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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coach K to return as USA Basketball coach

Posted by on Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 6:23 PM

Coach K will suit up again as the Olympic team head coach, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo confirmed in a press conference Tuesday.

Led by LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, Team USA won all eight games in Beijing and snagged the gold medal after falling out of grace in 2004 when they took home the bronze.

"The experience of being the head coach of the USA National Team for three summers was the best experience I've ever had in coaching,” Coach K said via a live feed from NBA.com.  "It was a huge honor to be selected as the USA National Team coach the first time; it is still a huge honor."

The entire assistant coaching staff -- Jim Boeheim, Mike D'Antoni and Nate McMillan -- from the 2008 Olympic team will return as well.

The news comes as no surprise as earlier in July reports indicated the Hall of Famer would return to his post, under which he led Team USA to a 36-1 record from 2006-08.

His return should attract the NBA's top players back to the Olympic team -- one of the biggest challenges facing the Olympic coach and one of the reasons blamed for the 2004 team's  failure to win gold in Athens.

How this affects Duke is the biggest question surrounding this announcement.  Critics have pointed to Duke's slide in recruiting and in March as side effects of Coach K's time constraints from coaching both Duke and Team USA.

"It doesn't fatique me; it makes me better," Coach K said in a teleconference Tuesday.  "I don't think there is one negative as far as I'm concerned."

But the jury is still out when it comes to recruiting.  The Blue Devils are poised to net a huge recruiting class in 2010, including the possibility of landing the top player in the class -- Harrison Barnes, a versatile forward from Ames, Iowa.

The visibility of Duke's head man standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of LeBron and Kobe can be nothing but positive in the eyes of recruits, especially when this is a long-term commitment.

And especially when players like Carmelo Anthony gush over his return:  “Coach K has made such a big impact on my life and the 2008 Olympics was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had," Anthony released in a statement.

Then there is this NBA thing.  Whenever an opening occurs with the Lakers, Coach K's name pops up by default.

But who's to say he can't have the best of both worlds?  There has always been an interest or thirst from Coach K to test himself at the NBA level -- thus the long flirtation with the Lakers in 2004 -- but he's a college guy like Dean Smith (Gasp! did he really write that?).

"I love it at Duke and for any coach from his own country to be able to coach his country's team ... that's an incredible opportunity," Coach K said.

Perhaps his affiliation with Team USA satisfies his professional craving.  Perhaps seeing LeBron gallop down the court tickles him so much that he doesn't feel the need to test his coaching at the next level.

Duke is going to have to share Coach K for the time being -- and that might be a good thing if the Blue Devils still want him on the bench ... and players like Harrison Barnes.

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