his family at the top of the list - and he never weighed one of college basketball's most successful programs against one of the most dominant franchises in pro sports.

"The decision has always been to stay at Duke," said Krzyzewski. "It would have to be something changing what I already believed in [to leave]. It wasn't like, `Should I do this or this?' I've always wanted to be the Duke coach. The lure of this very prestigious position was placed against that love.

"Duke was always most prominent in what I was doing."

Duke athletic director Joe Alleva summed up the feelings on campus, where a vigil was held one night last week in a section called Krzyzewskiville where students often camp out for seats inside the school's famous (and cramped) gym.

"Today is a really happy day," said Alleva. "It's a happy day for Coach Krzyzewski and his family. It's a great day for Duke University. It's a great day for college basketball."

Krzyzewski denied speculation that his frustration with losing top freshman Luol Deng and top recruit Shaun Livingston to the NBA, as well as his public disdain for the Atlantic Coast Conference's plan to become a football superpower through expansion, had caused him to take a harder look at the NBA than he had in the past.

"There really wasn't a negative that prompted this," said Krzyzewski. "I have a great positive in what I'm doing and all of a sudden this other positive came in. We feel we're really a part of this university in every aspect. There's no real price tag for that."

Krzyzewski's price tag will undoubtedly go up. Already one of the highest-paid college coaches in the country - he earns a reported $2.5 million in salary, outside endorsements and speaking fees and has a lifetime contract from the school - one Duke official said yesterday that "it is safe to assume that modifications will be made."

It was during the buildup to last month's draft when Krzyzewski had conversations with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak about certain players that the topic of coaching the Lakers was first broached. Kupchak visited Krzyzewski last week in Durham, and Kobe Bryant, whom Krzyzewski recruited in high school, also called.

"It came at a time when I was taking inventory," said Krzyzewski. "I'm 57, and maybe I should just look at it. As it went on, I took a closer and closer look. As I looked at this and myself, I found that I wanted to lead. Your heart has to be in whatever you lead."

Krzyzewski informed Kupchak of his decision early yesterday morning and then told new Duke president Richard Broadhead that he wouldn't have to look for a new coach a little more than a week after Broadhead arrived from Yale. Krzyzewski joked that he wasn't sure of Broadhead's sleeping habits when he called.

"They're going to be better now," said Broadhead.

The same can't be said for Kupchak. While it is expected that the Lakers will quickly hire their second choice, former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, the decision by Krzyzewski to remain at Duke will likely affect Bryant, an unrestricted free agent who is now expected to talk with the Clippers.

Krzyzewski thanked the Lakers for the opportunity to explore the possibility of coaching in the NBA, and thanked his family as well as his extended family of players and their parents for being patient as he tried to come to a decision.

"When this became public, we called all of them to say, `Just trust and stick with us,' and they did," said Krzyzewski.

"The juices just wouldn't have flowed as much," Maryland's Gary Williams said of the prospect of facing a Duke team not run by his most-heated rival in Krzyzewski. "It just wouldn't have been the same. This is good for our league and for college basketball."

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said that he wasn't surprised by Krzyzewski's announcement.

"Mike has accomplished so much at Duke, and his roots are so deep that I thought it would be difficult for him to leave," said Roy Williams.

Towson coach Pat Kennedy, who coached against Krzyzewski while at Florida State and now works with him as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said that the sport will benefit by Krzyzewski's decision to stay at Duke.

"He has a true love for college coaching, for developing his players," said Kennedy. "He's built this tremendous consistent family at Duke, in the real sense, not in any kind of phony sense, with a network of former players who are in the pros, who are coaches, who are successful business people. I think Mike deeply cherishes that."

While Krzyzewski seems destined to stay at Duke for the remainder of his career, he wouldn't close the door completely on the NBA.

"I don't want to say never, but I don't want to lead anyone on," said Krzyzewski. "I wouldn't be looking at a new challenge if I weren't passionate about coaching. For me, quite frankly, this has been the perfect place for me to coach, teach and learn and be a part of a community."

The Associated Press and ESPN.com contributed to this article.

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