Mike Krzyzewski could have left international basketball on top, having returned the United States to its longtime position as the world’s best.
That’s not what coaches like Krzyzewski do.
“It was very easy to walk away, but I just don’t think people who are accustomed to competing or high achievers walk away,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “You just keep competing.”
So that’s what Krzyzewski plans, right on through the 2012 Olympics.
USA Basketball announced Tuesday that Krzyzewski will return to lead the United States in next summer’s world championships and when it defends its gold medal in London.
The Americans won the championship last year in Beijing and will bring the leadership of that team back for another run. Krzyzewski’s entire staff of assistants also will return — New York’s Mike D’Antoni, Portland’s Nate McMillan and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse.
“We all felt as a staff the work wasn’t over,” Krzyzewski said at a press conference. “Our goal this time is to make it even better.”
Colangelo, who hired Krzyzewski to lead the national team in 2005, already had committed to returning. He never pushed Krzyzewski for an answer about a return — even as they shared a pizza and bottle of wine until well past midnight in April in a Chicago hotel lobby — because he could tell all along that’s exactly what the coach wanted to do.
Leaving became even harder for Krzyzewski once players started talking about playing again in Beijing.
“It would have been really hard,” Krzyzewski said. “In my coaching career, I don’t really have any regrets. Obviously you’d like to have won a certain game or two, but as far as decisions of where I coach and what I’m doing, I’ve led a very charmed life. And I think if I didn’t do this, I would have regretted it.”
Krzyzewski will become the first U.S. coach of multiple Olympic teams since Henry Iba, who won gold in 1964 and ’68 and coached the team that lost the controversial 1972 gold-medal game to the Soviet Union.
“We don’t have term limits at USA Basketball and so when you have a great thing going, you keep it going,” Colangelo said.
The return of Krzyzewski, a college coach who was well liked by the NBA’s best, could influence some top American players to suit up again, especially since both he and Colangelo have said the Americans must make the worlds a higher priority.
“I think they understand that their job isn’t over, either,” Krzyzewski said.