Coach K decides to stay at Duke

DURHAM, N.C.

(AP) – In the end, Mike Krzyzewski just couldn't leave Duke.

After spending the weekend mulling a $40 million offer to coach the Los Angeles Lakers, the Hall of Fame coach decided to stay with the program he built into a perennial Final Four contender during his 24-year tenure.

"The allure of coaching in college has no price," Krzyzewski said Monday after turning down the Lakers' offer.

"I've never made a decision based on what was going to make me the most money.

It was what was going to give me the most happiness and I've been really happy and fulfilled at Duke."

Krzyzewski said the timing of the Lakers' offer and the team's prominence made a move tempting.

But his bond with Duke was one not even the glitz of Hollywood and the NBA's showcase franchise could break.

"The decision has always been to stay at Duke.

It would have to be something changing (that)," he said at a news conference on campus.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak first made his interest in hiring Krzyzewski clear in conversations around the time of the NBA draft, Krzyzewski said.

Kupchak met with Krzyzewski in North Carolina and offered him the job last Thursday.

Even Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who was recruited by Krzyzewski while in high school, reportedly tried to persuade "Coach K" to take the job.

"We're disappointed because we would have liked to have brought coach Krzyzewski to Los Angeles," Kupchak said Monday night.

"We thought he would have been a wonderful coach."

Krzyzewski listened to what the Lakers had to offer, reportedly a five-year deal worth $40 million, before deciding late Sunday to stay at Duke.

The announcement was welcome news for Duke fans, players and administrators, who waited anxiously for a decision.

When the coach said he waited until Monday morning to call new university president Richard Brodhead because he didn't know Brodhead's sleeping patterns, Brodhead was quick to joke, "They'll be better now."

Still, Krzyzewski, who's had several flirtations with the NBA and came close to leaving for the Boston Celtics in 1990, declined to rule out ever coaching in the pros.

"I don't want to say never, but I also don't want to lead anyone on.

...

I want to coach for a long time," he said.

The Lakers have been searching for a new coach since June 18, when they announced Phil Jackson wouldn't return next season.

That was three days after they lost to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.

Former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich had been considered a front-runner to succeed Jackson with the Lakers.

He has met with team owner Jerry Buss and Kupchak.

But the Lakers appeared most interested in trying to lure Krzyzewski from Duke, a private school where basketball has a rabid following among the 6,300 students.

The Cameron Indoor Stadium hardwood is named "Coach K Court." Outside the arena, a sign designates the grassy plot where students camp out to attend games as "Krzyzewskiville," where the coach has been known to occasionally buy pizzas for the waiting "Cameron Crazies."

The 57-year-old Krzyzewski has a 621-181 record at Duke, leading the Blue Devils to championships in 1991, 1992 and 2001.

Under Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils have 10 Final Four appearances, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships and 10 conference regular-season titles.

He signed a lifetime contract with the school three years ago.

His Duke teams have been ranked No.

1 in 12 seasons, including each of the last seven.

With his team's success on and off the court, Krzyzewski – like John Wooden did at UCLA and Dean Smith at North Carolina – has become the personification of Duke basketball.

"He's an icon," said Johnny Dawkins, associate head coach and a former player for Krzyzewski.

Krzyzewski called his players Monday morning to tell them he was staying.

"It was an incredible relief," incoming freshman David McClure told The Associated Press.

"All I can say is I'm speechless.

I'm so happy he's staying."