Obviously it's hard to say money isn't driving this decision. The Lakers are offering over $40 million over five years, and that is certainly more than Mike Krzyzewski makes as the head coach in Durham. However he's certainly making seven figures as the Blue Devils' head coach and Duke has made it clear they'll step up to the plate if need be.
The track record is not pretty for NCAA coaches who have preceded Krzyzewski in making the jump to the pros.
Where are Rick Pitino, Kevin O'Neil and Lon Krueger now? These once highly regarded NCAA coaches all failed to have an impact in the NBA and are now either out of coaching or back home in the NCAA. One can not help but ask themselves if these coaches even had a chance at the next level when considering free agency, upper management, player and owner ego intervention, 90 game seasons, one on one basketball, and the list goes on and on. Is this what Krzyzewski really wants at this time in his career? Would you leave a place that's having a few unpleasant events to go where you were stuck in to be stuck in a deeper and bigger sewer?
Recruiting isn't Recruiting:
In the NBA Krzyzewski will wind up coaching at least 60 more games a year. He may have more talented players at the next level, but will lack the ability to develop young men as he did at Duke. He may still be able to play a part in shaping the lives of young men, but for a coach who has recruited players based on character, to no longer have that ability or say so as to who wears a uniform from a team he coaches will be painful.
As one former coach said of the NBA, "What do I tell a bunch of millionaires in the huddle?"
One of Krzyzewski's strongest areas is now recruiting and in the NBA players are not recruited, they are purchased. Perhaps he can play a role in who the franchise purchases, but he certainly can not meet with parents, focus on educational offerings or take the time to shape lives and build character like he does in the college environment. Yes he can certainly still have an impact, but will a 25 year old multi-millionaire take the time away from his fleet of Cadillac's and posse of friends at his mansion to actually listen? It is much easy to develop character in a 19 year old kid who does not have a car, lives in a dorm room and needs to be at English 101 at 9am on Wednesday morning.
Emily K's Namesake:
The Emily K Family Life Center is a new development in Durham that is slated to include three basketball courts and well over 20,000 square feet. The Center will target Family's in Durham and family members of all ages to assist in life skills development and build community bonds. The Center holds Coach K's mothers name on the sign and is something he has spoken very proudly of. The problem is that funding has not been there.
To the surprise of many, the Family Life Center is on somewhat of a hold due to funding. In fact, two months ago the employees of the Emily K Family Life Center were let go shortly after the Bull City Shootout they organized. Financial reasons are suspected. As of late Coach K has been mailing personal hand written notes to Iron Dukes asking them to donate to the Center and he discusses his vision for it in the notes. It seems that Duke as a University may be able to generate millions of dollars in donations at will, but that Iron Dukes have perhaps skirted the issue of donating to the Family Life Center. All of this may now change with K's discussions with the Lakers. Perhaps this could grab the attention of Duke University administration and let them know that K would like Duke to also play a role in the Center. Coach K has already stated his desire for Duke Students to volunteer and work at the Center upon its opening.
The Empire Would be Gone:
There is a lot Krzyzewski would lose in leaving Duke. Krzyzewski has built an empire at Duke and has taken a program and made it a family. Krzyzewski has not only built championship teams and quality coaches, he has produced future leaders and changed lives. Krzyzewski has built a tent community in his name for the rivalry's he has helped enhance with the likes of Maryland and UNC. Krzyzewski has also become a very active member of many Duke educational institutes such as the Fuquay School of Business.
He's also on the brink of over taking several records and will likely become the NCAA all time leader in most total wins if he stays at Duke. Krzyzewski has already tied former UNC Coach Dean Smith in NCAA Tournament wins.
When looking at player development, it is hard to fathom that K would have the same impact at the next level. For example, Krzyzewski took players like Bobby Hurley and Steve Wojciechowski and turned them into household names. Players that perhaps under a different coach would have been average, were sensational under K. Will Krzyzewski be able to make names out of average players during a 90 game season in a different style of basketball where size, strength and the ability to go one on one overthrow teamwork and synergy? Not to mention the lack of defense in the NBA compared to the tremendous defense Duke Teams have played under Krzyzewski.
In addition to everything surrounding his career, Coach K has always been a family man first. The man who adores his children and grandchildren would no longer have them in Los Angeles unless they all decided to leave with him. However, almost all of them are engrossed in careers in this area. Krzyzewski's youngest daughter Jamie just graduated from Duke. Second daughter Lindy is now a teacher at Durham Academy in Durham and his first daughter Debbie recently gave birth to twins and now has 4 kids while her husband Peter Savarino runs the University Club in Durham atop a skyscraper.
Then there is his beloved wife Mickie who plays an active role in many events at Duke including handling almost all aspects of the basketball banquet. Do you think Kobe Bryant will want to come over for dinner as Daniel Ewing enjoys doing?
What about Krzyzewski's longtime friend Matthew Lawrence who just three years ago abandoned Los Angeles and his acting career for a place in Durham working with the basketball program? Lawrence has recently taken over operations at the Emily K Family Life Center in Durham in an obvious attempt by Krzyzewski to have a Duke Basketball Program Member in control of the operation.
What about the bonds Krzyzewski speaks so fondly of at Duke? He has surrounded himself there with people who possess tremendous amounts of character. From the janitor DC who has been there for over 15 years to long time Announcer Bob Harris there are bounds at Duke an emotionally driven individual like Krzyzewski will not want to walk away from.
Is Krzyzewski frustrated that Shawn Livingston never came to Duke or upset that Luol Deng left? Sure he is not happy about it. However, Krzyzewski remains the most coveted coach to play for in high school players nationwide and despite losing Deng and Livingston Duke still has a roster that includes Daniel Ewing, JJ Redick, Shavlik Randolph, Shelden Williams, Sean Dockery and DeMarcus Nelson. Do you know of any NCAA coaches who would not feel confident putting those 6 on the floor for them next season?
It is likely Krzyzewski is upset with certain NCAA rules that prevent him from speaking with players during times of the year. For instance, his contact was limited with Livingston as Livingston explored the NBA option this spring due to rules. However, it is likely Krzyzewski is looking for the NCAA to review the rules and make needed changes in light of all the early entry to the NBA. Speaking with the Lakers makes the NCAA concerned they may lose there most sacred coach after already losing tremendous amounts of talent. All part of Krzyzewski's plan to get the media into a guessing game, but only to never leave town.
All considered, when weighing all of this, it makes perfect sense for Krzyzewski to explore this option with the Lakers to leverage the NCAA, the Iron Dukes, Duke University and the Durham community, but not to leave. Next year Duke will take the floor, contend for another ACC title and another NCAA title and Hall of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski will be there leading the charge.