When Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced he would return as the head coach of Team USA last week, he had just a few moments between the press conference and a teleconference beginning just minutes later. But he still took time to answer questions about what will be a new-look ACC next year, and he was excited.
So excited, in fact, that he said that the ACC was going to be the best conference in the history of the game. A league that would get 10 into the NCAA tournament every year. It was just a short topic of discussion after a long press conference, but the 10-bid league comment raised some eyebrows.
He didn’t back off of that sentiment Wednesday with time to reflect on it. If anything, he was even more committed to it.
“I don’t think there’s any danger in (being outspoken). I don’t see any danger in it. All I see is the fact that we could do it,” Krzyzewski sad. “If we couldn’t do it, then you wouldn’t talk about it. What if we did more than that because we talked about it?”
He wants the other ACC coaches to talk about the number of bids the league should get as well, something the ACC can use as a point of conference pride, much like the SEC does with football. Krzyzewski reminisced on the early days in the league, when he, Jim Valvano (N.C. State) and Bobby Cremins (Georgia Tech) came into the league at the same time. They were all young coaches, but there was league solidarity. Krzyzewski said he’d like to see that make a comeback.
“Everybody was an ACC guy (in the 1980s). I think, to me, that has to happen,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s what I’m trying to promote. I say it publicly all the time. We will all be better if we are all better.”
The league will be much better next year when Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse come into the league, and it may very well grow into the best conference in basketball history by the time Louisville joins in 2014-15.
Krzyzewski said there’s no need to convince the new additions, though. Those coaches have touted the virtues of the Big East for the past 5-6 years. “The new guys (already) talk like that,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s getting the other guys to talk that way.”
It’s odd to think of the ACC making a transition from being a league that was consistent only in its disappointing teams to the best conference in the country. But for many years, that’s what the ACC was. And in these changing times, Krzyzewski just wants the league to act the part.
“I think we should take a look at the total package of what we have right now and not micromanage it. Just say if you really believe this can be the greatest conference ever, what are all the things that the greatest conference ever would do? That’s what you should do,” Krzyzewski said. “Then you look at everything. You look at the tournament, Operation Basketball, how you do your scheduling within the league, create new things. What do you do? … Look at it as the fact that you might have the best business. What do you do to make that the best? Are we a $1 billion business, functioning as a $500 million business? Or are we a $1 million business who wants to be a $2 billion business?
“In other words, think outside conventional ways. Understand that everything that’s preceded this conference, that’s made this conference, is all good and it’ll always be part of what we’re doing. Go from there. And don’t let anything hold you back because if you hold yourself back, the people who are trying to catch you will catch you easier. They want you to hold back and they want you not to think.”