A new series begins this week on NetsAreScorching.com where we take a look at the possible coaching candidates for the New Jersey Nets. First up will be Mike Krzyzewski, and you may not believe this, but I actually spelled his surname without looking. Seriously. Anyway, we have a good list of candidates, which I won’t spoil here, but feel free to chime in and let us know what you think about our choices. Like we could stop you anyway.
Mike Krzyzewski has never coached in the NBA, though he did lead the Redeem Team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, helping Team USA capture its first gold medal since 2000. He was offered the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job in 2004, but politely declined after some thought and since not accepting the Lakers job, Krzyzewski has said he was committed to Duke and USA Basketball only. However, will the promise of money, potentially coaching LeBron James, leading a winning team in the NBA in the New York market, and knowing that ownership will be as committed to winning as much as him, be enough to get Krzyzewski on NBA sidelines?
New Jersey Nets fans should hope so.
Unlike other successful college basketball coaches who have come to the NBA, such as John Calipari (a name that has popped up a lot lately about coaching various NBA teams in order to lure LeBron), Krzyzewski has never failed in the pro level. However, he hasn’t succeeded either, but despite that it was reported early last month, as Krzyzewski was on his way to his fourth NCAA championship, that Coach K would be offered $12-15 million a year by incoming Nets owner, Mikhail Prokhorov. That amount would make Krzyzewski the highest paid coach in the NBA, which would be an obvious overpay on Prokhorov’s side since Coach K is an unknown NBA commodity. Of course it doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t do well, however, if that much money is given, one would think you’d want better odds on the return of that investment.
But it’s hard to argue with Krzyzewski’s accomplishments in college basketball:
- 868-279 overall record
- 77-22 in the NCAA Tournament
- Four NCAA Tournament championships (4-4 in title game)
- 11 Regional Final Four championships
- Three-time Naismith College Coach of the Year award
The question is, how will his success in college translate to the NBA should he make the jump? Obviously it’s hard to say, but if he was able to coach Team USA to the gold in a relatively short amount of time, well, anything is possible. And, sure, the Redeem Team was full of superstars such as Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, the aforementioned James, along with fellow free agents, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carlos Boozer, but it’s still an accomplishment to lead a group such as this and have them focus on winning together as a team. And, sure again, they all had the aim of bringing back respect to the US after missing out on gold in 2004 to eventual Olympic champions, Argentina, but the Nets have an aim to – getting their own self-respect back.
The core group of Nets players – Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Terrance Williams, and Courtney Lee – will be back after an insufferable 12-70 season. Do you think they’ll want their self-respect back? Of course they will. Forget about validation from anyone else, they need it from themselves. If there’s any coach that knows about that, it’s Krzyzewski… and it’s not just from his Redeem Team experience.
In the 1990 NCAA Tournament championship, Krzyzewski led his Duke Blue Devils to the title game and met a monster of a team in the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, which was led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony. Well, the Rebels spanked the Blue Devils 103-73, a lopsided win if there ever was one to take the title. However, Duke’s chance at redemption came quickly. During the 1990-91 season, UNLV was rolling and looked unbeatable going into the NCAA tournament and that’s because they were. They entered the tournament at 30-0 and after four victories to put them at 34-0, they met the Blue Devils in their Final Four match-up to see who would play for the championship. By the end of it, the Rebels would lose their first and only game of the season, while Duke would move on to beat the Kansas Jayhawks, 72-65, for Krzyzewski’s first title. And that’s what you call getting redemption and respect in style.
Would Krzyzewski lead the Nets to the championship in his first year? Of course not. However, he’d instill a winning attitude, a team concept, and the values of hard work and discipline. Considering that most of the Nets players are young, Krzyzewski shouldn’t have a problem having his players listen to what he’d be preaching. And, besides, if Kobe Bryant wanted him so badly in 2004 to lead the Lakers, that should tell you something about how good Krzyzewski is.
Redemption and respect for the Nets? Krzyzewski could be the answer.