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Over pasta in Las Vegas, Krzyzewski agrees to return to coach Team USA


Last time, it was pizza in a Chicago hotel lobby that convinced him to come back. This time, it was pasta in a Las Vegas restaurant.

Mike Krzyzewski won’t need to be fed again to stalk the sidelines for his country. This is it.

Thursday, it was officially announced that the 66-year-old Hall of Fame coach from Duke will return as head coach for the United States men’s national basketball team and attempt to repeat as gold medalists at the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“I really thought I wasn’t going to do this,” said, Krzyzewski, who has gone 62-1 during his tenure as national team head coach going back to 2006 and has won two Olympic gold medals and a world championship gold. “But now that I’m going to do it, I’m doing it with 100 percent commitment and passion. I feel energetic, passionate and wanting to achieve.”

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo has courted Krzyzewski — through his stomach — to return, first for 2012, now for 2016, never fully believed the coach was done with the national team. He was willing to give him as much time as he needed to contemplate whether to rescind his decision to step aside after winning the gold in London last August.

“I never lost hope or belief that time would heal and Coach K would be coming back,” said Colangelo, who met with Krzyzewski two weeks ago in Las Vegas to try and closed the deal for his return. “I waited until after the Final Four to reach out to him and as long as we had an answer by June 1, that was the appropriate time frame to make that decision.

“We never moved forward with anyone else. When it’s going as smoothly as it is, you try to keep it going as long as you can.”

Even though Krzyzewski is back, that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. Expect a shuffling of his coaching staff which has consisted of Mike D’Antoni, Nate McMillan and Jim Boeheim going back to 2005. Boeheim has indicated he would be willing to return if Krzyzewski asked and when the staff is announced next month, look for Boeheim to be on it.

As always, there will be a different roster of players to coach. That process will begin July 22 when the USA Basketball mini-camp is held at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. The four-day camp, which will culminate with an intra-squad scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 25, will identify early candidates for the 2016 Olympic roster as well as next year’s FIBA World Cup where Team USA will try to qualify for the Olympics.

Prices and on-sale date for the July 25 scrimmage will be announced next month.

“I anticipate we’ll have about 24 players in Vegas,” Colangelo said of the mini-camp. “We’ve got a lot of interest from a lot of players who want to participate. This is about the younger players, the first- and second-year guys.”

But if Olympic veterans like LeBron James decide they want to play, Colangelo will find a place for them on the final roster.

In a statement Thursday released through USA Basketball, James said he was pleased to see Krzyzewski return.

“I think it’s great,” James said. “What he means to USA Basketball is beyond just what we do on the court. It’s what we stand for as Americans in being proud to wear the red, white and blue every time we step on the bus, at practice, talk to the media or whatever the case may be. So I think it’s great.”

James, whose Miami Heat is currently playing in the NBA Eastern Conference finals, said he wasn’t sure about his availability for 2016 at this point.

“It would be great” to play in 2016, he said. “First, I have to make sure I stay healthy. If I’m fortunate enough to be healthy, I would love to represent my country again.”

Despite being the defending gold medalists, the Americans still have to qualify for Brazil. The FIBA World Cup (formerly the World Championship) in Spain will be the first competition in this Olympic cycle. Should the USA fail to win next summer, it would be forced to qualify through the 2015 FIBA Americas Tournament, which was the case in 2007 when Team USA won the Americas tourney at the Thomas & Mack Center and went on to capture gold at the Beijing Games.

“A lot of players have indicated they want to participate in next year’s World Cup,” Colangelo said. “But the reality is we have turnover with each competition. That’s the way it usually shakes out.

“Next year’s roster will have some of the young guys who are working out this summer in Vegas and some of the holdovers from London.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

 

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