I was sealing the grout in my kitchen floor last night and decided I needed some background noise to break the tedium. I flipped on the TV and there was the US basketball team, playing an exhibition game against Puerto Rico. The last time I watched our national team play the Puerto Ricans, they were kicking our ass in the ’04 Olympics. It was ugly and embarrassing.
Last night’s game was the exact opposite. It a textbook example of beautiful basketball by our men as they destroyed their outmatched rivals by 45 points.
Just the other day, I read another article (I don’t remember who wrote it and it’s not worthy of a Googling to find it) where the author smugly noted how Mike Krzyzewski was an idiot for asking his players to actually play hard and dominate all four quarters of a game. Some hack sportswriter actually thinks he knows better than Coach K. Well, if you watched any of last night’s game, you know damn well that K not only knows what he is doing, but he has gotten through to this team. He knows that when you have the better team, full of superior athletes, that you can demoralize your opponents by not letting them do anything on offense. I’ve seen Duke do it a million times and I saw it again last night – the US defenders were pressuring the ball and then jumping into passing lanes. Puerto Rico couldn’t even make the first pass to set up their offense so they panicked. Steal, run, dunk. Steal, run, dunk. It was gorgeous. Offensive explosion through defense.
And the notion that they can’t play that way for a whole tournament? Please. The team has 12 players and every single one of them will play significant minutes. International games are just 40 minutes long instead of the 48 minutes of an NBA game. The tournament will consist of fewer than a dozen games compared to the NBA season of 82 plus the playoffs. Our guys will NOT burn out and they will NOT lose this tournament.
Maybe it’s not all Krzyzewski. He is very fortunate to have come in at a time when a new wave of young stars is taking over the league – young players who are not only better than the previous generation, but they have better attitudes as well. These guys want to prove themselves and they want to dominate every quarter. This isn’t Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury and Paul Pierce hogging the ball, it’s Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony sharing the ball and playing as a team. It’s scary.
And it’s beautiful.

Dean Smith And Jim Valvano

The friendship that developed between Jim Valvano and Mike Krzyzewski after Valvano retired from NC State is well chronicled. Coach K and his wife are still quite active in the various V Foundation activities in the area.
The boys at The Red and White From State have dug up a story that sheds a little light on the relationship between V and Dean Smith. Now, Smith was never a terribly social man and wasn’t really a favorite of his coaching peers, but that didn’t keep Valvano from asking for (and receiving) a big favor from Coach Smith. It’s a cool little story.
BTW, Dean Smith was just chosen as one of the first five selections to the new National College Basketball Hall of Fame. If they are only going to pick five people a year (and that’s the only reason why I can think of for why only five are in the first class), it’s going to take them a while to get all of the worthy candidates in the Hall. Maybe that’s the point, to help keep the inductions relevant for several years.