More milestones ahead for Krzyzewski|Coach is five wins away from 800

Published 4:52 am Thursday, November 11, 2010

By By JOEDY McCREARY, AP Sports Writer
DURHAM — Everything Mike Krzyzewski seems to have touched lately has turned to gold.
He led the U.S. national team to the Olympic gold medal in 2008, then followed that this summer by winning the world championships in Turkey. In between, he led Duke to two more Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles and a fourth NCAA championship trophy.
Now the winningest coach in the history of the NCAA tournament enters his 31st season at Duke with a few more milestones in sight.
He’s five wins shy of 800 with the Blue Devils, who are the top-ranked team in the preseason poll. With another trip to the national semifinals, he will equal the late John Wooden’s record of 12 Final Fours. And he’s 35 wins away — or, a repeat of last season’s victory total — from passing his mentor, Bob Knight, to become the winningest men’s coach in Division I history.
But there’s no time for the 63-year-old grandfather of seven and veritable dean of active coaches to look back. Nor does he spend much time looking too far ahead. Instead, he prefers to live by the message he instills in his Duke players — focus on the present, and maximize it.
‘‘I think what’s been done is incredibly unique, instead of what ’I’ did. … And, then, OK, so you’re the lucky guy,’’ Krzyzewski said. ‘‘I’ve always been not a rear-view mirror guy. More right now. Not a future guy, either. I’m onto the next thing, and somewhere along the line, all that will wash out — what you did, what you didn’t do, how you did it. But now’s not the time to look at that.’’
That live-in-the-moment outlook has served him well through a Hall of Fame career in which he has won 868 games, claimed a dozen ACC tournament titles and reached 11 Final Fours.
It’s also why he frequently pushes to protect his Duke teams from the perpetually lofty — and, some would say, unrealistic — expectations and standards placed on them by outsiders who compare them to Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and those other household names from the past.
And it’s why he eschews talk of ‘‘repeating’’ as national champions or ‘‘defending’’ its title — with three starters gone and a trio of talented freshmen who weren’t part of that run, this isn’t the same group that cut down the nets last April in Indianapolis.
Besides, he says, that’s what makes it fun.
To illustrate that point, he recalled an exchange he had before he took another stint coaching the U.S. team.
‘‘I remember when Jerry Colangelo asked me to coach the national team again, and I said to him, ’Well, it’s not going to be the same,’’’ Krzyzewski said. ‘‘And he said, ’Yeah, isn’t that great?’ And so, why would you want to repeat the same experience?’’
That Krzyzewski led both his Duke and U.S. teams to significant championships in a five-month span would seem to disarm the critics who once wondered if all the time he spent coaching those NBA stars was time perhaps better spent focusing on building the Blue Devils back into title contenders. Krzyzewski has long maintained that his experience with the U.S. team made him a better coach at Duke because it exposed him to new ways to think about the game.
The NBA players seem to have taken to Krzyzewski’s style.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who starred two years ago in Beijing, told Krzyzewski last week on the coach’s satellite radio show that he would play for the U.S. in London in 2012 if the Americans want him there, saying that ‘‘you guys want me there, I am there and I’m ready to defend.’’
A day later, Heat forward LeBron James followed suit, telling reporters in Miami that he would ‘‘love to be a part’’ of the next U.S. Olympic team and that ‘‘Coach K has my number. I have his number. If he needs me, I’m there.’’
But of course, there’s still plenty for Krzyzewski to do before it’s time to assemble the Americans’ next Olympic contender.
Of the utmost significance to Krzyzewski is the challenge of furthering the development of his current Duke team, which enters the season as a serious candidate to hang a fifth national championship banner inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Whether that happens, of course, will be determined during the next few months. And Krzyzewski seems determined to enjoy the ride, especially if it takes him to Houston for the first weekend in April.
‘‘I get excited about the start of every season. Excitement and realism,’’ Krzyzewski said. ‘‘Like, ’Here’s who we have, and I’m excited what might happen with them.’ So that’s what makes, I think, college so good. There’s a newness … a purity about it.’’