When making a list of the most iconic coaches in the history of college basketball, legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, affectionately known as Coach K, will always be one of the first names mentioned.
While many college coaches took the leap and tried their hand in the NBA, Krzyzewski never did, though teams did come calling, including the Los Angeles Lakers. Following the 2004 season, the team was in need of a replacement for the legendary Phil Jackson.
And Shaquille O’Neal being traded away, the Lakers were officially Kobe Bryant’s team. The coach he preferred more than any was Krzyzewski and the Lakers did offer him the job, but he declined.
Though Coach K decided to remain at Duke, it was not an easy decision and he recently spoke about it with Angelo Cataldi & The Morning Team on 94 WIP radio. Krzyzewski admitted he had interest in joining the Lakers, as well as the Boston Celtics back in 1990, but believes he eventually got his NBA fix through Team USA:
“Two times, I was pretty interested. In 1990, when Dave Gavitt took over the Boston Celtics, I did interview with them. And in 2005, with the Lakers, at the end of the day, I didn’t do it. Ironically, in 1990, when I didn’t do it, the next two years, we won our first two national championships. In 2005, when I didn’t accept the offer, a few months later, Jerry Colangelo offered me the opportunity to coach the national team as the first national team (permanent) coach. I was able to do that for 11 years. I got my NBA fix, so to speak. I’m really happy I got that.”
It is interesting to think about what could’ve been had Coach K come to the Lakers in 2005. The Lakers went with Rudy Tomjanovic, but his health issues forced him to resign in the middle of the season.
Jackson would return in 2006 and he and Kobe would eventually capture two more NBA titles for the Lakers. Jackson remained head coach until his second stint with the team concluded in 2013.
Who knows what would have happened if Krzyzewski had been hired instead and whether the Lakers’ success would have been the same. It is interesting that the only jobs he ever was interested in were the Lakers and Celtics as those are the only franchises with the lore that could convince him to leave a job where he has absolute security.
As Krzyzewski noted, he did get the chance to coach Bryant and plenty other NBA stars, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as the head coach of the USA men’s basketball team. But considering the rough spell the Lakers had in the mid-2000s, one has to wonder how things would’ve been different with Coach K at the helm.
Frank Vogel proving to be right head coach
The Lakers’ most recent search for a head coach took several turns and became a public spectacle due to failed negotiations with Ty Lue. However, they ultimately landed on Frank Vogel, and by all accounts he has proven to have been the perfect selection.
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