Friday, July 02, 2004

Sux to be a Dookie today

Well, it sux to be a Dookie any day, but after Joe Alleva's press conference yesterday announcing that Coach K is in discussions with the Lakers as a possible replacement for Phil Jackson, it's got to be extra sucky.

My first reaction was "why the hell would he want to do something like that?". He's a god on the Duke campus, he's the most respected coach in the college game, he's in no apparent need of money (particularly now that his daughters are now all on their own), he's become a real contributor to the Durham community and frankly, I don't think he's got anything to prove. Add to that the dubious record of long-time college coaches going to the pros (not too many successful ones beyond Larry Brown) and you've just got to wonder what's in it for him (besides the greenbacks).

On reflection though, I did start to wonder if the timing wasn't almost too perfect. If he was ever going to make the move, even to another college program, what better time than now? Alleva's press conference was on the day that the new Duke president made his first official appearance on campus and marked the day that two more football schools officially became part of the ACC (Frank Dascenzo in the Herald-Sun had some similar thoughts). Coach K was publicly (and reasonably) unhappy with the ACC expansion. It will only serve to hurt basketball - there's really no upside from a hoops perspective. And don't dismiss the chore of breaking in a new university president - anytime you have a new administrator coming in to a school with a towering coaching figure, even one with the stellar academic record of a Dean Smith or a Coach K, there's an inevitable sorting out of power that has to happen. Again, if he's ever going to make the move, now would probably be the time. Add to that the defections from the program going back to Cory Maggette a few years ago up to Luol Deng (still can't fathom that one) and Shaun Livingston and again, you have to think that if it doesn't happen this time, it ain't going to happen.

I get a chuckle thinking that this is Mitch Kupchak's way of getting after Dook one more time, but I'm not sure that Coach K leaving Dook wouldn't be a bad thing for UNC. I know the rivalry didn't start with K (I certainly remember the Gminiski/Spanarkel late 70's team under Bill Foster, even if I'm not old enough to remember the Vic Bubas-coached Final Four teams of the 60's) and it didn't end with the retirement of Dean Smith, but I think we all hope for at least a few years of Roy Williams vs. Coach K battles before one or the other retires.

As far as the Lakers go, a couple of days ago the conventional wisdom was that Rudy Tomjanovich was a lock for the job, so this is something of a shock. With the Bryant/Shaq feud and Shaq's feeling (rightly so) that Jerry Buss is siding with Bryant, it's not a fun situation for whoever steps into it. Hell, it's certainly not in any way clear that Bryant won't be wearing an orange jumpsuit instead of purple and gold next year regardless of who the coach is.

I can only guess this is serious given the need Alleva felt for a news conference. The only thing I really feel strongly is that if it doesn't happen now, Coach K will retire from Duke. Oh, and I feel strongly that Dook sux, but that was a given.


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