Coach Ks golden motivation

Mike Krzyzewski leads Team USA to third gold before handing off reins

Jeffrey Swinger—X02835
Aug 19

On July 17, Coach Mike Krzyzewski stood in front of his team and played them a video.It was the same video he played in 2008, before a group of NBA All Stars went to China to regain the gold medal lost in 2004. It was the same video he played in 2012, before Team USA went to London to defend the gold.”America doesn’t have a fight song,” Krzyzewski told the players. “I mean, what is America’s fight song?”He played the video of Motown legend Marvin Gaye.”Here,” he told the team, “is our fight song.”Gaye was standing at center court of the Los Angeles Forum, before the 1983 NBA All Star Game, and he proceeded to sing perhaps the most powerful arrangements of the Star Spangled Banner before a sporting event since Jose Feliciano’s controversial slow jazz version during the 1968 World Series.By the end of Gaye’s rendition of the anthem, the crowd was clapping along.”Our fight song will be played before every game,” Krzyzewski said, “and your hand will be over your heart, and you’ll feel very proud.””And, on August 21,” Coach K added, “our fight song will be played twice. The second time, gold medals will be around your neck, and our flag will be raised above all others.”Team USA went on to make Krzyzewski’s prediction come true, just as the 2008 and 2012 teams did, proving beyond a doubt that, while motivating the NBA’s top players may be a different animal from motivating Duke teams, the Hall of Fame coach was more than up for the challenge.”You want them to feel that,” Krzyzewski said of his Olympians. “All of a sudden, what you said, what you did, they feel that. Anything we can do to get them to feel, not just listen and see.”Krzyzewski finished his tenure as the Team USA head coach with a perfect 24-0 record in the Olympics. More important than the win-loss record, in his mind, was the legacy he left behind.”I never knew I would see such incredible infrastructure developed,” he said. “It’s kind of like in college, when you go from being a team to an outstanding program. We have an outstanding program right now. It’s built to last.”Krzyzewski now hands off USA Basketball’s coaching duties to San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who worked with the team over the summer to help ease the transition.”I feel really good about what we’ve done and how we’ve done it,” Krzyzewski said. “I feel really good about Pop taking over, and the relationship we formed this summer and the succession that will take place. We’ll work closely, together, to make sure we keep this thing going. … He’s as good a coach as there is in the world. It’s kind of like in the military. I was in command of the unit. This division — the Eighth Army or whatever it is. Now he’s in charge. He’s a military person. He graduated from the Air Force Academy. When you take over command, you want to make it better, and you want the person after you to make it better.”As proud as Krzyzewski is of the foundation he helped build at USA Basketball, it’s the players he built relationships with that bring out his strongest emotions.”There are a bunch of different stories,” he said. “One of the great ones is Paul George. A couple years ago, we’re in Las Vegas in a hospital room, where he doesn’t know if his career is going to continue (after suffering a serious leg injury in a Team USA exhibition game). At that time we were with him and his parents—we have these coins that are like military honor coins for USA Basketball. We gave Paul a coin and said, ‘I want you to keep this, so when we play in 2016 and win a gold, you’re going to be a part of it.”He was a part of it, earning praise from Krzyzewski for his in the gold medal game.”We got better,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s the key thing. We were at our best in the championship game. (Kevin) Durant was spectacular. He was taking threes from farther back than J.J. Redick ever shot them, and I was watching them go in. To have Deandre Jordan get 16 rebounds, Demarcus Cousins get 15 and have a double-double at halftime. To see Paul George just wrap up (Milos) Teodosic, who’s been the best guard in Europe for the last decade. To see the hustle play—we’re down 14-12 in the first quarter and Kyle Lowery dives for a loose ball and gets it. From that point on, there was a spark. … He wasn’t even in the pool of players (at the start of the Team USA selection), and he ended up being incredibly valuable on the court and off. He was just an unsung hero of the whole thing. To see Carmelo Anthony’s leadership. Kyrie (Irving), to have a chance to coach him again.””Things like that,” Coach K concluded. “It starts to make a program, like our program at Duke or North Carolina’s program. You can tell these stories, because they happened, and they build a culture of excellence that you hope would sustain. I think it will.”He also thinks his motivational video might stick around.”I think Marvin Gaye will last forever,” he said. “Even though I like his music I think (the players) like it too. They like it a lot, because as good a players as they think they are, and I think I’m a good coach, we’re not as good a performer as he was.”