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Membership has its privileges. Case and point, there’s an advantage in being the voice of a team of multimillionaire, NBA all-star players while simultaneously striving to convince a group of young, impressionable teens desperate to embark on that very same path that you are the one they should be entrusting their hoops dreams to.
And so — and regardless of if you think Mike Krzyzewski thought out his ascension as the face of USA Basketball in a maddening, self-serving scheme aimed at having his Duke Blue Devils rise in accordance with his rule or that it has simply been a matter of circumstances — Coach K does now find himself with the equivalent advantage of a game-opening 20-0 run as it relates to the game of college hoops recruiting.
The specter of it all was recently raised in a Yahoo! Sports column that also opined “as long as Krzyzewski needs recruits at Duke he needs USA Basketball.” Not so coincidentally, the guts of the article also point out Duke and Coach K happened to have just landed two of the nation’s top recruits for next season in Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow and have the overall top-rated incoming class in all the nation.
Add to that the MVP of this summer’s FIBA World Cup, gold-medal winning team was none other than Kyrie Irving, a player who presumably learned Krzyzewski’s system, ways and tendencies while playing for him during a season as a Blue Devil. And here’s more food for thought and fodder for conspiracy theorists, the face of Team USA could well soon be one Jabari Parker, yet another of Coach K’s former Duke loyalist.
Sense a pattern, or at least the perception of one, here? Vilify and castigate the notion as he might that the role he plays gives him an edge as “utterly ridiculous,” there’s no denying that Krzyzewski’s job as head coach of Team USA affords him an exclusive access to superstar players in-the-making early on that few others can take advantage of.
With Coach K being Coach K, the Duke coach puts up a valiant fight against the whole notion, telling reporters “I don’t get it… “on Aug. 24, 2008, and the score is 91-89 in the gold-medal game against Spain, if Kobe Bryant doesn’t hit a couple shot and Dwyane Wade — do you think I’d have an advantage? Because we would lose. The point I’m making is anybody who wins … they have an advantage. But it’s advantage through accomplishment.”
What Mike Krzyzewski needs to understand is even innocence lost is still absent. And the perception, the reality that being the longstanding coach of Team USA gives him an advantage not many others can boast of is as real as his Kyrie Irving-led squad’s clear and present superiority in the just concluded World Cup games.
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