The Olympics are just around the corner and one of the events the public seems to be most interested in is how Team USA’s hoops team will fare. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is back in the saddle as head coach of the star-studded line up. And while fans and the press are debating whether this year’s team is as good as the ’92 Dream Team, Coach K is focused on more pressing matters like getting his team ready to defend their Gold Medal win from ’08.
Coach K joined ESPN 980 in Washington DC to talk about if he supports any changes to the format of international basketball competition, why he thinks this year’s team is potentially better than the ’08 Gold Medal winning squad, how he handles the physical demands of coaching and recruiting at Duke then shifting gears to this job in the summer time, his thoughts on the way the international game is officiated, and what makes Spain so tough in international play.
On changing the format of the Olympics to 23-and-under as has been discussed amongst other things:
“I think the format is good, but I think you always have to look at new things. If you’re going to elevate the World Championships to some type of a World Cup status, you have to consider that. But, maybe on a drawing board. But it’s a long way from actually happening. I think if it would be a 23-and-under format, it would be advantage for our country because our youth teams usually win in international competition. I think the international teams like we’re going to face, they’re outstanding because of their veterans, their older guys. But if it comes about, so be it, we’ll adjust. But I would hope that World Cup idea would take basketball to another level globally and I think that’s why they’re looking at it.”
On why he said recently that he thought this year’s team was better than the ’08 team:
“Well, if they’re healthy. Today was actually the first day that we had all of our players participate in a practice. And it has better overall quickness than 2008, but 2008 did have good quickness. The thing that we’ll be measured by is whether we can rebound as well not having Dwight and Chris Bosh, those are two big losses. We don’t add guys of that stature, although we have guys who have outstanding ability.”
On how he handles the physical demands of his coaching and recruiting duties at Duke as well as this summer work with the National Team:
“One, thanks for asking that, and you’re right, this is not a summer vacation. But you learn a lot; it’s invigorating really to be with guys and learn and then when I get back to Duke, I’m fortunate I have a veteran staff. During these 7 years I’ve been involved, my two main guys Steve Wojociowski and Chris Collins have not changed. So that helps. And then bringing Jeff Capel on helps a lot too. So a veteran staff certainly helps. And once this is over, just to take a little bit of a break in late August before we gear up for recruiting and then the season is going to be a necessity.”
If he thinks the international refs might in any way be biased or unlikely to give the Americans many calls:
“No I don’t feel that way. I’ve done this now — this will be my seventh year. Instead of thinking that they’re cheating, adjust to the way the game is called internationally, and that’s why this week we have all international officials calling the game so we get accustomed to…it’s just a different style, they allow more contact. So we can’t complain because it’s something that’s not happening for us on the NBA or collegiate level. This is the way the game is being administered and we have to adjust accordingly.”
On what makes Spain so tough in international play:
“Well they’re big and they have continuity. In other words, their guys have been playing together since they were 16, 17 years old. So when they get back together they have tremendous continuity. So the Gasols and Ibaka give them three of the best big guys in the tournament. And Navarro, in Europe, is as good a player as there is, and a scorer. Fernandez gives them a wild card, and Calderon is just a steady, really steady guard. So they’re big and powerful, and they won the World Championships in ’06, they came in second to us in the Olympics, and they didn’t do in the World Championships — Pau Gasol did not play for them — but in the qualifying last year, they were the dominant team coming out of Europe.”