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Published: Sunday, 7/4/2004

If Krzyzewski fed up, Lakers are the ultimate

The dreamer in me believes Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is attempting to make a statement regarding the decline of college basketball more than he wants to pad his wallet as a result of his very public negotiations with the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers.

The realist in me believes the publicity-shy Krzyzewski wouldn't have put his business out in the street unless he had finally figured out that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

As the most successful coach in modern-day college basketball, Krzyzewski doesn't need to coach the Lakers to define his legacy. If he never coaches another day, Krzyzewski's legacy is secure.

No, this is something far deeper.

Maybe Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak's generous offer of a reported $40 million over five years caught Krzyzewski at a weak moment. Maybe Kupchak's overtures triggered something inside Krzyzewski that was just begging to come out.

Maybe Krzyzewski had kept his true feelings about the college game bottled up for so long because he figured, why bother? He would never leave Duke because there was no job that could possibly entice him to leave.

He turned down offers to coach other NBA teams, including the Boston Celtics when Larry Bird was still playing.

At Duke, Krzyzewski is more than a basketball coach. In fact, no college coach in the country is more entrenched in his position.

He works closely with the university's president and has a lifetime contract at the school.

When you think Duke University, the first person who comes to mind is Mike Krzyzewski.

Krzyzewski, however, opposed the Atlantic Coast Conference's recent expansion. He believed it was based entirely on football even though the ACC has been regarded historically as a basketball conference.

He also was unhappy with the NCAA's failure to respond to the NBA's raiding of high schools for players. He wanted it to be more aggressive and allow college coaches to have more influence in the policy-making process concerning access to prospects.

Of course, Krzyzewski was stung by the defections of Luol Deng, a lottery selection in last month's NBA draft after playing only one year at Duke, along with high-school recruit Shaun Livingston, who reneged on his commitment to the Blue Devils to also become a lottery pick.

In recent years, other Duke players such as Mike Dunleavy, Corey Maggette and William Avery also left school early for the draft without warning.

Maybe Krzyzewski finally decided that if he couldn't control his program the way he wanted at Duke why not coach in the NBA?

Better still, why not coach the Lakers?

The Lakers are to the NBA what the Yankees are to baseball, what the Canadiens used to be to the NHL.

It appears Coach K has friends in high places. Star guard Kobe Bryant has reportedly endorsed Krzyzewski to be the Lakers' new coach.

As more enticement, Buss has 40 million reasons why Krzyzewski will love L.A.

If there's one job that could convince Krzyzewski, the best college basketball coach in America, to leave Duke, this is it.



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