"Your heart has to be in whatever you lead," said Mike Krzyzewski at the Monday afternoon news conference. "It became apparent that this decision was somewhat easier to make because you have to follow your heart and lead with it and Duke has always taken up my whole heart."
With the news of the talks breaking late last week and spilling over the entire holiday weekend, speculation of an immanent departure began to spread like wildfire. However, Coach K said the decision was never really in doubt.
"The decision has always been to stay at Duke. It would have to be something changing (that). I want to thank to Los Angeles Lakers for giving me an opportunity that very few people have. They are a class organization who conducted themselves with dignity throughout this entire process.”
The talks of a possible move from Durham to Los Angeles picked up around the time of the NBA Draft, though a visit to Durham by LA GM Kupchak last week signaled that the speculative scenarios had taken a giant step forward. Soon after the details of the offer were known and the sports world was thrown into an uproar.
“I was very impressed with the entire Lakers organization, especially Mitch Kupchak. Even though I’m not going to be with him, I could certainly see myself there working with him and Dr. Buss. They are very much a family organization and that shows in the way they run things.”
Still leaving what he called his “Duke basketball family” was too much for Krzyzewski to give up.
“It came down to where was my passion? I passionately love to coach and teach, and I’m looking forward to coaching all the guys who are standing right over there.”
And while there are some questions surrounding Duke basketball in the 2004-2005 season, those problems are miniscule when looking at the off-season crises shaping up for the Lakers.
The team’s best player, Shaquille O’Neal remains adamant that he has played his final game for the Lakers, while Kobe Bryant is apparently calling the shots behind the scenes in what many analysts describe as a “hostage situation”. Still, Krzyzewski said had he taken the offer, he would have been able to manage.
“I have a very good relationship with Kobe, and got to know him in recruiting. But I wasn’t’ going to Los Angeles to coach Kobe Bryant. You don’t go coach one player. I would have been going to coach the Los Angeles Lakers.”
In the end those 'what ifs' will remain just that as his focus is now moving on to the recruiting period that will kick off on Thursday.
"I'm very pleased [the process] is over," the coach said. "I am excited about moving forward."
Krzyzewski has compiled a 621-179 mark at Duke and a 694-240 record overall in 29 years of college coaching. He has led the Blue Devils to 64 NCAA tournament victories, 10 Final Four appearances and three national championships.