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Health concerns could knock Coach K from Olympics

Colangelo mulls possible replacement if Duke coach pulls out

POSTED: Feb 17, 2016 8:54 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, left, may have to ponder replacements for Mike Krzyzewski if he can not take the bench to lead the U.S. Olympic team in Brazil this summer.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, who admits he is concerned about the health of Mike Krzyzewski, said he has privately been considering replacements in case Krzyzewski is unable to coach the United States in the Olympics in August, telling NBA TV, "Certainly in the back of my mind I'm thinking about what ifs."

Krzyzewski, the Duke coach since 1980 and the Team USA coach since 2005, spent parts of two days in early February in the heart wing of a Durham, N.C., hospital, missing the Feb. 2 game against Georgia Tech, before rejoining the Blue Devils. Neither the school nor Krzyzewski released many details beyond the inability to do a stress test on a treadmill or bicycle because of a bad left knee, but the Hall of Fame coach has been with the team ever since.

Stressing it is too early to be thinking seriously about implementing a backup plan for the Rio de Janeiro Games, Colangelo conceded he has been formulating ideas. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has already been announced as Krzyzewski's successor with Team USA, but it is unknown whether Colangelo would ask Popovich to start this summer or choose from among the current Team USA staff of Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau or Thunder assistant Monty Williams.

"I'm always concerned about people I love, and I love Coach K," Colangelo told NBA TV. "You've heard my expression, 'We're joined at the hip and have been ever since we joined together back in '05.' I am concerned about his health. I told him on the phone (recently) nothing is more important than his health. Not Duke basketball. Not USA Basketball. I hope and I pray that he can take care of his situations, whatever they may be, and that he's healthy and ready to go."

Colangelo said he has "not really" had conversations with Krzyzewski about possibly stepping aside before the Olympics and that "We're not at that stage at all. I do know that his intention is the day after his Duke season is over is to have his knee replaced. It's killing him right now. But that's just one facet of his health circumstances. We'll cross that bridge. Certainly in the back of my mind I'm thinking about what ifs. But it would be, I think, inappropriate and out of place to even discuss it."

Pressed if he has a plan in mind if Krzyzewski cannot coach in Rio, Colangelo said: "I think so. But, again, I think it's too early to get into that. As we get closer and it appears that there's a prospect that he may not be able to or chooses not to, that's a whole different story. But let's not be premature on that."

The men's basketball portion of the Olympics will start Aug. 6, with the quarterfinals scheduled for Aug. 17, the semifinals for Aug. 19 and the gold and bronze medal games on Aug. 21.

Krzyzewski, who turned 69 on Saturday, has been the coach as Team USA won gold at the 2012 and 2008 Olympics, the 2014 and 2010 World Cup/world championships and the 2007 FIBA Americas.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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