Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski who was out west last week, I think he was out in the Anaheim region. Anyways, he said last Wednesday that his answer would be the same as it was in 2004 if the Lakers – who may be in the market for a head coach if Phil Jackson retires, decide to call it. So the first question is “Is Phil Jackson going to retire?” Yes, there is an understanding and there is a sense and people in Los Angeles know that if the Lakers win this year, even if they don’t, this could very well be Phil Jackson’s last year.
But it is interesting when Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Basketball head coach, was asked about this last Wednesday, read carefully to his response; he said “I’ve never thought of ever leaving Duke for another school. There are 3 serious times where I almost left, but one that I took to a real far level was the Lakers situation and they were great with me…but I could not give up what I got at Duke, I mean, it just wasn’t worth it” By the way, he acknowledges that he considered it 3 times. I mean, he’s a human being right? He’s not slamming the door, he had meetings with people. He didn’t say “nobody is home…go away! We don’t want any from you. This is Dave Krzyzewski’s house, not Mike Krzyzewski’s, there is nobody home!”
No, he acknowledged that there were 3 times when he thought about it and I was thinking about it sometime last week that, there is nobody out there to replace Phil Jackson! Kirk Rambus in Minnesota at 17-54, Paul Westphal has already coached every team out west once, Flip Saunders has too much baggage, Gregg Popovich is a Spur for life, Doc Rivers is too old, Rick Adelman has been there and done that, Tom Thibodeau – the guy with the Bulls, is an un-glamous, they are not going to win the East anyway and quite frankly he’s all defense and in LA, it’s not about defense. It’s about winning and stars and glitz and it always has been, even the showtime Lakers did it with offense – Lakers have never had a team that won it with defense. In LA, there’s too much to do. It’s not that you win; it’s that you win and how you win!
Jeff Van Gundy, kinda interesting….Brian Shaw, Laker assistant – that’s who Kobe likes, but the list is narrow, its tiny, this is not a long list, Shaw’s not perfect but he does run the triangle, probably would to some degree and Kobe, Gasol and these bigs for the time being would be fine with that, but I said about Mike Krzyzewsk I – and it’s a very interesting question and people can say what they want to say and he won’t listen – he’s a human being. You tell me a man who is ambitious, capable and competitive that if you walk up to him and say “I’m going to triple your salary, offer you a fresh challenge, give you a house on the beach and you’ll have your own private jet, they’re not going to listen?” yet he’s listen before, he listened to New Jersey and who the heck wants to go to Jersey?
And what’s interesting with Mike Krzyzewski – is that you thought Brett Farve was going to be a Packer forever and you thought Jeter and the Yankees could never separate, do you still think that now after this off-season? Wade Boggs and Clemens, Yankees and Red Sox’s. We tend to think – Phil Jackson himself, he’s been a Bull for life, a Knick for life and now a Laker. Reportedly 2 years ago, he was sniffing elsewhere. Mike Krzyzewski is not the 40% of America who has never moved within 4 miles of where they grew up. He is a challenge seeking, highly motivated, highly driven guy. I was saying one morning to some friends last week that, hasn’t he done everything he can in college basketball?
Nine hundred plus wins, four titles, dominate a conference; he’s easily the #1 figure in the sport, 2 gold medals, 2 or 3 national coaches of the year award. I mean, there is no more upside and he’s still young! Mike Krzyzewski is in great shape, this isn’t an old guy, and this isn’t a guy like Charlie Manuel who sounds old! This is a young and aggressive, ambitious guy and the Laker job is going to be open soon and there aren’t a lot of guys out there. To me, the reason why I think its interesting is because Mike Krzyzewski – if he took the job and he won a title, let’s say 2 in 6 years – for the record, very doable in Los Angeles. They’ve had very few eras where they haven’t won a cup or a title; they’ve won 5 in like 11 years okay?
You’ve still got the glitz, the glamour, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul…there is a lot of guys out there who would love to be Lakers. The reality is…if he went to LA and won a title or two, he would surpass John Wooden , Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson as the greatest basketball mind ever! I mean, you can beat Clemson all day; you can go beat Virginia Tech another 70 times. But for a guy that went to the Olympics, who has worked with Pros, who has worked with the best and who has succeeded, you can’t tell me that there is not a little something there. Favre said he’d never leave the Packers; Roger Clemens would never be a Yankee. We all think guys are set for life, but guys like Krzyzewski are not like the rest of America…they are driven, they are ambitious, and they LIKE to win! You’ve seen Krzyzewski on those sidelines. He’s screaming and yelling and working refs, I mean…that guy is competitive!
In terms of the Lakers….where are you going to go for a coach? I mean, Jeff Van Gundy – I think it’s pretty interesting, he’s got some gravitas , TV, been successful, smart, funny…would get the LA gig and the LA media would love him, Brian Shaw is an assistant – that’s a long drop off. I mean, you go from Phil Jackson to Brian Shaw – that’s quite a drop off. I mean, we’ve seen how Bill Belicheck’s assistants have panned out. Don Mattingly has been in the baseball for years!! Do you think he’s Joe Torre? That’s definitely a big drop off now!
So, in an era where teams need to draw, Coach K is a huge draw! You can argue, Lakers are the biggest job, Celtics 2nd biggest job, Duke is 3rd biggest job…you can argue that! Doc Rivers is too old, and I have to tell you though, Coach K is a young, like read what Coach K says! He acknowledges that he couldn’t leave but then he acknowledges he’s listened three times “I’ve never thought of ever leaving Duke for another school. There are 3 serious times where I almost left, but one that I took to a real far level was the Lakers situation and they were great with me…but I could not give up what I got at Duke, I mean, it just wasn’t worth it” and at the time it just wasn’t worth it. You know, you’re in a sport where it’s hard to keep your biggest stars, where you get a great player and then he’s gone after a year. In the NBA, for a guy who is so good with personalities and so good with people, wouldn’t it be nice to have the same group of players for 7 years? I don’t know!
I think it’s an interesting challenge for a highly highly intelligent guy. People think Doc Rivers is younger than Coach K, he sure as heck doesn’t look like it! Haha. I mean, Boston fans and the media have both beaten Doc Rivers up! Cause Doc Rivers keeps saying “I’ve got a couple of years left” Coach K to me – and maybe it’s the collegiate thing, I love Doc Rivers but he sure as heck appears old man! Doc has been beaten up by the NBA. To me, Coach K has always had this vitality thing, I seriously think there is a convergence of things in terms of the limitations on the things that he can do with. I mean, college basketball is a different sport than what it was 15 years ago. Like, to be able to coach a guy like Kobe? Like I know Kyle Erving is a nice player but, to be able to get – you know, it’s the Lakers, you’re going to be able to get the best players in the world and they’re going to be with you for 7 years? Wow that’s attractive!
I mean, college basketball is a little bit like an apartment complex. The minute you know your neighbor, they move onto a condo or a house…they don’t stay very long anymore!