After a few close calls, the USA Men’s Basketball team emerged from the Olympics with gold medals hanging around their necks. While they entered the tournament as heavy favorites, they struggled early, squeaking by in games that they were expected to dominate. Through it all, Coach Mike Krzyzewski calmly steered the team through rough waters and emerged victoriously.
Coach K owes part of his national team success to recently-retired Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who stepped up in the fourth quarter of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and secured the gold medal for what was dubbed “The Redeem Team,” a squad put together to end the streak of losses that had occurred in three successive international competitions. Bryant then helped bring home another gold medal in the 2012 Olympics in London, cementing Coach K’s spot at the helm.
Of course, it was Coach K’s impressive efforts that allowed so many superstars, Bryant included, to come together as a cohesive unit working toward a common goal. After the USA dispatched Serbia to win gold on Sunday, Bryant spoke with ESPN.com about how Coach K was able to make such a huge impact:
“Coach K brought the pride of being an American back to the team. He brought in army vets and generals to speak with us and share their stories. He helped us see that we, as athletes, are an inspiration to the men and women that protect the freedoms we enjoy. That is the biggest impact[…]The gold medal now meant so much more. When we won [in Beijing], I envisioned our troops abroad celebrating. I did it for them. That’s the perspective Coach K brought. He made it not about us but about the U.S.”
Bryant’s words illustrate just how talented Coach K is. Whether it’s at Duke working with student-athletes or the multi-millionaires that populate Team USA, he finds a way to connect to every player on the team.
For the Lakers, the team’s two primary small forwards, Luol Deng and Brandon Ingram, both played for Coach K at Duke. Deng will be tasked with mentoring Ingram this coming season, and Los Angeles has to hope that he learned a few tricks while under Coach K’s tutelage.