United minds: Boeheim, Krzyzewski become close friends as coaches for USA Basketball

first_img Published on January 31, 2014 at 4:44 am Contact Josh: jmhyber@syr.edu Facebook Twitter Google+ For Spain, everything was clicking. Ricky Rubio and Juan Carlos Navarro sliced into the paint with ease. Marc Gasol was unstoppable in the low post. A once-unsettling 13-point deficit was all but erased. With ball possession and trailing by only one with 17 seconds left, the Spaniards called timeout. It was a game in August of 2010 billed the “Global Community Cup” — a matchup in Madrid of the world’s premier basketball teams: the United States and Spain. Halfway through the timeout, U.S. assistant coach Jim Boeheim suggested to head coach Mike Krzyzewski a defensive adjustment for the game’s final possession. Krzyzewski listened. Team USA switched to a 2-3 zone, Kevin Durant blocked two shots and the Americans escaped with a one-point victory. AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We haven’t tried it since,” Boeheim joked. “I guess we’re saving it. We’re saving it for a big moment someplace down the road.”Krzyzewski, the master general. Boeheim, the artful tactician. The elite of the elite — 1,914 combined victories on the Division I college level. Hall of Famers. Cornerstones of two of the most storied programs in college sports. Two of the most respected individuals in all of basketball.But as Krzyzewski talked about in his Hall of Fame induction speech, “two is better than one, if two can act as one.” And together, as coaches for the U.S. men’s national team, Krzyzewski and Boeheim have acted as one. Together, they have won two Olympics gold medals — Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Boeheim and Krzyzewski met at a Duke celebrity golf tournament and have been friends ever since. But in the nine years they’ve been together with USA Basketball, they’ve become family. Even their wives, children and grandchildren have become close. “Coaching, it’s such a competitive field,” Boeheim said. “You’re not going to have a lot of friends in coaching because you’re trying to beat each other’s brains out, for the most part. But it’s good to have a really good friend in coaching. It’s been great.”In October of 2005 — when the USA Basketball program underwent an overhaul — USA Basketball Board of Directors Chairman Jerry Colangelo wanted Krzyzewski to lead the new regime. And Krzyzewski wanted Boeheim alongside him. Colangelo made no protest. During a USA Basketball teleconference last week, Krzyzewski called Boeheim the guy he most respects in all of basketball, and also said he’s “brilliant.” “We’re a good team,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s the way I look at it.”In eight years, the two have represented the United States on benches in Argentina, Japan, China, Turkey, London and Spain. They’ve walked together on the Great Wall of China. They’ve visited the Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery.They even heard Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sing at a coach’s dinner in Washington, D.C. “You hang around with good people like coach Krzyzewski and Boeheim and Jerry Colangelo,” said Mike D’Antoni, an assistant with the U.S. from 2006-12, “then you’re just a much richer person on and off the court because of them.”Carmelo Anthony played for Boeheim at Syracuse. Krzyzewski recruited Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to play at Duke. But as the only two members of the staff with no NBA experience, their mastery of the game quickly won over players and staff. “It doesn’t matter if they’re employed at Syracuse University or the Boston Celtics,” said Casey Smith, an athletic trainer who has worked with the national team since 2005. “It doesn’t diminish the way players think of them.”Smith said that Boeheim and Krzyzewski are so comfortable around each other, and like to give the staff a hard time.The trainer recalls Krzyzewski breaking down film immediately after games, even after 9:30 or 10 p.m. tipoffs — which, according to Smith, Boeheim wasn’t too fond of. “He did his best to struggle through some of those late-night film sessions,” Smith joked. “It was always kind of a source of amusement seeing if those two could make it through.”With Team USA, Krzyzewski was always open to the opinion of his staff, a statement echoed by Boeheim, D’Antoni and Nate McMillan, another U.S. assistant.But there was a time during a game against Greece when Boeheim suggested to Krzyzewski that the team not run a zone defense. “Boeheim didn’t feel comfortable with the zone because we hadn’t worked on it,” McMillan said. “He really didn’t feel that we should play the zone. We really didn’t have to because our guys were really good in man-to-man defense. We hardly ever played zone.”While Boeheim and Krzyzewski’s teams have only crossed paths twice, their resumes are similar. Their names are synonymous with winning, and winning at one school. Both have an affinity for hiring former players as assistants. They even both poked fun at good friend P.J. Carlesimo during their Hall of Fame induction speeches.Now, together, they represent the best of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Said Colangelo: “It’s been a great marriage, so it’s going to be exciting to see them compete against one another in the ACC.” Commentslast_img

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