It’s like he never left. Mostly because he really didn’t. But Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski made his return to Team USA official at a press conference on campus in Durham Thursday.
“I really thought I wasn’t going to do it,” Krzyzewski told reporters. “But now that I am doing it, I can tell you I am doing it with 100 percent commitment and passion — but with seven years of experience of having done it before…
“Just like a player gets better from doing it, we all got better. And that energizes you because it’s like a teacher learning new material. I’m 66. I don’t know how you’re supposed to feel at 66. I never think of my age… But I feel energetic, passionate, wanting to achieve.”
Coach K took over the team in 2005 following a disappointing bronze medal performance by LeBron James and Co. at the Athens Olympics. Krzyzewski has since led USA Basketball to a 62-1 record, gold medals at the Beijing and London Games, and a World Championship in 2010.
He was only away from the team for nine months, during which USA Basketball CEO Jerry Colangelo claimed that while Boston’s Doc Rivers and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich were on a shortlist to head up the team next, the hall of fame executive never considered hiring anyone else. And apparently it only took a conversation over room service pizza chicken tenders to convince Krzyzewski.
“I’m kind of old-fashioned, I never really accepted the fact he wasn’t coming back,” Colangelo said via phone during the conference. “I felt time would be what he needed in terms of a tonic to… weigh the positives and whatever negatives there may be. I just think it’s a perfect fit for him.”
But Krzyzewski also twice stressed that coaching a team of talented NBA players wasn’t as simple as rolling a ball onto the court and letting them play, especially with international teams getting better each year. So he’ll begin evaluating players at a mini-camp this July in Vegas, and then be on the bench for the newly dubbed World Cup of Basketball next summer in Madrid, home court of Pau and Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and the rest of the the back-to-back Olympic silver medal winners from Spain.