Duke's Mike Krzyzewski shares bond with Kobe Bryant
Even before Duke's Mike Krzyzewski coached Kobe Bryant on the 2008 gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympics team, Bryant was calling him one of the greatest coaches of all the time.
Krzyzewski, who became Division I's winningest coach with 903 career victories Tuesday when No. 6 Duke beat Michigan State, has been close with Bryant since recruiting him as a Lower Merion high prep phenom. Though Bryant turned pro, he has said he would have chosen Duke had he attended college. He still touts the Blue Devils as his favorite college basketball team.
In 2004, Bryant tried to get Krzyzewski to coach the Lakers, pitching the idea to General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Krzyzewski, who has guided Duke to three national championships, turned down a five-year, $40-million offer from the Lakers.
"I was more than tempted," Krzyzewski recalled last year. "I seriously considered it. One, because it was the Lakers. Mitch is great. It would have been an opportunity to work with Kobe. He and I are very close. I guess because I did not accept it, it really speaks to, you know, how much I love Duke and college basketball, but especially Duke."
But it's clear Bryant still holds him in high regard.
"Coach K, one of the things he was stressing to me all the time was to be who I am, to be a scorer," Bryant said the video above from 2008. "I never had a coach come up to me and say, 'We want you to shoot it, shoot it, shoot it.' "
But Krzyzewski also held up Bryant's defensive play as exemplifying the selflessness the U.S. team needed to capture gold. And Bryant has announced his intention to play for Krzyzewski in the 2012 Olympics in London.
"I really like Kobe a lot. He's easy to coach. He buys into everything," Krzyzewski once said. "He'll do whatever he thinks he needs to do to bring about a championship. He's proven it, and he wants to prove it again. There are lot of people who prove it once and never want to do it again. He's uncommon. He wants to prove it over and over again. There is nothing bad about Kobe Bryant."
— Mark Medina
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