Given that it’s the 20-year anniversary of the 1992 NBA “Dream Team” that absolutely buried every opponent it came upon in the Summer Olympics of Barcelona, there is some added juice when discussing the storied group. The “Dream Team” defeated its opponents by an average of almost 44 points on their way to the gold medal. Last week, NBA TV celebrated the 20th anniversary of the “Dream Team” with a documentary taking a closer look at the squad.
Mike Krzyzewski was an assistant coach on the “Dream Team”. Coach K gave his take on what it meant to be on this special team as he embarks on the task of assembling and coaching the 2012 NBA Olympic team headed for the London Olympics.
Mike Krzyzewski joined WFNZ in Charlotte with The Drive to discuss dealing with all the injuries in the NBA this season in term of having a different Olympic roster, the 1992 Dream Team being the greatest team in the history of sport, Michael Jordan as an NBA owner, becoming a better coach after learning from the 1992 Dream Team and the 2008 Redeem Team, and the possibility of becoming an NBA head coach.
You’re getting ready for the Olympics again and deciding what that roster is going to look like. You’ve had some unfortunate injuries to deal with lately:
“Yeah well we are in deep preparation for the Olympics right now. Not with the team because the NBA season is just coming to a close, so in preparation you have to…No.1 it would be nice to know who the 12 guys are? We won’t decide that until July 7th. How we conduct practice? A simple system where we utilize their talents. How do you bring them together as a team? These guys are coming off a grueling season. Once the regular season was going on I think they played games every 1.6 days. The London Olympics are sooner than the Olympics in the past, so there’s not that buffer between regular season and the Olympics. It produced a lot of interesting things and we have to be on top of them.”
You saw the “Dream Team” documentary last week. You were an assistant coach for Chuck Daly. Who wins in a hypothetical game between the 1992 Dream Team and the Olympic NBA team of now?
“Well I don’t know who wins because they are both unbelievable teams, but the greatest team in the history of sport was the Dream Team. That team did not have all of those guys in their prime. Magic Johnson had been out a year. Larry Bird was at the end of his career. His back was bothering him. John Stockton was hurt. In their prime all of those guys. You have 11 Hall of Famers. I am not sure if we would have had…who knows? Their careers are still going on, but the Beijing Olympic team will have a number of Hall of Famers. I am not sure combined Bird…you are talking maybe the top five players ever was Bird, Magic and Michael [Jordan] being the best of all time.”
What are your thoughts of Michael Jordan as an owner?
“I don’t follow it that closely to judge people’s ownership. I think it takes a lot of courage for him to become an owner and to put himself on the line and especially in a franchise and a market that is developing. I do know that there is no better competitor than Michael and he’s a straight shooter. I love the fact that he is completely honest. Some of it and a little bit of it is luck. If a ping pong ball comes up a little bit different you get the No.1 pick instead of No.2. Are you a better owner because you didn’t get the top ping pong ball? I think sometimes you have to get really bad before you get really good in that league and I think their youth movement is something that you have to pay a price when you do that. Oklahoma City did and they got lucky with a couple of picks. Their No.2 pick [Kevin Durant] turned out to be a pretty good one.”
What did you learn from the 1992 Dream Team and the 2008 NBA Redeem Team that made you a better coach?
“Real easy as a coach different techniques. Best practices. Something that people never even think of is terminology. Phrases. How you talk about the game and how you teach it. How you talk on the court and different phrases you use or color schemes. You learn a lot even though we are speaking English. You get tuned into what maybe you do at Duke or at college and then all of a sudden you hear Larry Bird say something and you think ‘Holy Mackerel!’ That’s a better way of saying it. Kobe Bryant talks about something or LeBron James. Basketball-wise you learn a lot and you coach against different competitors with the international community who are really good. Just as a human being to be around talent and people who make sacrifices and make commitments for the whole. When you see stars being willing to do everything. That makes you feel good, but also to do something in service for your country. It’s not like we are going to battle. We are going to play basketball, but there’s something that really makes you feel good when you put on a USA shirt or uniform. You say we represent the United States of America! To have people in the military come in and speak to our group, who actually put their lives on the line and say…they are telling us we admire you. I think it humbles all those guys in the room because then they say are you kidding me? We are the ones who admire you. It’s good to talk to your country that way and be touched by your country.”
Would you ever consider making a leap to the NBA and be a head coach?
“No not now. Not anymore. Whenever I get through coaching it’ll be at Duke. That’ll be it. But I am not ready to call it quits here. I love Duke. I love college. I especially love Duke and the guys I have been able to get here and the relationships we have developed. It’s really as good as I could have ever imagined something happening. This has been unbelievably better.”