LAS VEGAS – After a grueling third day of practice with USA Basketball, Mason Plumlee was greeted by a special guest who has had as much of an influence as anyone on his professional career.
As Plumlee was walking toward the exit at the Mendenhall Center, Coach Mike Krzyzewski was waiting for his former Duke standout to catch up. Although it has been six years since the two men last worked together, it almost appeared as if Plumlee never left the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Krzyzewski was giving his attentive former pupil some pointers and Plumlee also made sure his teammate, Torrey Craig, had a chance to meet the legendary coach.
Plumlee’s conversation showcased why Krzyzewski is so revered in basketball circles, especially for former Blue Devils.
“I think it shows that he loves his guys. It's not just a 'go play for Duke and get what you can from the school or whatever,'” Plumlee told Nuggets.com. “It's a true relationship and it extends past your one, two, three or four years [at the school].”
Plumlee and Krzyzewski have maintained close contact since the center was drafted No. 22 overall by the Brooklyn Nets in 2013.
“We talk [regularly]. We spoke before the playoffs and talk each summer -- we have a great relationship,” Plumlee explained. “He's just somebody who is in your corner once you go to the University. I had a great four years with him and we still talk.”
Plumlee also believes Krzyzewski’s visit is important for current USA head coach Gregg Popovich. The five-time NCAA champion helmed the USA Men’s Basketball team for over a decade, leading the program from 2005 to 2016. With Popovich coaching his first international tournament with the national team, Plumlee believes Krzyzewski can help with the transition.
“It’s great to have him [here],” he said. “I was telling the other guys [on Team USA], it's good for him and Popovich because there's no one that's done it before [aside from Coach K] -- trying to be a head coach of bringing a group of guys together in a month. I think they have a good friendship and that's why he came out.”
Plumlee added, “[Coach K is] obviously interested in seeing us do well. [He mentioned] some small things [to work on personally] but he just wants to make sure that we follow up on what we've done in the past couple of tournaments.”