Coach K has been a prominent figure on the USA Basketball scene throughout his career. On Oct. 26, 2005, his role on the international basketball world was thrust into the limelight when he was named head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team.
During his tenure at the helm of Team USA, the Men’s Senior National Team has amassed an extraordinary 75-1 record and has secured gold medals at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2010 FIBA World Championship, 2012 London Olympics and 2014 FIBA World Cup as well as a bronze medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
Coach K helped USA Basketball regain its position in international basketball during his first stint as the national team coach (2005-08) by instilling the same team-first principles he utilizes as the foundation for success at Duke.
In his first competition as head coach of the program, Krzyzewski led a team that included former Duke standouts Elton Brand and Shane Battier to an 8-1 record and a bronze medal finish at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan.
The following summer, Coach K led the USA squad to a gold medal in the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, posting a 10-0 record and winning by an average of 39.5 points per game. They defeated Argentina, 118-81, in the gold medal game to automatically qualify for the 2008 Olympics.
In the summer of 2008, Krzyzewski guided the USA squad to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Team USA reclaimed Olympic gold with a 118-107 victory over Spain in the championship game, while also further changing a negative perception of basketball in the United States along the way. Team USA averaged 106.0 points per game with an average margin of victory of 27.9 points per game during its gold medal run and also restored a tarnished image by winning over fans and fellow athletes with its presence off the court in Beijing. While earning praise for its unselfish play on the court, members of Team USA were equally admired for their patriotic support of American athletes in their quests for Olympic gold.
“It has been tagged as the most selfish basketball nation on Earth, but the U.S. showed teamwork and intensity normally not seen at any place other than, say, Duke University,” said Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke during Team USA’s gold medal run in 2008.
On July 21, 2009, it was announced that Krzyzewski would return as the head coach of the USA Basketball Senior National Team.
“When you have a good thing going you don’t mess with it. Mike and the staff did an incredible job last quad and he is more than entitled to have another run at it. I’ve said it over and over, he was the right guy at the right time and that is still true,” said Jerry Colangelo, who served as the Managing Director of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team program, at the time of the announcement.
Krzyzewski’s second term as the national team coach began with a gold medal performance at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey. With a group that featured six players under the age of 22, Team USA posted a 9-0 mark to capture the gold medal in the FIBA World Championship for the first time since 1994. The U.S. squad had a +24.9 points per game scoring margin with double-digit wins in eight of nine contests.
Team USA once again claimed Olympic gold in 2012 in London, posting a 107-100 win over Spain. While some experts speculated that outside shooting could be the downfall of the 2012 squad, Coach K and his staff gave the players the confidence to take their open shots against international teams’ zone defenses. The group, led by Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, responded by setting an Olympic record with 129 three-point field goals (16.1 3pg.) and shooting 44.0 percent from three-point range during the tournament. Team USA’s finest shooting performance came in a 156-73 win over Nigeria in pool play. Krzyzewski’s group set Olympic records for three-pointers (29, including 10 from Anthony), three-point percentage (.630) and points scored (156) in the win.
Krzyzewski closed out his second quadrennial in charge of the USA Men’s Senior National Team with a 50-game win streak, while becoming the first U.S. coach of multiple Olympic teams since the legendary Henry Iba, who won gold in 1964 and 1968 and coached the team that lost the controversial 1972 gold-medal game to the Soviet Union.
Following the 2012 London Olympics, Krzyzewski announced that he would not return as head coach of the USA Basketball Senior National Team. Colangelo continued to stay in touch with Coach K throughout the season and stepped up his courtship in May. On May 23, 2013, USA Basketball and Colangelo got their wish when it was announced that Krzyzewski would return as head coach of the USA Basketball Senior National Team from 2013-16.
