RIO DE JANEIRO — A decade-plus of persistent worry finally ends Sunday night for Michael William Krzyzewski.
The coach who lugs a 75-game winning streak into the gold-medal men’s basketball game of these Rio Olympics insists that he most certainly does fret and sweat about every single one of these outings.
Even if only eight of those 75 Ws in a row were decided by single digits.
“I worry all the time, believe me,” Krzyzewski says. “It’s part of being a coach … to worry. Worry does not mean not have confidence. Worry is making sure we keep moving along and giving positive energy to one another and that no one gets hurt. That type of thing.
“Worry means that you think the other guy’s good. If you’re not worried, you’re an idiot. If you don’t think you can be beat, then you’re not a real smart guy.”
“Now we all know.”
Reporters have likewise been trying — and failing — for weeks to get Krzyzewski to engage them in some semblance of a substantive rewind through these past 11 years of rebounding alongside USAB chairman and close friend Jerry Colangelo.
To reflect on the journey that’s taken the red, white and blue from finishes of sixth, third and third in three successive major international competitions — 2002 Worlds, 2004 Olympics, 2006 Worlds — back to untouchable again.
To get a sense of how much the ride to restoring national pride on hardwood has meant to him.
To assist with assessing his USAB legacy.
“I don’t see a legacy,” Krzyzewski will say.
Or: “I don’t do that. I never do that.”
Or: “We’re going someplace I don’t want to think about right row. This can’t be about, ‘This is my last time.’ Carmelo can’t think of it as his chance to win a third gold medal. There will be time for reflection. But not now.”
Krzyzewski will say, no matter how creative the queries get, that he’s “not in a reflective mood.”
The reflecting is thus left to others, until Team USA actually wins this thing and takes off on Sunday night’s return flight to the States, but that’s OK.
Reached this week by ESPN.com, freshly retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was eager to revisit the history Krzyzewski shuns, hearkening back to the Redeem Team in 2008 in Beijing that — with Kobe making his national-team debut — brought the bronze-ing to a halt.
“Coach K brought the pride of being an American back to the team,” Bryant told me.
“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.”