Krzyzewski spurns NBA opportunity

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

DURHAM, N.C. -- Mike Krzyzewski has spent 24 years building a legacy at Duke that no current men's college basketball coach can rival.

He has become synonymous with his school -- a bond that not even the glitz of Hollywood and the NBA's showcase franchise could break.

"Duke has always taken up my whole heart," Krzyzewski said Monday after turning down an offer to become the Los Angeles Lakers' head coach.

"Your heart has to be in whatever you lead," said Krzyzewski, who has won three national titles at Duke. "It became apparent that this decision was somewhat easier to make because you have to follow your heart and lead with it."

Krzyzewski said the timing of the Lakers' offer and the team's prominence made their offer tempting. But he never got to the point of being ready to leave.

"The decision has always been to stay at Duke. It would have to be something changing (that)," he said at a news conference on campus.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak first made his interest in hiring Krzyzewski clear during conversations the two had around the time of the NBA draft, Krzyzewski said. Kupchak met with Krzyzewski in North Carolina and offered him the job last Thursday.

Even Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who was recruited by Krzyzewski while in high school, reportedly tried to persuade "Coach K" to take the job.

Krzyzewski listened to what the Lakers had to offer, reportedly a five-year deal worth $40 million, before deciding Sunday that he would stay at Duke.

The announcement was welcome news for Duke fans, players and administrators, who had waited anxiously for a decision. When the coach said he waited until Monday morning to call new university president Richard Brodhead because he didn't know Brodhead's sleeping patterns, Brodhead was quick to joke, "They'll be better now."

Still, Krzyzewski, who has had several flirtations with the NBA and came close to leaving to coach the Boston Celtics in 1990, declined to rule out the possibility of ever coaching in the pros.

"I don't want to say never, but I also don't want to lead anyone on. ... I want to coach for a long time," he said.

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