Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has officially put down his whistle when it comes to the USA team, but how did the time spent with the national team impact his other job?
Simply stated, Coach K’s 12 years as head coach of the USA basketball team has significantly added to the “cool factor” of Duke basketball in the eyes of high school seniors with realistic NBA dreams.
Beginning in 2006, Krzyzewski turned the USA back into a hardwood empire while showing the world that he can garner the respect and admiration of the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. In doing so, his success rate in landing the top recruits at Duke took off to levels the program had never experienced.
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Even though Coach K’s role with the national team dwindled quickly after he led it to its third consecutive Olympic gold medal in 2016, the transition was not official until last week when San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich began a training camp with the latest edition of Team USA. In total, Krzyzewski had an 88-1 record during his stay at the head seat of the squad’s bench.
Before 2006, only two Duke basketball players had ever bolted to the NBA after just one season in college. Corey Maggette was the first in 1999. Luol Deng followed the same path in 2004.
Ever since James and Bryant helped to popularize the advantages of playing for Coach K, though, the one-and-done “strategy” of Duke basketball has taken off. Sure, there were other factors at play that have led to the uptick in one-and-done talent choosing to join the Blue Devils. But it definitely helped to have the most famous ballers on the planet constantly expressing praise about the man who coached them.
Young kids took notice. And the one-and-done invasion began.
There was Kyrie Irving in 2011, Austin Rivers in 2012, and Jabari Parker in 2014. In 2015, there were three: Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow.
Brandon Ingram did it alone in 2016. Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, and Frank Jackson did it together in 2017. Then, for the first time, Duke fans watched four freshmen bolt in 2018: Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Trent Jr., and Trevon Duval.
That’s 14 in seven seasons. Mathematically speaking, Duke fans should now expect an average of two freshmen per season to leave for the NBA.
While this trend has attracted some new fans of the program who just want to follow the paths of the most elite prospects, some older fans have complained that the trend has left them no time to really get to know and embrace the players.
The recent turnover rate has been so high that it can be a daunting task just to keep up with all of the new names and faces when each season begins. That definitely won’t change this year as the Blue Devils are welcoming five freshmen to the squad. It would be safe to bet that four of these latest freshmen are likely to leave after one season.
Duke’s success during the one-and-done era has been near the top when compared to other programs. However, it hasn’t been as good as the two decades that preceded it in terms of reaching the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
In the 12 years that Coach K was in charge of Team USA, Duke appeared in two Final Fours (2010 and 2015). In the 12 years before that, Duke went to four Final Fours (1994, 1999, 2001, and 2004). And in the 12 years before that, Duke went to six Final Fours (1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992).
In other words, by developing players over four seasons and teaching them the “Duke way,” Krzyzewski was once able to dominate college basketball better than he does now. The chemistry of the players and their attention to details on both ends of the court have suffered.
So, what comes next for the strategy of the Duke program as Coach K’s connections to NBA players will no longer be spotlighted now that a new guy oversees Team USA? Will one-and-dones become a thing of the past for Duke? Could the program succeed again by relying almost entirely on four-year players?
Only time can provide accurate answers.