Coach K responds to USA Basketball criticism during press conference

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With recent criticism lobbed at him about unfair recruiting advantages because of his time with USA Basketball, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski took his press conference in Durham on Thursday as a chance to respond to the critics.

After Yahoo Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a column about USA Basketball, and Coach K using his coaching tenure as a platform to help recruit elite high school players thanks to unique access and positive relationships with the best basketball players in the world like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, the veteran Duke head coach spend much of the press conference talking about points made in the column, according to Nicole Auerbach of USA Today.

“Everybody can have an opinion on that,” Krzyzewski said in the press conference on Thursday. “Anybody who wins, or if someone writes a great book or article, somebody wins a championship — they have an advantage. It’s advantage through accomplishment. The notoriety you get from that, there’s a risk to that. In other words, you can lose, and there’s time you give up. The fact that you win and if you gain an advantage from that, then so be it. It’s like if someone wins a national championship. (Connecticut coach) Kevin Ollie has an advantage recruiting because he won.

“I’ve given up 50 days this summer.”

Syracuse head coach and USA Basketball assistant coach Jim Boeheim called the Yahoo story “completely off-base” and defended his ACC coaching mate on Wednesday and Krzyzewski responded to the notion that he had spoken to younger players in the USA Basketball program that he wasn’t coaching.

Wojnarowski cited specific examples of Coach K speaking to a team that wasn’t being coached by him or having younger USA Basketball teams of high school players detour to watch the USA Basketball senior national team practices in Las Vegas

From the Yahoo story:

Well, the trip did something else, too: It gave the Duke coach unfiltered access to two of the best high school players in the nation. Florida’s Billy Donovan was the under-19 head coach. Virginia’s Tony Bennett and VCU’s Shaka Smart were his assistants. They probably didn’t need Krzyzewski’s voice, but he probably didn’t ask their permission, either.

The roster of college stars happened to include two 17-year-old prep phenoms: Chicago’s Jahlil Okafor and Houston’s Justise Winslow. When Krzyzewski makes his triumphant return this week, two freshmen stars will be awaiting him on Duke’s campus: Okafor and Winslow.

Within the college recruiting game, no one ever considered it a coincidence when one of those younger USA Basketball national teams would detour through Vegas to watch Krzyzewski and his Duke assistants on the training camp floor with the biggest basketball stars in the world.

Without the access of USA Basketball, there’s a strong belief within the basketball community that Krzyzewski would’ve never landed Jabari Parker. Only, he had it, used it and signed him.

Krzyzewski responded to those direct allegations in the Yahoo column during Thursday’s press conference. From Auerbach’s story in USA Today Sports:

“Two days in nine years,” Krzyzewski said on Thursday. “There’s a selection committee of college coaches who select these teams. Jim Boeheim has headed that for 10 years. In the 10 years he’s done that, probably every time he’s done a tryout, he’s been there three or four days with other members of the selection committee who are college coaches. … College coaches coach those teams. … If you would do research on it and take the last nine years of every college coach who had access to younger players, you would find an astounding number of days for people on the selection committee. I’m not begrudging them. They give up time to do that. But to pick out and say that I’ve done that once or twice, it’s ridiculous.

“It’s utterly ridiculous. Anybody who comments on it without doing the research is really wanting to take that point of view. I don’t get it. I don’t get it.”

Not that I blame Coach K for responding to these criticisms publicly after putting in so much time to be away from his family and his program to coach with USA Basketball, but I do find it interesting that he took so much time to defend himself in a press conference where he could have spoken instead about his recent World Cup and overcoming the loss of players like Paul George and Kevin Durant.

It’s not that Coach K is selfish for putting his best interests first during his return press conference but this was a chance to shine one final light on a dominant USA Basketball performance during the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain and instead he’s focusing his energy on a Yahoo column where Wojnarowski jumps to unfounded conclusions such as Coach K probably not asking permission from Billy Donovan to speak to his U19 team.

Either way, this whole thing seems silly. USA Basketball is once again the best in the world, Duke is still an elite college basketball program like they have been for over 20 years and McDonald’s All-Americans are still interested in playing for Coach K at Duke.

Nothing has really changed.