The Los Angeles Lakers have contacted Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has directed one of college basketball's most successful program's during the past quarter-century, about replacing Phil Jackson, according to the school's athletic director.
"Coach [Krzyzewski] has informed us that the Los Angeles Lakers have contacted him and entered into serious discussions to fill their vacant head coaching position," said Duke athletic director Joe Alleva in a written statement.
At an afternoon press conference, Alleva said he could not offer any details about the discussions between the Lakers and Krzyzewski.
Lakers public relations director John Black said in a statement that general manager Mitch Kupchak has had discussions with Krzyzewski. "However, in keeping with team policy the organization will not comment on the discussions or answer questions related to it," the statement said.
The Lakers reportedly had narrowed their search to former Houston Rockets' coach Rudy Tomjanovich, Miami Heat president Pat Riley and Jackson's former assistants, Jim Cleamons and Kurt Rambis.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that Tomjanovich was the team's leading candidate.
NBA teams in the past have contacted Krzyzewski, who has led the Blue Devils to three NCAA championships in his 24 seasons at Duke, said Rod Thorn, president and general manager of the New Jersey Nets. "You know Mike has had a bunch of opportunities to come into the NBA," said Thorn. "He's always told people he wasn't interested. Maybe this time he is."
Following a season that saw the Lakers lose in an NBA finals for the first time in their last four tries, the club began searching for a new coach after informing Jackson that he would not be asked to return next season.
Duke is unlikely to let Krzyzewski go without making a bid to keep him, Alleva said.
The Associated Press reported in April that Krzyzewski's base salary for the year that ended June 2003 was $800,000 and total compensation was $875,048. That marked a 33 percent decrease from the previous year in which he earned a total of $1.3 million.
Krzyzewski's salary rose in 2001-02 when the coach signed what amounted to a lifetime coaching contract at Duke, the AP reported. An endorsement contract with sneaker company Nike was not included in those figures.
Krzyzewski, 57, dined recently with Alleva and Duke president Richard Brodhead. The two school administrators met with him "to express at the highest level our desire for him to finish his coaching career at Duke" Alleva said in the written statement.
Krzyzewski has amassed a 621-179 record in 24 seasons at Duke, leading the Blue Devils to championships in 1991, 1992, and 2001. Under Krzyzewski, Duke made 10 final four appearances and won eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships and 10 ACC conference regular-season titles