Coach K's Post-Olympic Priorities for Duke Looking Ahead to the Season
Now that the Olympics have passed, coach Mike Krzyzewski has a lot of work to do at Duke.
The basketball coach spent his summer leading Team USA to a gold medal in London. Other coaches used their time to set depth charts, meet incoming freshmen and plan for upcoming games. Coach K didn't have that luxury.
Here are a few things the coach should make sure to do now that he's back with the Blue Devils.
Recruit, Recruit, Recruit
At the end of the day, college basketball is a talent-driven world.
There’s a reason that teams like North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky and Kansas are always in the hunt for a national championship. They land the best high school players year in and year out.
And while Coach K’s Olympic trip is still a form of recruiting (after all, who wouldn’t want to play for the guy who just coached the Olympic gold-medal team?), he’s still got to get out there to reel in the big ones.
Recruiting is particularly important when you consider that Duke is in the mix for Jabari Parker, who's only considered the best high school player since LeBron James (via Sports Illustrated).
He can also do this.
A team with Parker at the helm would have the inside track to the national championship. It’s ultimately up to Coach K to convince him that Duke is the school where that should happen.
Help His Team Forget About the Lehigh Loss
The Blue Devils either need to forget about the loss or use it as fuel this season. Games like that have a tendency to stick with players.
Duke’s loss to the 15th-seeded Mountain Hawks was one of the worst in school history. Coach K is going to have to address it somehow and make sure that it’s not lingering on any of the returning players’ minds.
It's hard to imagine that the loss could affect the entire season, but Coach K should try to nip any potential issue in the bud.
The last thing the Blue Devils need is for valuable contributors like Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins or Tyler Thornton (a combined 5-of-22 in the Lehigh game) to be hesitant or lack confidence in early season games.
If dealt with quickly, the Lehigh loss should be a non-issue and could be a great motivator for the team.
Figure out Where Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon Fit In
The Blue Devils lost a lot of talent when Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee left for the NBA. That makes it even more imperative for Coach K to figure out where his incoming freshmen fit in.
Guard Rasheed Sulaimon and forward Amile Jefferson (ranked 12th and 25th in their class, respectively, by ESPN) could fit in perfectly as replacements. But whether or not they’ll be ready to play immediately is a big question mark.
Another problem is that, unlike most years, the Blue Devils might not have the talent to wait for the freshmen to develop. Coach K’s squad is good, but it’s hard to imagine they have what it takes for an extended tournament run without big contributions from Jefferson and Sulaimon.
Coach K’s going be faced with the task of deciding whether to give the freshmen big early minutes or to ride the rest of his team until the two catch up.
It may not be a priority for Duke, but it should be a priority for Coach K.
Seriously, despite everything I just said, the guy deserves to put his feet up for a minute.
Coach K just finished off an amazing international run. He led Team USA to Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, as well as a gold at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. His teams finished an unbelievable 61-1 over the past seven years.
Going even beyond that, Coach K had to handle the tremendous pressure of coaching teams expected to win every single game, no matter how little time they had to mesh together.
Nobody could have done it better.
Hats off to you, coach. Take a quick breather in between recruiting trips and film study. You deserve it.
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