Mike Krzyzewski, the great Duke basketball coach was at Apple Valley on Thursday to watch two of his star recruits for the Class of 2014, Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones and Chicago Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor. While naturally being impressed by those two players, both ranked in the top five nationally, he had time to sing the praises of Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, whom he coached on a world championship team and an Olympic winner in 2012.
“I love the fact that he’s committed himself,” Krzyzewski said. “[Love] was a member of our world championship team in Istanbul in 2010, and then a key member of our Olympic team in London and will continue to play for the United States.
“It shows his commitment to the game, to improvement, to his country. I think he has embraced being here in Minnesota. I think he loves the people here and wants to help build a special team. I love Kevin, no pun intended, I love Kevin Love. I would always want Kevin Love on my team.”
Krzyzewski said nobody in the NBA can consistently get 25 points and 15 rebounds per game the way Love does. And Love continued his amazing start to the season Friday night by scoring 42 points and pulling down 14 boards — his league-best 21st double-double and his 13th in a row — in a 117-110 loss to San Antonio. Since 1985-86, no other player has started a season with 21 double-doubles in 22 games.
“[Rockets forward] Dwight Howard probably is the next closest to do that,” Krzyzewski said. “But Kevin is not 6-11. He’s probably 6-8, 6-9, but he’s tough and he’s really smart. He can play inside and outside; for our team he can play center, he can play the four, the stretch four. He’s really, I think, one of the stars in the NBA right now.”
The different college basketball recruiting sites have already declared Duke’s 2014 class as one of the best ever because of the commitments by Jones and Okafor.
“We have had good recruiting classes before and I don’t really remember where they were all ranked, but the freshman class that we have coming in next year is going to be one of the better ones,” Krzyzewski said. “You know, we’ve had a class that had Shane Battier and Elton Brand in it. We had a class that had Mike Dunleavy, Jason Williams and Carlos Boozer. The cool thing about that is when we’ve had those classes, we’ve won a national championship. I hope that equates to what’s going to happen with these guys, because they certainly could have a championship level.”
Krzyzewski will enter his 40th year of coaching in 2014, and he was asked how long he thinks he’ll continue coaching the game he loves.
“I’m trying to beat you as far as how long you still have a radio show and writing,” kidded Krzyzewski, who is a close personal friend. “I don’t think I’ll go that long. But I love where I’m at. I love being at Duke and being able to recruit not only some of the best players in the country but some of the great young men in our country. I’ve really been fortunate to be at a school like Duke that attracts good players but also really special kids.”
Krzyzewski did say that the 2016 Olympics in Brazil will be his last with Team USA.
“I said that before and I lied, I didn’t know I was lying when I said it,” he said. “One of the reasons that I stayed on is because Jerry Colangelo stayed on. I think Jerry has done a magnificent job as the managing director for USA Basketball and it has been an honor for me to work with him for the past eight years.”
Memories of Philadelphia
The Vikings are facing the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, only the 21st regular-season meeting between the two franchises. But in 1968, Bud Grant’s second season as coach, the Vikings faced the Eagles in one of their biggest regular-season games in team history.
The Vikings were 7-6 heading into the final game and they needed a victory at Philadelphia and a Green Bay Packers win at Chicago — who was also 7-6 — to get into the playoffs and win the NFL Central Division.
The Vikings fell behind 7-0 on a Norm Snead touchdown pass, but Joe Kapp responded with two touchdown passes of his own — including a 57-yarder to Bill Brown — and the Vikings took a 14-7 lead which they would never give back in winning 24-17.
The Bears and Packers game was not broadcast in Philadelphia, so after the Vikings won I called a radio station in Chicago and over the phone I was able to broadcast what was happening between Chicago and Green Bay to the Vikings players and staff in the locker room.
The Bears fell behind early to Green Bay, looking at a 28-10 deficit going into the fourth quarter. But Chicago would rally to score 17 unanswered points to make the Vikings sweat out the final few minutes. The Bears would eventually lose 28-27 and the Vikings advanced to the Western Conference championship game, which they lost to the Baltimore Colts 24-14.