Commentary

Old K, new tricks

In 2008, Coach K struggled to land a Top-25 recruiting class. This year, he got the No. 2 crop. So what changed?

Updated: November 15, 2011, 1:04 PM ET
By Elena Bergeron | ESPN The Magazine
Mike Krzyzewski and Kyrie IrvingLance King/Icon SMICoach K's handling of Irving's one-and-done season has given him new cred among five-star recruits with an eye on the NBA.

This story appears in the Nov. 28, 2011 "One Day, One Game" issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Teenagers have short attention spans. And as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski can attest, their memories are even shorter.

Coach K's soon-to-be record for D1 wins (903), not to mention his four national championships, make him a surefire Hall of Famer. While you'd think success like that would guarantee a steady stream of top recruits, Krzyzewski has actually been waging a hard-fought battle the past few years to get back to where he is now: opening the season with five of the nation's top 50 recruits.

"No matter what Duke has accomplished before, the current kid I'm recruiting is thinking in the moment," says Krzyzewski.

Three years and 97 wins ago, it seemed that recruits had all but forgotten Krzyzewski's 10 Final Fours. Instead, they remembered only that the Blue Devils hadn't seen a Final Four in four seasons and were coming off back-to-back exits on the first weekend of the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Tournaments.

Heading into the summer of 2008, Krzyzewski was becoming noted in recruiting circles more for the prospects he'd missed out on (Greg Monroe, John Wall) than the ones he'd landed (Brian Zoubek, Taylor King). So when he left to coach Team USA in the Beijing Olympics, the Cameron Indoor faithful questioned whether Krzyzewski should instead be doggedly pursuing top prospects.

Turns out, working with pros was a more effective recruiting tool than stalking preps.


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