Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski: USA Basketball Made Me A Better Coach

Life continues to go pretty well for Mike Krzyzewski. His Duke Blue Devils are again expected to contend for a national championship and have survived a turbulent college hoops season despite losing Ryan Kelly for about the past two months. He’s also got a couple gold medals to fall back on, though he said Tuesday that he doesn’t plan to return as coach of Team USA basketball. Mike Krzyzewski joined WFNZ in Charlotte with The Drive to discuss a big week on the schedule, what he’s learned about this Duke team playing without Ryan Kelly, the impending return of Kelly to the lineup, the loss of rivalries due to conference realignment and what coaching Team USA did for his career.

You’ve got Virginia and then No. 5 Miami this week. A pretty busy week, eh?

“Well, you know, it’s been a crazy month for us scheduling-wise, because we’ve played so many road games and 9 o’clock games or weird times. … Again, we’re not the only team that goes through it. It’s our time. … The 9 o’clock games kind of ruin the next day, especially if they’re on the road, because you don’t get back until 3 in the morning.”

What have you learned about your team since losing Ryan Kelly from the lineup?

“We hung in there, and so we showed toughness. The bottom can fall out for any team, because nobody is that deep in college basketball. When you lose someone of high value, meaning the number of minutes, chemistry, one of the best players. … I really thank our seniors. … Then our young guys have gotten better. And we’ve been able to hang in there. We’re 9-3 since the injury and hopefully we’re going to get Ryan back here soon and we’ll be able to transition. … It’s really easy for things to go south, and our guys didn’t let that happen.”

How important is it to get him back before the ACC and NCAA tournaments?

“It’s huge. The earlier you can get him back, the better. It’s been almost two months, so you don’t want to rush it now at the end, because he’s done a good job. With Ryan, and who knows if we’ll get the chemistry that we had before he was injured, we were right there. We could play with anybody. I’m not saying we were this dominant team. … We had a really good group. They just fed off one another. We’ll see when we bring him back if we have enough time to develop that chemistry again.”

On the subject of long-time rivalries falling off because of realignment:

“It’s happening, so we have to deal with it, but I think a lot of people who make those decisions, they don’t feel that decision or the impact of the decision. … In other words, the people who made the decision at Maryland were not part of the Maryland history. It was kind of a hidden thing, like a two- or three-person decision, really. All of the sudden you see that could be the last Duke-Maryland game in College Park. Well, that’s reality. When you make these decisions, it’s not about the big splash. It’s about the splash and whatever ripples would occur. The ripples have to do with ending rivalries, ending traditions, ending what our sport is about. Then they’ll have to develop new ones, but it takes a long time to develop those.”

Have you ever felt your career was nearing an end? And maybe now with how things have gone recently is that feeling gone?

“I think on certain days people feel, if they’ve been in their job a long time, there’s certain days that you say, ‘Yeah, I wonder how long.’ But not weeks. I’m not saying that I’ve never thought of leaving. You have to think about things like. But USA Basketball was really great for me. It made me a better coach and … I think I was going pretty hard anyway, with a lot of passion, but I learned a lot in those seven years. That gets you excited because it teaches you even more about the game. I’ve learned a lot about the game in these last seven years that I’d still like to teach, so I’m not having any of those days.”

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