Krzyzewski brings Duke hoop dreams to life - for a price Print
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Wednesday, 25 July 2007 13:40
NCAAB Headline News


 DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -It's usually Duke basketball players only when it comes to participating in games on the hardwood floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium that bears Mike Krzyzewski's nickname.
But the namesake of Coach K Court is making expensive exceptions for the 80 weekend warriors who paid $10,000 each to be part of his annual ``K Academy'' fantasy camp. They will get to pull on personalized Blue Devil warmups and play for teams coached by J.J. Redick, Jay Williams and about 20 other former Duke stars.
``It's a testament to how big Coach K is, not just in college basketball and not just basketball, but in sports in general. He's one of the biggest names in sports,'' Philadelphia 76ers forward and former Duke player Shavlik Randolph said Wednesday. ``I think it just shows that these guys will pay this amount of money to come and just be around, because they conduct this just like normal Duke basketball.
``They don't hold anything back, and they get around these Duke players, players that they've seen on TV and probably players that they're fans of. They definitely get their money's worth.''
Staging the fantasy camp, which takes place at the famous arena and at the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center, gives the coach a chance to raise money for charitable causes. He said he doesn't make any money from the camp, with the roughly $750,000 in annual proceeds going to scholarships at Duke and to the downtown Durham gym and community center that's named for his late mother.
``It's been an amazing success and a lot of fun, and it's helped fund some really good things,'' Krzyzewski said.
The itinerary features the expected free throw shooting and layups along with lectures and business lessons. It also offers yet another way for the Hall of Fame coach - who has spoken to Fortune 500 companies, written books on finding success and staged an annual leadership conference - to promote the ``Coach K'' brand and broaden his appeal beyond basketball and into the board room.
``He has a lot of goals and things that he wants people to be aware of,'' Chicago Bulls guard former Blue Devil player Chris Duhon said. ``He's always been a guy that has been talking about leadership. He does that all the time.''
But there's little doubt the biggest draw is the chance to play on the same floor where Krzyzewski built Duke's dynasty, coaching teams that reached 10 Final Fours and won three national titles.
``We try to teach them some things I would do with corporate business ... so we have a few lectures, and they like that, too,'' Krzyzewski said. ``The main thing they like is getting to know one another, playing at Cameron, hitting a big shot, coming up to the line with the game on the line - really, it is a fantasy, and my staff does a great job in re-creating the atmosphere. Obviously, we can't get 10,000 people in there with painted faces. but we do introduce crowd noise, have a tent village and all that stuff.''
Of course, the fantasy campers get a mellow version of Coach K - not the sharply focused leader whose intense facial expressions have become a staple during TV broadcasts of Duke's high-pressure games in February and March.
``Much more relaxed ... I'm not coaching, that's the main thing,'' Krzyzewski said.
Instead, the roughly 25 former players divide them into eight teams of 10 campers each and lead them through a tournament, with statistics and results published in a commemorative media guide.
``We don't take ourselves too seriously, but we try to give the guys a good week's worth,'' former Duke and NBA player Mike Gminski said.
Some campers can't get enough. Maury Fisher, a 74-year-old real estate developer from Chicago, is a guard who is attending Krzyzewski's camp for the third time. He first decided to come to Durham after playing for the Duke coach at one of Michael Jordan's camps a decade ago in Las Vegas.
``You talk to any of the guys that have ever met him or played with him, he's just the best,'' Fisher said. ``It's the way he makes you feel about yourself. I'm the oldest guy, but he has a way of making you feel like you're special to him. He's been that way. ... Most of the coaches are great guys, but he's still somewhere above them in terms of his makeup and how he handles somebody.''
The camp brings together several generations of Blue Devils - from the likes of Quin Snyder and Mark Alarie who played in the 1980s and early '90s to recent graduates such as Redick and Sean Dockery.
``When you have an event that can bring a large number of them back at one time, that makes it better,'' Krzyzewski said. ``And for us, there's no game. It's not like we're playing Virginia or Maryland or North Carolina and they come back and there's a lot of tension. This is a lot of fun - not that these games aren't important, but we can have some fun. ... It's like a family reunion.''
 

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