The Duke and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks to sdna.gr about his glorious achievement of claiming 1,000 victories in the NCAA, about the defeat at the hands of Greece in the World Cup 2006 and of course about the Greeks who feature in the NBA.- First of all, congratulations on your great accomplishment [1000 wins]! Could you describe your co-operation with students, I mean young men, in comparison to the NBA stars during the international competitions? What are the main differences and what is more difficult to handle?
“The professional players do this for a living, while the college players are juggling their academic workload in addition to basketball. Neither one is more difficult than the other. They’re just different. I am amazed at the amount of work and preparation put in by the NBA players, who are making their livelihood off of basketball. I am also amazed by the time management skills that college basketball players have to utilize to stay on top of their academic, community and athletics responsibilities. Both are equally impressive.”- What is more difficult? To identify a future leader among many players or create a leader?
“While leadership can be taught, or at least improved, it is difficult to create one from scratch. Identifying leaders, and finding the best way to connect with and inspire them, is far less difficult than trying to teach someone with limited leadership qualities to grow into that role.”- Since many Greeks are studying in the United States and playing NCAA basketball, how important is college life before entering the NBA or signing a European contract? What do you suggest to parents?
“Probably, college life is the most critical time for a young man or woman to develop socially from their teenage years into adulthood. It provides an incredible environment in which to learn and grow – socially, academically, and athletically. In our program, one of our responsibilities to the young men who commit to being at Duke is to help them cross that bridge into adulthood in a positive fashion. We want our players to be good men, first and foremost.”- After more than a 1,000 wins including those with the Team USA, would you allow us, Greeks, to feel honored about one defeat that might have hurt you more than any other? I am talking about the semifinal in Japan. How did that result change the mentality of USA Basketball and how did it react on players and coaching staff towards the next competitions?
“Failure is not a destination. It is a stop on the way to other successes. That is how we treated it. On that day, Greece was better than we were. We lost and we learned. We congratulated them and moved forward. We have enjoyed great stability with USA Basketball, led by Jerry Colangelo. It is truly the greatest honor of my career to be able to lead the USA teams into competition.”- We have four guys in NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo with the Bucks, Kostas Papanikolaou with the Rockets and Kosta Koufos - Nick Calathes with the Grizzlies. Who has the highest potential for a great career and who you personally like more?
“I could never say which player might have the best NBA career. There are so many factors – health, which franchise they’re with, etc. – that could impact an NBA career. If they’ve made the NBA, then they are outstanding players already. I hope that they all succeed at the highest level.”- How could you describe Mike Krzyzewski as a character, not only in basketball, but also off the court?
“I try to serve as a good role model to others, mainly youngsters who may look up to me, or at least to the position I hold as a head coach. My wife, three daughters and sons-in-law, and nine grandchildren are incredibly close and we’re extremely fortunate they all live near us in Durham. Basketball consumes a lot of time, both for me and my family. I’ve been lucky that they’re all part of the process and we’re able to go through everything – a Duke Basketball season and the international competitions – together.”- Among all your legendary quotes about the game of basketball and life, which is your favorite quote and why?
“’A basketball team is like the five fingers on your hand. If you can get them all together, you have a fist. That's how I want my teams to play."