“About four years ago, I was asked about Coach K’s return, and what I said then is still true now – when you have a good thing going, you don’t mess with it,” said Colangelo. “He was and still is the right man to coach the USA National Team. We’ve seen the value of continuity and Coach K’s return gives our national team program another four years of continuity. Together, we have been able to build on the program’s successes of each year and again establish the United States as the world’s number one basketball country.”
“It is tough to give up something you’ve absolutely loved doing for seven years, the people you’re doing it with, and most importantly, the country you’re doing it for,” said Krzyzewski. “As a result of my ongoing desire to coach, I’ve decided I’d like to continue as head coach of the Men’s National Team especially since USA Basketball wanted me to do so. It just seems like the right thing to do. There is no greater honor than to coach your country’s team and to be afforded the unique opportunity to be the National Team coach three times is incredible.”
Krzyzewski once again took advantage of the opportunity at the 2014 FIBA World Cup leading Team USA to a 9-0 mark and the gold medal despite guiding a squad absent of USA Basketball mainstays LeBron James, Anthony, Durant and Russell Westbrook. With six players averaging double figures, the USA led the 24-team World Cup field in scoring offense (104.6 points a game), scoring margin (+33.0), field goal percentage (.524), rebounding (44.8), rebounding margin (+9.0), defensive rebounds (29.9), assists (20.4), steals (12.1) and turnover margin (+8.3). The USA’s +33.0 points per game differential was the most of a U.S. men’s team in a FIBA World Cup or Olympic Games since the 1994 World Championship (+37.8).
“I said previously, if we were to have won this year with all of the adversity that we went through this would be the sweetest of all of the championships, and I feel that way,” said Colangelo following the 2014 FIBA World Cup. “The amazing thing about all that has happened is that we have used so many different players to win these championships, which is a testament to the game in our country and the depth of talent that we have, and to our staff and the leadership of Coach K and our assistant coaches. I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”
USA Basketball has won each of the past two FIBA World Cup (formerly World Championship) events to join Brazil (1959 and 1963) and Yugoslavia (1998 and 2002) as the only countries to earn back-to-back FIBA world titles since the event was initiated in 1950.
Duke players have also had a prominent impact in the Olympics as eight of Krzyzewski’s former players have competed for five different countries in the Olympics. In 2012, former Blue Devils Luol Deng (Great Britain) and Martynas Pocius (Lithuania) competed in the London Olympics.
Krzyzewski supports his players’ efforts to participate in international basketball with over 100 former Duke players competing in international tournaments, including three current players – Brandon Ingram, Chase Jeter and Luke Kennard – who have competed on USA Basketball teams at various international events.
“Duke players have been pretty well schooled fundamentally,” said Colangelo on the Blue Devils’ success with USA Basketball. “They have been well coached and really understand what it takes to be successful and what it necessitates in the way of work so it is really good bloodlines.”
Five former Blue Devils (Elton Brand, Chris Duhon, Christian Laettner, Jabari Parker and Shelden Williams) have earned USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year honors. Parker claimed the award in 2011 after helping Team USA to a perfect 5-0 record and the gold medal at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Williams, who led the U.S. team to an 8-0 record and a gold medal at the World University Games in Turkey in 2005, was also named the USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year, while Duhon earned the same honor in 2001 after leading the World Championship for Young Men Team to the gold medal in Japan. Brand was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year in 1998, while Laettner was the first Blue Devil to claim the award in 1991.
Krzyzewski has always been an active part of USA Basketball in various roles, serving as past chairman of the Player Selection Committee for all of the United States’ teams, including the 1991 Pan Am and 1992 Olympic teams. Coach K was an assistant to Chuck Daly (a former Duke assistant coach) at the Olympics and won the gold medal in Barcelona with the 1992 “Dream Team.” Christian Laettner was a member of that team, while 1994 graduate Grant Hill was a part of “Dream Team II” in Atlanta.
