Rio’s gold medal game will be Mike Krzyzewski’s last as USA Basketball head coach. After this tournament, he will hand over control of the coaching chair to Gregg Popovich.
Upon his hiring, Coach K was charged with changing the culture of the USA Basketball programme by executive director Jerry Colangelo. The United States was coming off of a dismal international performance in the 2004 Olympics before that hiring decision.
The head coach has achieved unbelievable success in his time with the programme. His former players have been vocal in their support of his influence in turning Team USA around.
Kobe Bryant told ESPN about Krzyzewski’s impact: “Coach K brought the pride of being an American back to the team. He helped us see that we, as athletes, are an inspiration to the men and women that protect the freedoms that we enjoy.”
His 2008 team played with a ferocity and swagger completely missing from the 2004 squad. The sheer explosion of joy from the Americans when they claimed gold was something that the world hadn’t seen in some time.
The 69-year-old’s current players have chimed in with praise for his approach and coaching acumen. Kevin Durant is this year’s best player on Team USA. He loves the coach’s approach and the experience of being included in the programme.
This year’s team is lacking in the star power department but that isn’t because none of the team wants to play for their country. More likely, the injuries and rehab from a long season are to blame.
More and more of the young stars in the NBA are looking at the international experience as being a part of something larger than themselves. If that was all Coach K had done as a lead man, then that would have been more than enough good for his career.
But, let’s be honest, the winning doesn’t hurt either.