|Coach K looks to revive Duke, U.S. teams|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 22 June 2007 11:22|
Duke's Hall of Fame coach hopes to guide the U.S. national team through a qualifying tournament and into the 2008 Olympics while helping the Blue Devils rebound from their worst season in more than a decade.
Not even a family-mandated three-week vacation to a North Carolina beach could prevent Krzyzewski from planning for both programs' return to glory.
``Even when I'm on the coast, I think about my teams - my national team and my Duke team,'' Krzyzewski said Friday. ``I'm excited about both. I feel really good physically. I feel great, and I'm very enthusiastic. I'm ready to go. The time away, it was great - even though you're not completely away.''
Krzyzewski first is preparing for the U.S. national team's three-day minicamp in late July in Las Vegas. Three weeks later, the Americans will resume practice in preparation for the 10-team FIBA Americas Championship that begins Aug. 22. Two teams from that tournament will qualify for the Beijing games.
``I didn't know that until I started saying 'We better damn qualify here or else we're playing another tournament,''' Krzyzewski said, laughing.
But clearly it's not funny to Krzyzewski that the Americans haven't enjoyed worldwide prominence in quite some time. The U.S., which won gold at the 2000 Olympics, failed to win a title in its past three major international tournaments - including last year's world championships in Japan, where the Americans took the bronze medal.
``My guys, we really this spring spent a lot of time planning our conditioning for the summer, any new things we want to do,'' he added. ``How can we get better? How can I empower my people to do more? I've got really good people who make me look good - how can I put them in positions to make me look even better? I'm anxious. I'm excited.''
He's also eager to make amends for a disappointing, 22-11 season at Duke. His inconsistent, youth-laden team closed with four straight losses. The last one, a 69-67 loss to Virginia Commonwealth, gave the Blue Devils their first one-and-done in the NCAA tournament since 1996.
``We played a year where people, right from the beginning, treated us like Duke'' of the past, Krzyzewski said. ``We were always that team. Always. And that took its toll on those young kids. By the end of the year, we were worn out.''
One reason: for the first time in years, Duke didn't have a productive senior to take the pressure off the younger players. That shouldn't be the case this year, Krzyzewski said, because rising sophomores Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson were hardened after spending their freshman season in the unrelenting spotlight.
``They were more closely scrutinized last year because you didn't have a senior that they were normally focusing on,'' Krzyzewski said. ``When you have that scrutiny, you're not ready for it, and you are going to go up and down. ... They had an incredible amount of experience that a lot of freshman classes wouldn't get, plus the experience of being closely scrutinized.
``I think we are more veteran than a predominantly sophomore-junior team would be.''
Krzyzewski spoke at the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center, a gym and community center near downtown Durham named after Coach K's late mother.
The center's basketball court is the one on which the Blue Devils won the 2001 national championship.
``Just walking past the court makes me want to get another court,'' Krzyzewski said. ``Forget about another title - I would like to have another court.''