James next in Duke's club of players-turned-coaches Print
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Wednesday, 07 May 2008 21:35
NCAAB Headline News


 DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -Nate James showed up for his latest job interview with little on his resume that seemed to qualify him for the position. But hey, at least he was familiar with the ultra-successful boss.
Then again, intimidation is always a concern when you're trying to land a gig on Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski's staff - even if you once played for Coach K at Duke.
``It was a little weird, coming in and just being real formal ... speaking with (Krzyzewski) and telling him all of the things that he already knew about me,'' James said Wednesday. ``Just trying to tell him what I could bring to the table - my hard work, my leadership, my determination to learn all of the things I needed to know because I did not have any experience as a coach.
``Luckily, he knew what type of man I was and what type of player I was, having played under him, so that kind of helped me out.''
Speaking one day after Krzyzewski named him to his coaching staff to replace another ex-player who took another job, James looked back on the circular path his career has taken.
The high school phenom who a decade ago was lured to Duke by one of Coach K's players-turned-assistants suddenly has become one himself, replacing Johnny Dawkins after the one-time guard took the Stanford job.
The latest of Krzyzewski's ex-players to serve on the Duke staff - a tight-knit fraternity that includes former Missouri coach Quin Snyder and former Delaware coach David Henderson - joins newly minted associate head coaches, and one-time guards, Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins on the bench.
``When I came here, it was that same family atmosphere,'' said James, who added that former Krzyzewski assistant Tommy Amaker recruited him and ``showed me a lot of the things I needed to know as a player.''
Now it's James' turn to unearth the next crop of young talent and lure those players to Durham - even though his only formal non-playing experience came last season when the former forward, who led Duke to its most recent national championship in 2001, was the school's assistant strength and conditioning coach last season.
James - who played on two Final Four teams, scored 1,116 points from 1996-2001 and had a record of 71-9 in Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season games - clearly hopes the success of his playing career translates into his new position on the bench.
``One of the key things (Krzyzewski) and I spoke about was (to) just continue to be who I am,'' James said. ``As a player, the hard work and dedication I put into being a good basketball player, now I do the same thing as a coach. Working hard, learning all the things that I need to become a coach here that will help these guys, but just all the natural things that I do well: my leadership, my work ethic, my determination.''
There's another perspective James hopes to bring to the program - that of a well-traveled international journeyman. His itinerary from 2002-2007 included stints with teams in Bosnia, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Poland and Russia.
``When I used to work out with (Duke players) in the summer or play pick-up games or just laughing, talking with the guys, I'd tell them, 'Look, work on your game. You don't want to be in Bosnia somewhere in a freezing gym, in some foreign country that you never saw yourself in,''' James said. ``'Work on your game now.' It's my job to make sure that they don't have to take some of the paths I had to take to make a check.''
It's also his job to continue the growth of a program he once helped build. During his playing days, he tried to pattern himself after Dawkins and Amaker - and that hasn't changed at the outset of his coaching career.
``I looked at Tommy and Johnny, they were my mentors coming in as a young man,'' James said. ``They were just everything that I wanted to become in a coach. And everything they brought to Duke, their overall presence, their knowledge of the game, their stature, those are the things that I would look forward to trying to attain - their legacy, so to speak. One day, I'll get to that level.''
 

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