Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA begin the quest for a second consecutive gold medal on Sunday, July 29 in London. With a gold medal, Coach K would become the first U.S. coach to lead back-to-back gold medal winning teams since legendary coach Henry Iba did so in 1964 and 1968. But, as with most challenging endeavors, this journey began well before Team USA kicked off its training camp on July 5 in Las Vegas.DURHAM, N.C. - Head coach
The real starting point was on Oct. 26, 2005 when Krzyzewski was named head coach of the USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team. Coach K, along with Jerry Colangelo, revitalized the struggling national program and gave it the level of commitment and dedication necessary to return it to the top of the FIBA rankings.
In the beginning, Krzyzewski experienced a few bumps, including his only loss since taking over as head coach of the program and a bronze medal finish at the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
Then came the climb as the NBA's elite pledged their allegiance to Team USA and Coach K. By 2008, the USA roster featured Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams.
The media-labeled 'Redeem Team' reached its pinnacle and reestablished the U.S.'s standing as the premier basketball powerhouse by winning the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. That golden moment came in a 118-107 win over a determined team from Spain in a down-to-the wire game that has been described as one of the greatest international games ever played.
During the 2008 medal ceremony, every member of the team hung his gold medal around the neck of Coach K, creating an iconic image and further emphasizing a shift from the 'me first' attitude that plagued Team USA during the gap between the Dream Teams of 1992 and 1996 and the Redeem Team in 2008.
What would a true competitor like Krzyzewski do after representing his country and helping bring pride and prestige back to USA Basketball?
He would return to his full-time job as leader of one of the top collegiate programs in the country. In 2008, Coach K did a masterful job of leading a talented Blue Devil squad to a 30-7 record and another NCAA Tournament appearance.
When USA Basketball came knocking in the summer of 2009, Krzyzewski couldn't turn down the honor and opportunity to once again represent his country. With Coach K and his entire staff re-upped for another three years, the player pool of the USA Men's Senior National Team was again re-energized.
"Coach K has made such a big impact on my life, and the 2008 Olympics was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had," said Carmelo Anthony shortly after the announcement on July 21, 2009. "I'm happy to see him and the assistant coaches come back to coach the USA National Team."
With the gold medal win in the 2008 Olympics, Team USA had the summer of 2009 off from competition. Coach K used that summer to prepare his Duke squad for another promising season. The Blue Devils were a top-10 team throughout the year but often overlooked as a contender for the national championship. That changed at the beginning of February as the core of senior Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek, along with juniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, guided Duke to 18 wins over its final 19 games.
That final triumph, a 61-59 win over Butler in the NCAA title game, pushed Krzyzewski into an elite class with John Wooden as the only coaches in NCAA history with four or more national championships.
Riding the high of another NCAA Championship, Coach K was faced with a challenging summer ahead with USA Basketball. Free agency and injuries forced some drastic changes to the roster heading into the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
It may not have been the team many envisioned would represent the U.S. at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, but under the guidance of Krzyzewski, it accomplished something Team USA had failed to do since 1994 - win a FIBA World Championship. Without a single member of the 2008 Olympic gold medal team back, the strength of the USA Basketball National Team program that Colangelo and Krzyzewski had developed was proven as the Americans rolled over opponents to compile a 9-0 record and win the World Championship title.
Two more exciting seasons at Duke ensued, including a league-record 13th ACC Tournament championship and an NCAA-record 12th 30-win season in 2011. Krzyzewski reached the top of another mountain on Nov. 15, 2011 when he recorded his 903rd NCAA coaching victory to pass his mentor Bob Knight as the winningest coach in NCAA history. Duke's 2011-12 season concluded with an opening round loss in the NCAA Tournament and sent Krzyzewski back to double duty rebuilding both Duke and Team USA.
Team USA's player pool suffered some key losses during the 2012 NBA season with injuries to Dwight Howard, Derek Rose and Chris Bosh, but the program's depth and culture has allowed for a seamless transition heading into the 2012 Olympic games. Joining 2008 Olympic gold medalists Anthony, Bryant, James, Paul and Williams are 2010 World Championship victors Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook. James Harden and Anthony Davis are the 11th and 12th members of the team with Davis being added to the roster late in training camp after Blake Griffin suffered a knee injury.
In preparation for the 2012 Olympics, Team USA played a challenging five-game exhibition schedule leading into the Olympics. Coach K's unit began the summer with a decisive 113-59 win over the Dominican Republic in Las Vegas on July 12 before moving on to an 11-point win (80-69) over Brazil in Washington, D.C., four days later.
After a trek across the pond, Team USA added a 118-78 win over the Luol Deng-led Great Britain team in Manchester, England, before heading to Barcelona for contests against the second and third-ranked teams in the world. In the win over Great Britain, Team USA showcased an unselfish style (39 assists on 47 baskets) that has become a calling card for the program under Coach K.
USA jumped on No. 3 Argentina early and led by as many as 20 points before fighting off a scrappy Argentinian team for an 86-80 victory on July 22. Like nearly every other team in the Olympics, Argentina's roster is littered with current and former NBA standouts including Manu Ginobili (San Antonio), Luis Scola (Dallas) and Carlos Delfino (Toronto).
Team USA's final preparation for the Olympics came two days later against Spain, in the first matchup between FIBA's No. 1 and 2 world powers since a narrow 86-85 USA victory in a 2010 exhibition game played in Madrid, Spain. On July 24, 2012 in Barcelona, Team USA trailed, 23-21, at the end of the first quarter before recovering for a commanding 100-78 victory. Anthony paced the team with 27 points, including 23 in the first half of play, while James added 25 points, seven assists and two steals.
"We haven't shown all our cards yet," said James following the victory over Spain. "We have so many options and so many things we can go to with our team. The best thing about tonight is that we got better, but we have room for improvement and we got more cards to show."
James and Durant paced Team USA during the exhibition schedule averaging 18.6 and 17.6 points per game, respectively. James also added 4.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game while shooting 59.0 percent (36-of-61) from the field. Durant posted a team-high 5.0 rebounds per contest and was 16-of-29 (.552) from three-point range in the five-game span. Anthony also averaged in double-figures at 13.2 points per game.
The U.S. enters pool play with a 54-1 record since Krzyzewski took over as the head coach in 2005. The program has reeled off 42 consecutive wins since falling to Greece, 101-95, in the semifinals of the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
"I think we've gotten better," said Krzyzewski following the final exhibition game with Spain. "We need to use pool play first of all to qualify for medal play but also I think to get five more international games under our belt. I thought we reacted better tonight than two nights ago to the international game, and we have to keep learning about it."
Pool play is sure to present its challenges as Team USA plays in Pool A along with Argentina, France, Lithuania, Nigeria and Tunisia. Pool B features Australia, Brazil, China, Great Britain, Russia and Spain. The top four teams from each pool advance on to the quarterfinals of medal play.
Team USA Schedule (Times EST)
Sunday, July 29 vs. France (9:30 a.m.)
Tuesday, July 31 vs. Tunisia (5:15 p.m.)
Thursday, Aug. 2 vs. Nigeria (5:15 p.m.)
Saturday, Aug. 4 vs. Lithuania (9:30 a.m.)
Monday, Aug. 6 vs. Argentina (5:15 p.m.)
Wednesday, Aug. 8 -- Quarterfinals
Friday, Aug. 10 -- Semifinals
Sunday, Aug. 12 -- Medal Games
Complete television listings for 2012 Olympic events is available at http://www.nbcolympics.com/get-local/tvlistings.html.
- Duke Basketball Database