Mike Krzyzewski

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Mike Krzyzewski on his Rio Olympic wish list, LeBron James in 2020

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NEW YORK — Mike Krzyzewski, who stepped down as U.S. Olympic men’s basketball coach after three titles, made a rare appearance with Winter Olympians at the Figure Skating in Harlem Gala last week. There, he answered questions about Olympic basketball and why he was at a figure skating party …

OlympicTalk: Coach K and figure skating. How does that go together?

Krzyzewski: One of our dearest group of friends is Doug and Ellie Lowey [co-chairs of the Figure Skating in Harlem Gala]. And [businesswoman and gala honoree] Elaine Wynn has been one of our dearest friends forever. But the concept [of Figure Skating in Harlem] is what turns you on. We have a similar thing in Durham with the Emily Krzyzewski Center, helping first-generation kids who might want to go to college, to help them. This is such a unique idea. So, really [I’m here] in recognition to our friends, the Loweys. Then I’m going to introduce one of the honorees, Mrs. Wynn, who’s a dear friend.

OlympicTalk: What one thing would you change about Olympic basketball?

Krzyzewski: Well, I love our [Olympic] format. I don’t like the changes they just made, where the world championships [or world cup] are in 2019 instead of this summer [worlds, held every four years like the Olympics, used to be held midway between Olympics]. I liked the old format better, but I love international basketball and how well our game is played everywhere. Twenty-five percent of the NBA is international, and that will only continue to increase.

OlympicTalk: Why did you like the old worlds timing (2006, 2010, 2014) better than the new one (2019, 2023)?

Krzyzewski: I just think it gave the worlds even more recognition, instead of a prelude to the Olympics. It was its own entity. The world championships, there are 24 countries involved [expanding next summer to 32]. In the Olympics, there are 12. So, it’s different. The other thing I liked about it is when we won the gold medal, the coaches actually got one [gold medal] at the world championships [laughs].

OlympicTalk: Any players ever offer you their Olympic gold medal? Or USA Basketball make an extra one for you?

Krzyzewski: Oh, they do make an extra one, USA Basketball. And I’m good with all that. The coach has an auxiliary role, really, as compared to the players.

OlympicTalk: So you have three Olympic gold medals? What about when you were an assistant with the Dream Team in 1992?

Krzyzewski: I don’t have them from the Dream Team in 1992, but I do from Beijing, London and Rio, the teams that I [head] coached.

OlympicTalk: Say Olympic rosters were 13 players instead of 12. Who would you add to any of the 2008, 2012 or 2016 Olympic teams?

Krzyzewski: I would have liked to have LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] for the 2016 team in Rio. But for those guys to make the commitments they do, after playing over 100 games for the year, is phenomenal. To get Carmelo Anthony, who did it three times, LeBron and Chris Paul twice, Kevin Durant twice and also a world championship, it’s an incredible commitment by all those guys.

Editor’s Note: Anthony and James also played for Larry Brown at the 2004 Olympics, where the U.S. took bronze. Bryant removed himself from Rio consideration in January 2016, his farewell NBA season, to give a younger star an opportunity at a gold medal. James passed on the Rio Olympics, citing the need for rest after winning the 2016 NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a decision Krzyzewski respected. James said in January 2017 that Gregg Popovich succeeding Krzyzewski as Olympic head coach in 2020 “factors a lot” in whether he’ll want to play. James has called Popovich “the greatest coach of all time.” Krzyzewski is staying on with USA Basketball in an advisory role.

OlympicTalk: Do you think LeBron will play for Gregg Popovich at Tokyo 2020?

Krzyzewski: I don’t know. You know what, once you served, it’s a big thing to serve again. We should not put any pressure on those guys to serve again. However, if they want to, our arms are open wide to hug them. But Pop will do an amazing job.

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MORE: USA Basketball names Olympic men’s player pool

Michael Phelps told Charlie Rose why he’s ‘technically not retired’

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Michael Phelps was in no rush to make his retirement official after the Rio Olympics.

Some time after the Games, Phelps said in an interview with Charlie Rose — sitting next to longtime U.S. men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski — that he had not yet completed paperwork that would take him out of a drug-testing pool and make him ineligible for major competition.

“I am, technically, not retired, but I’m retiring soon,” Phelps said in a video published last Friday, which Rose said was taped in Chicago. “I haven’t signed the papers, but I am retiring.”

Phelps was reportedly in Chicago as far back as September, so he very well could have dotted all the Is by now.

In the 40-minute Rose interview, Phelps and Krzyzewski went deeper into their careers, with Phelps repeating many stories he has often told.

“I’m ready [to retire], and I think this time I’m actually ready,” Phelps said. “I think in ’12, I kind of forced it [retirement].”

In early 2013, Phelps unretired by re-entering the drug-testing pool, becoming eligible to swim in 2014 after a mandatory nine-month waiting period.

Of those drug-testing papers, Phelps reportedly said after his last swim in Rio, “Were the papers here, I’d sign them tomorrow.”

MORE: Phelps leads Golden Goggle nominees

Durant, United States whip China in men’s basketball opener

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Facing a team in China that they blew out on two pre-Olympic exhibitions (by 50 and 49 points, respectively), the United States was expected to begin its run to a fourth consecutive gold medal in men’s basketball with an impressive showing at the Carioca Arena Saturday night. Mike Krzyzewski’s team took care of business as expected, battling through a couple short stretches of sloppiness to defeat the Chinese by the final score of 119-62 to move to 1-0 in Group A play.

While China managed to score the first two points of the game, that was the only semblance of control that they would enjoy in this one. Kevin Durant scored a game-high 25 points and dished out six assists for the Americans, with DeMarcus Cousins adding 17 points and five rebounds and Kyrie Irving 12 points and five assists. Irving made four three-pointers on the night, with three of those coming during a third quarter stretch in which he made three consecutive from beyond the arc. Paul George, who two years ago suffered a horrific leg injury that kept him out of that years World Cup of Basketball, added 15 points in the win.

The Americans pulled away during the latter stages of the first quarter, leading 30-10 through one, and a 16-0 run in the third quarter proved to be the catalyst the United States “needed” to win by 57 points. They shared the ball offensively, with 31 of their 38 made field goals being assisted and six players finishing the game with at least three assists.

The United States limited China to 37 percent shooting from the field while also forcing the underdogs into 21 turnovers. Yi Jianlian, who spent some time earlier in his career in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, paced China with 25 points and six rebounds. The United States returns to action Monday night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern when they take on Venezuela, another team the Americans beat during their pre-Olympic exhibition tour.