Skip to content

Dean Smith gave Coach K an Olympic-sized leg up in ’05

Aug 13, 2012, 9:25 AM EDT

smithandk AP

The Tobacco Road rivalry is the biggest in college basketball. Bar none, end of discussion. As much as we like to believe that the games played between North Carolina and Duke supersede all bonds of family and national pride, it turns out that two of the men at the heart of the game’s most vituperative regional clash have plenty of respect for one another, and know when to put the rivalry aside in favor of reaching a bigger goal.

The Harvard Business Review, of all publications, brings us the inside story of Mike Krzyzewski’s rise to the helm of Team USA. The periodical interviewed Jerry Colangelo — the former GM of the Phoenix Suns, who was brought in to run the red, white and blue squad in 2005 — and got a fascinating look at the internal process that led to Coach K’s selection.

In a room full of basketball legends like Michael Jordan, Chuck Daley, Larry Bird, Jerry West and Lenny Wilkens, it was the man who had personally suffered hair-tearing losses to the Duke Blue Devils who emerged as the persuasive voice of reason.

Armed with an agreed-upon set of qualities, Colangelo was now comfortable soliciting candidate names from the group. He gave specific instructions to nominate potential coaches only if they fit the just-established requirements. “A bunch of names went on the white board, all with stellar win-loss records. We talked about each one, weighing the pros and cons,” Colangelo told me.

At one point during the debate, Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith of UNC—soft-spoken off the court—voiced “loud support” for Mike Krzyzewski, better known as Coach K, head coach of Duke University. As Colangelo told this story, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to set me straight, “You’re from Louisville and you think that the Louisville/Kentucky game is a big deal and a big rivalry. But that’s nothing compared to the rivalry when UNC plays Duke. They play for blood. So when Coach Smith told us that no one will connect with and motivate the players like Coach K, the whole crowd was silent. That was a big moment for all of us.”

Some of the Carolina Blue faithful may consider Smith’s advocacy to be dark heresy, but there’s no arguing with the results. Team USA, coming off of a series of humiliating international losses, is now a two-time gold medal winning institution under Krzyzewski. As we learned from The Wire: game recognize game. Which worked out pretty well for the nation’s hoops aspirations.

Latest Posts
  1. Western Kentucky asks fans for input on alternate jersey design

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT

    Ray Harper Ray Harper

    Fans have three different designs from which to choose, with the winning option scheduled to be revealed next Monday.

  2. 6-foot-9 power forward verbally commits to Towson

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    UMBC v Towson Getty Images

    The Tigers, who won 25 games last season, landed their first commitment in the Class of 2015 Sunday night.

  3. Georgia-based combo guard becomes Charlotte’s first 2015 commitment

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Alan Major Alan Major

    With both Pierria Henry and Terrence Williams being seniors, Charlotte needed to add a perimeter player in 2015.

  4. Louisiana-based shooting guard verbally commits to Rhode Island

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:21 PM EDT

    Rhode Island v George Washington Getty Images

    URI head coach Dan Hurley landed his second 2015 commitment Sunday evening.

  5. Wake Forest lands four-star point guard in Class of 2015

    Sep 21, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT

    Danny Manning Danny Manning

    Danny Manning finally has his first 2015 commitment and the player’s a very important one with regard to the future of the program.

  6. In-state forward becomes Cleveland State’s first 2015 commitment

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:13 PM EDT

    Gary Waters

    The Vikings have added some depth to their front court for the 2015-16 season.

  7. Weight room providing valuable lessons for Wichita State newcomers

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT

    Gregg Marshall Gregg Marshall

    The Shockers won’t lack for capable leaders this season, and their newcomers have followed the lead of those veterans in the weight room.

  8. Assigned Reading: Colorado State’s Antwan Scott overcomes obstacles

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    Grambling State Grambling State

    A good read on Colorado State’s new senior transfer, Antwan Scott, overcoming family obstacles while still succeeding on the court.

  9. Washington State lands 2015 wing

    Sep 21, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptk4nzy1otaznzgznti5nzvjyjkzndi2nzezndk3nge2 AP

    Washington State picked up a commitment from a 2015 forward on Sunday.

  10. Former UC Irvine forward could make NFL debut with Arizona Cardinals

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT

    darren fells Getty Images

    A former UC Irvine forward could make his NFL debut on Sunday with the Arizona Cardinals.

  11. Wisconsin lands commitment from 2015 forward

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:43 AM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Wisconsin picked up a 2015 commitment on Sunday morning.

  12. LSU earns local commitment from the 2017 class

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    johnnyjones AP

    LSU is on the board in the 2017 class.

  13. Mixtape of elite 2016 five-star guard Kobi Simmons

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    adidas adidas

    Five-star 2016 guard Kobi Simmons is electric.

  14. Three-star 2015 forward cuts list to seven

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:29 PM EDT

    Area Codes Basketball Area Codes Basketball

    Three Mountain West programs and one Big Ten program among the schools on the Las Vegas native’s list.

  15. Western Kentucky junior guard Ayinde Sprewell’s highlight reel (VIDEO)

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Ray Harper Ray Harper

    The nephew of Latrell Sprewell will play his first season at WKU.

  16. Recruiting heavyweight jumps into mix for five-star 2015 point guard

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT

    ISAIAH BRISCOE,BRUNO SANSIMONI ISAIAH BRISCOE,BRUNO SANSIMONI

    The elite PG from New Jersey had his first in-person meeting with Kentucky head coach John Calipari on Thursday.

  17. In-state point guard becomes West Virginia’s second 2016 commitment

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

    Bob Huggins AP

    The South Charleston HS floor general was one of the state’s best players last season, and he could prep for a year before joining the WVU program.

  18. High-scoring guard verbally commits to Stephen F. Austin

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    Brad Underwood Brad Underwood

    The son of a former national champion has made a name for himself by scoring 28 points per game as a junior.

  19. Mount St. Mary’s gives extension to head coach Jamion Christian

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT

    jamion christian Getty Images

    Mount St. Mary’s rewarded head coach Jamion Christian with an extension.

  20. Gonzaga releases a loaded non-conference schedule

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Wichita State v Gonzaga Getty Images

    Gonzaga has one of its deepest teams of all time and the Bulldogs are challenging themselves with a difficult non-conference schedule.