- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2004

DURHAM, N.C. — Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski met with Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak yesterday and was in “serious discussions” with the team about its coaching vacancy.

ESPN reported the Lakers had offered the job to Krzyzewski, who has been at Duke the last 24 years.

Krzyzewski, a 57-year-old Hall of Famer, has led the Blue Devils to three national championships in almost a quarter-century at the school.

“Coach K has informed us that the Los Angeles Lakers have contacted him and entered into serious discussions to fill their vacant head coaching position,” Duke athletic director Joe Alleva said.

Lakers spokesman John Black said Kupchak met with Krzyzewski. “They talked about our coaching vacancy,” he said.

Black said the team hasn’t made a decision, and was considering several other candidates to replace Phil Jackson.

Alleva said he didn’t know if the Krzyzewski and the Lakers were close to a deal.

“I haven’t been privy to their conversations,” he said. “But obviously, they are a great franchise.”

Duke spokesman Jon Jackson said Krzyzewski was in Durham earlier yesterday. The Lakers declined to say where the discussions were held.

An attempt to reach Krzyzewski by phone was unsuccessful.

By last night, about 100 students and fans gathered at “Krzyzewskiville” — the grassy plot outside Cameron Indoor Stadium where students camp out to attend Blue Devils basketball games — with signs and flags urging the coach to stay.

Duke president Richard Brodhead told the Associated Press he and Alleva had dinner with Krzyzewski on Tuesday, after Brodhead became aware that the coach had talked with the Lakers.

Brodhead said he didn’t know if the Lakers offered Krzyzewski the job.

“If he has the offer, he’s going to have a big decision before him,” said Brodhead, who officially took office as Duke’s president yesterday, succeeding Nan Keohane.

Brodhead said he and Alleva urged Krzyzewski to finish his career at the school.

“He means more to this place than the record of his victories, impressive though that is,” Brodhead said. “He’s a real teacher. He teaches character as well as basketball.”

Krzyzewski has a 621-179 record in 24 seasons at Duke, leading the Blue Devils to NCAA championships in 1991, 1992 and 2001. Under Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils have 10 Final Four appearances, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships and 10 conference regular-season titles.

His Duke teams have been ranked No. 1 in 12 different seasons, including each of the last seven years.

“If he decides that he’s had a great ride at Duke, but something else calls out to him now, we’d have to understand that,” Brodhead said. “In the meantime, you can be sure we’ll do all we can to persuade him that Duke and the college game are the right place for him.”

The mother of incoming freshman David McClure, said her son was first informed of the news in a call from assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski yesterday.

Betty McClure said she spoke with Krzyzewski over the weekend when the family brought the 6-foot-7 swingman to Durham for summer classes, and the coach gave no indication of leaving.

“They said that every year he gets approached by some team or another,” she said from her home in Ridgefield, Conn. “And so, how can you really expend a lot of energy being angry or anything until you know what he’s going to do?”

David McClure, reached last night, said he had been told by the coaching staff not to comment.

The Lakers announced June 18 — three days after losing to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals — that Jackson wouldn’t return as coach next season. Jackson, who signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Lakers in June 1999, guided them to championships in his first three seasons.

Former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich has been considered the front-runner to succeed Jackson. He met with team owner Jerry Buss and Kupchak last week.

Former Lakers coach Pat Riley, an executive with the Miami Heat, also met with Buss and Kupchak, but issued a statement saying he wasn’t a candidate.

Among others mentioned have been Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons, members of Jackson’s staff. Kupchak said he planned to interview more than one person and less than 10 for the job and hoped to have a coach in place as soon as possible.

Last month, Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown became the first coach to win titles in both the NBA and NCAA. But Brown is the exception to the general trend of college coaches struggling in the NBA.

Rick Pitino went from two straight appearances in the national title game with Kentucky to the Boston Celtics, before quitting in 2001 and later returning to the college ranks with Louisville.

In 1992, Jerry Tarkanian, whose UNLV team won a national title in 1990, lasted just 20 games before being fired by the San Antonio Spurs with a 9-11 record.

More recently, former college coaches Lon Kruger, John Calipari, Leonard Hamilton and Tim Floyd have struggled during short tenures with the Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets, respectively.

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