Team USA won the World Cup, but who really won?
Paul George sure didn’t. He’s out for the season as a result of an injury.
The NBA didn’t, either, Mark Cuban would argue. The league loaned its stars so others could profit.
But Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski definitely came out ahead.
When Team USA goes to the U.S. Military Academy to practice on its pre-tournament tour, guess what the stories are: Krzyzewski returns to his West Point roots. There’s Coach K with the cadets. There’s Coach K in the mess hall. There’s Coach K teaching those rich NBA players about sacrifice and selflessness. People call Calipari the greatest self-promoting coach of his time, but Krzyzewski doesn’t get nearly the credit due him. USA Basketball is a machine with its tentacles deep into every level of basketball, and Krzyzewski taps into every element.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo has set it up for Krzyzewski to have a free run, and he’s been strategic and shrewd in its use. NBA commissioner Adam Silver gave Krzyzewski a big hug on the floor Sunday night here – another Dukie thrilled about how this partnership has closed the gap on Calipari and Kentucky, and gone a long way toward burying the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Krzyzewski never violated an NCAA rule when he climbed aboard a flight, flew cross-country and addressed the 2013 under-19 USA Basketball national team at its Colorado Springs training camp. He addressed players in a group, and talked to them individually, sources told Yahoo Sports. For the record, Krzyzewski is USA Basketball’s senior national coach and the visit gave him an opportunity to personally welcome those young men into the program’s feeder system.
Within the college recruiting game, no one ever considered it a coincidence when one of those younger USA Basketball national teams would detour through Vegas to watch Krzyzewski and his Duke assistants on the training camp floor with the biggest basketball stars in the world.
Without the access of USA Basketball, there’s a strong belief within the basketball community that Krzyzewski would’ve never landed Jabari Parker. Only, he had it, used it and signed him. He’s on a tremendous run, and let’s face it: Krzyzewski is so untouchable, he could keep Mason Plumlee on this World Cup roster without much of an uproar.
Every four years, Colangelo and Krzyzewski deliver that well-rehearsed routine of the coach wanting to step down only to have the managing director convince him of a return for four more years. Every time, we fall for it.
As long as Krzyzewski needs recruits at Duke, he needs USA Basketball. Why sit in the steamy summer-circuit AAU gyms trying to make eye contact with 16-year-olds, when you can use the media to write about all the close, personal relationships you’ve developed with LeBron and Kobe, ‘Melo and Kevin Durant? Hey kids, Krzyzewski even texts them during the season – maybe sometimes right after he texts you!
Without question, Krzyzewski’s participation in Team USA is more than just altruistic. As Wojnarowski details, the recruiting benefits are immense. Two members of that under-19 team, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, will play for Duke this season.
But which potential coach wouldn’t stand to benefit from overseeing Team USA?
Krzyzewski has done well in the job, and he’s earned the right to keep doing it. Just because Duke’s recruiting improves as a result of Krzyzewski’s presence on the American sidelines doesn’t mean something nefarious is afoot.
Now, the cost of enabling Krzyzewski’s recruiting bonus can be debated. Should the NBA allow its stars to play when Krzyzewski’s recruiting is one of the few clear positives to come out of the tournament? Should Krzyzewski have free reign to push Plumlee onto the roster over more-accomplished players?
Every college coach is looking for a recruiting edge. Krzyzewski has found a great one – but he’s also earned it. The only question is to what lengths everyone else – Team USA, the NBA – should go to ensure he keeps it.