• The Big Interview – Mike Krzyzewski

    Posted: August 6th, 2016

    The U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team’s listless bronze-medal finish in Athens in 2004 led USA Basketball to put longtime NBA executive Jerry Colangelo in charge of returning the luster to its national team program. Colangelo in turn hired his fellow Chicagoan, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, as head coach. If it was a risk to choose a college coach for a team of pros, that gamble has paid off. The Rio Olympics will mark the end of Coach K’s nearly 12 years in charge, including three Olympic cycles, and during that time Team USA has gone 52-1 in major FIBA events, collecting four of a possible five gold medals.

    Is a fifth in its future? While Krzyzewski has restored the American mystique, the days of guaranteed romps are over. The U.S. beat Spain by only seven points in the gold-medal game at the 2012 Olympics in London, and the team that suits up in Rio will feature only two players, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, with prior Olympic experience. For a variety of reasons, a raft of vets—including LeBron James, Chris Paul, James Harden, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook—decided to sit out these Games.

    Before heading to Brazil, between training camp sessions in Las Vegas, Krzyzewski sat down with SI’s Alexander Wolff to look back at his journey. He talked about building a national team culture, the evolution of the global game, Anthony’s development into an unlikely elder statesman, and the value of following Paul George’s Instagram feed. Their conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

    I imagine you’ve learned a lot over these dozen years from international coaches and players, and wonder if you could share anything specific you’ve taken back to the U.S. team or to Duke.

    The game is alive and well worldwide, obviously, with 20 to 25 percent of the NBA being international. You have teams that have been together 10, 12, 15 years, like the Argentine team, with their spirit and togetherness, continuity and system.

    I remember in 2008 in Beijing, Spain had just beaten Lithuania in the semifinals. We were getting ready to go out on the court in the tunnel, where the crowd couldn’t see you. Our guys are psyched up, we’re going to play Argentina. About 50 to 75 feet behind us, again spectators can’t see it, is the Argentina team, dancing and hugging. It was amazing. I remember walking out on the court with Mike D’Antoni, one of the assistants, and saying, “Mike, forget the scouting report. That’s what we have to beat.”

    Source: http://www.si.com/longform/big-interview/mike-krzyzewski-2016-olympics-rio-big-interview/index.html


You have to adapt what you do based on who you are. In teaching, you must remember that no group or individual is the same as who you taught the day before, the year before, or the decade before. Your plan has to suit who you and your team are right now.

- Coach K

Adversity can teach you more about yourself than any success, and overcoming an obstacle can sometimes feel even better than achieving an easy victory. Through adversity, you can discover things about your endurance, your ability to turn a negative into a positive, and your personal strength of heart.

- Coach K

Take care not to allow one aspect of your life to so consume you that you neglect the others. Balance can put things in perspective, can bring you joy even when you are down, and can allow you to be at your best in all aspects of your life.

- Coach K

When you are winning, your commitment is never challenged. But loyalty and dedication during difficult times can be tough. When commitment doesn’t waver, that’s when you have the greatest chance of winning. You can never give up.

- Coach K

When you care about someone or something, you show genuine concern for that person or thing, in good times or bad. When you care about one another and about your purpose, you are compelled to put your feelings into action. Care creates an atmosphere that breeds success and gives you the confidence to try again.

- Coach K

Belief can mean the difference between a fear of failure and the courage to try. On a team or in a family, belief makes each individual stronger and also fortifies the group as a whole. The basis of belief is in individual relationships.

- Coach K

No matter how successful you believe yourself to be, you can never feel as if you’ve reached the absolute pinnacle. There are always new and wonderful challenges out there, and part of maintaining success is knowing when you need to accept them.

- Coach K
Collective Responsibility

We win and we lose together. Handling the responsibility for wins and losses together removes the burden from one individual’s shoulders and distributes it among each member of the team. That atmosphere is conducive to high-level performance and places you and your team in the position to be bold and unafraid, and if you should lose, you are not alone.

- Coach K

You can possess countless good qualities as an individual, but if you don”t have the courage to proceed, you may never see those qualities come into fruition. It takes courage to put what you believe to be best of you on the line, to test it, and to see how far it takes you. Courage means daring to do what you imagine.

- Coach K

Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication. Communication does not always occur naturally, and must be taught and practiced in order to bring everyone together as one. The most crucial element of communicating is telling the truth.

- Coach K
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