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. SMU has sold out Moody Coliseum for the 2014-15 season

    Sep 2, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    SMU is quickly building a big home-court advantage.

  2. Buffalo gives head coach Bobby Hurley a contract extension

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Bobby Hurley, Joshua Freelove AP

    Former Duke point guard gets a better contract at Buffalo.

  3. Two NBA stars each pledge $1 million for new Georgetown practice facility

    Sep 2, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    John Thompson

    The Hoyas are getting some more former players to donate.

  4. College of Charleston finally ends head coaching search

    Sep 2, 2014, 6:49 PM EDT

    Earl Grant Earl Grant

    The College of Charleston finally has its man.

  5. Oregon State nabs a trio of top 150 commitments in the 2015 class

    Sep 2, 2014, 5:32 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwfhnwfmzde2yzeyytmwmju4zjfmmtkwzmrjmjg0zti11 AP

    Oregon State picked up a big commitment on Tuesday afternoon.

  6. College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup

    Sep 2, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte3owi1njbhnjg0mtc2yjbkzdgzmdzhnzm2mtbjytc1 AP

    News and notes from around the world of college basketball recruiting.

  7. A Christian Laettner 30-for-30 on Selection Sunday? May we be so lucky

    Sep 2, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    And it will be on the best day in the college hoops calendar? Make. This. Happen. Please.

  8. Virginia lands commitment from 2016 three-star point guard

    Sep 2, 2014, 2:51 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Did Tony Bennett just land London Perrantes, version 2.0?

  9. Iowa legend, all-time leading scorer diagnosed with cancer

    Sep 2, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT

    Print

    It’s the second time this year that cancer has come too close to home for the Hawkeyes.

  10. Latest mixtape for Dennis Smith Jr. shows how talented he is (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2014, 10:54 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Smith is a high-flying guard in the same mold as a John Wall or Derrick Rose.

  11. Avery Harriman is featured on the Today Show (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.54.09 AM

    Avery is undergoing chemo to battle leukemia for the third time.

  12. New mixtape of 2016 guard Kwe Parker is ridiculous (VIDEO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Kwe Parker is one of the best dunkers in all of basketball and he shows why in this new mixtape.

  13. Report: Arizona State gives Herb Sendek a contract extension

    Sep 1, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Herb Sendek AP

    Arizona State has given head coach Herb Sendek an extension.

  14. East Carolina nabs a local 2015 wing

    Sep 1, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    jeff lebo Getty Images

    East Carolina is on the board in 2015.

  15. Five-star 2015 forward cuts his list to five schools

    Sep 1, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT

    (adidas Gauntlet) (adidas Gauntlet)

    A five-star 2015 forward cut his list to five schools on Monday.

  16. Indiana freshman is currently in a walking boot

    Sep 1, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT

    Tom Crean AP

    Indiana will have to remain patient with a freshman that is currently battling an ankle injury.

  17. Assembly Hall as a groom’s cake? Why not! (PHOTO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    @Kschack1 @Kschack1

    You need a very understanding wife to get away with this.

  18. Tennessee adds second commitment in two days with three-star guard

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Murray St Morehead St Basketball

    Tennessee has one scholarship left available for 2015.

  19. Top talent in 2016 announces a top ten

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:54 PM EDT

    Nike Nike

    Find out why Saint Louis and Missouri are on the list along with the likes of Arizona, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas.