Does Mike Krzyzewski have an unfair advantage thanks to Team USA

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Does Duke’s Coach K receive a recruiting edge based on his Olympic team pedigree?

The point was argued in a recent Yahoo Sports column that asserted Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim received clear benefits from their U.S. Olympic team coaching platform.

The implication was evident, in its own way saying that USA Basketball was only serving as a recruiting pitch for Duke and Syracuse, and was far less worthwhile to the NBA basketball players who donated their time to the games – and potentially risked injury, as was the case with Pacers star Paul George, who suffered a sickening leg injury and could potentially miss the upcoming pro season.

But is that truly the case? Has the world stage of America’s basketball dominance taken the limelight from the players to the coaches, and in turn, given them an advantage when recruiting impressionable high school athletes who want to play for the best?

The latest controversy seems like silly one at best, the type of debate that’s birthed in the somewhat yawn-inducing stretches of college basketball’s off-season. Still, we’ll take the bait.

Fact before fiction

Here’s a little truth for you: yes, Coach K routinely lands some of the best recruits in the country.

You know who out-recruits him regularly though? Coach C, or rather, Kentucky’s John Calipari, the hotshot player-wooer who brings in one-and-done athletes year after year to compete for a national championship and then head to the NBA.

And Calipari does not have any role with USA basketball.

A real recruiting edge

What does allow both coaches to recruit on a high level each year though is that they are at storied programs, are well-respected and routinely play for the title game.

That, more than anything, is why Coach K, Boeheim, Calipari and other top-level coaches are able to recruit well.

It’s because of their success on the court, and as Duke’s coach outlined in a spirited defense this week, that success isn’t always guaranteed. And being allowed to talk to and coach some of the young, up-and-rising American basketball stars does not promise anything.

“That that [access] gives you an advantage – it’s utterly ridiculous,” Krzyzewski said to ESPN. “I don’t get it. I don’t get it. We’ve won four national championships.”

Therein lies Duke’s top recruiting tools: it’s a super-successful program.

Perceived benefit

Krzyzewski said that in nine years as Team U.S.A.’s coach, he’s spoken to the under-19 team only twice, one time being last year. It is true that in that under-19 squad, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow played – those two are now Duke freshmen.

But top basketball players are going to be on that under-19 team, and they are also going to be attracted to Duke, as top basketball players have been since the days of Christian Laettner and Shane Battier.

Krzyzewski made one other solid defense: he isn’t even the college coach who spends the most time with those top recruits.

That would be Florida’s Billy Donovan and Virginia’s Tony Bennett – who are actually coaching the under-19 team this year. “No one is saying about [Donovan] that he has an advantage,” Krzyzewski said, “and he’s with those kids for 3 ½ weeks each summer.”

This is clearly a feaux controversy. But as far as such oddball claims go, this is certainly one of the more entertaining ideas out there.

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