Coach K was the USA head coach in 1990 when he led the Americans to a bronze medal at the World Championships and a silver medal at the Goodwill Games in Seattle. He also paced Team USA to a silver medal at the 1987 World University Games and was a special assistant to Bob Knight at the 1984 Olympics. In addition, he has had previous coaching duties at the National Sports Festival (gold medal in 1983) and Pan Am Games.
“Coach K’s one of the all-time best, if not the best. He just fits perfect for us.. He allows us to have freedom. He allows us to play the game of basketball and just go out there and have fun, but at the same time he wants us to be perfect. We should expect perfection and that is what he is about. We like that, we like that kind of challenge.”
– LeBron James
“I wanted to go to Duke. I wanted to play for Coach K. It has been awesome. He is very intellectual and cerebral when it comes to the game. I love his passion. He loves the game, he enjoys being around his players and he enjoys teaching. He is open to hearing suggestions and listening. It works. Coach K is one of the best coaches of all-time. Period. No question about it.”
– Kobe Bryant
“Coach K is a guy who could’ve been coaching in the pros many years ago. His resume speaks for itself, the players that he has gotten prepared for the NBA speaks for itself… I just want to be able to tell my kids one day that I played for Coach K, one of the greatest coaches of all-time.”
– Dwyane Wade
“Coach K is an incredible coach, very knowledgeable. It’s like you’re in a basketball library. He brings it all together. I was surprised on how hip he was, how he understands the way we think, as a hip hop generation. He’s an amazing coach, an amazing person”
– Lamar Odom
“Coach K has helped me build my motivation and build my confidence back up sky high. To have a guy like that build your confidence and give you motivation, that’s coming from one of the best in the game.”
– Carmelo Anthony
“Coach K has gained all of the guys’ respect. He’s a winner. The respect is given before he even comes into the gym. His winning precedes him… A lot of stuff we’re doing here is the same principles we had when I was a Blue Devil. We deny everything, and we push it up every opportunity we have, and we get after it. A lot of it is very similar, so I’m having a lot of fun doing that.”
– Carlos Boozer
“Coach K only knows one way to go about his business, and that’s with passion and with energy and with discipline. But at the same time, you always have a good time. That was the message he gave us the first day of orientation at Duke, and that was the message he gave us the first day of training camp here. He gets people to play hard and play together, and that’s what Coach K will make sure we do.”
– Shane Battier
“Coach K is the best. To talk to him on the phone and then be able to meet him, I was very impressed and that’s why he’s one of the best if not the best at what he does.”
– Jason Kidd
“Coach K is the best coach in the world. He has proved it day in and day out. It’s a great experience for the National Team to get to play for him.”
– Kyrie Irving
“When he speaks, you listen. He gets us fired up to play big time. It’s an unbelievable experience. I can’t even put it into words.”
– Kevin Love
“Coach K is a motivational speaker and he really has humor when he talks. You are going to listen to him because he is going to be a legend, a Hall of Famer in this game. For him to be coaching me is wonderful. Too bad I didn’t go to Duke, but it’s great even just being here with him and his staff is great and I am lucky to be on this bus headed to the gym.”
– Derrick Rose
“…He doesn’t stand for egos, and he promotes winning, selflessness and defense — things you have to have to win in international basketball. Coach K holds every player, every coach, every ball boy and team manager responsible for their duties. It’s good to be reminded of playing the right way and doing the right things.”
– Elton Brand
“Coach K just knows the game. He’s a great motivator. He holds everybody to a certain standard. Everything’s about family and team… I’m excited I get the chance to play under him, and I’ve been learning a lot these past few years.”
– Kevin Durant
“I’ve grown to really respect him so much more just playing for him and seeing how much he puts into this. He’s so passionate. He’s up late hours watching film. He’s all-in.”
– Chauncey Billups
“I wasn’t a big Duke fan before meeting Coach K. It was just one of those organizations. I think that for everybody, you either love Duke or you hate it. But after playing under him, and getting to understand who he actually is, I have all the respect in the world for the man. I would send my son to Duke if he was coaching.”
– Tyson Chandler