When Mike Krzyzewski was preparing for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, his final event as the head coach of the USA men’s national basketball team, he was joined by Gersson Rosas, new Timberwolves president of basketball operations. Rosas was hired by Jerry Colangelo, the USA Basketball chairman, to be the international player personnel scout.
Krzyzewski, the longtime Duke coach, said the relationship he has built with Rosas leaves him no doubt that Rosas can not only run the Timberwolves, but that he can change the direction of a club that has only one playoff appearance in 15 seasons.
“He’s a completely trustworthy guy. When you’re building a winning culture, one of the main things you need is trust,” Krzyzewski said recently. “You have to believe a person. You can believe him in an instant. If he says it, it is going to happen.”
Time to lead a franchise
Krzyzewski said Rosas has kept in contact after their run at the Olympics.
“When he was looking at possibilities where he might go to, and he said he had a chance with the Timberwolves, we talked even a little bit more when he got it,” Krzyzewski recalled. “I was ecstatic because I thought it was not just a great thing for him but a great thing for the Timberwolves.”
He also said that Rosas leaving the Houston Rockets after 16 years for the Wolves was not a surprise to him.
“He was a very important part of them building a great culture there. He was ready. He was ready to be a leader in his franchise,” Krzyzewski said. “With the change of coaching and the high level change with Thibs [former Timberwovles coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau] leaving, I thought it was a great move on the part of both parties.
“The other thing with him is he has great people skills. The longer he is there, not just with the staff, but with the players on the Timberwolves, I think he can really help in developing a winning culture there.”
Olympics built relationship
The 2016 Olympics were a culmination for Coach K, who was hired after Team USA was embarrassed at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where they finished in third place.
Krzyzewski took the team to gold in 2008, 2012 and 2016. But he said that even though he had years of experience, he still learned a great deal from Rosas in that 2016 campaign in Brazil, which ended with a 96-66 victory over Serbia for the championship.
“Preparing for the Olympics is the ultimate. You are representing your country on the world stage. As important as the world championships are, which the U.S. is getting ready to play in China [this summer], our country puts even more emphasis on the Olympics,” he said. “Having Gersson’s knowledge and support and a feel for the international game, he helped me know the pro player better.
“Even though I coached the U.S. team for 11 years, I’m still a college coach. I would constantly be trying to learn how to interact with the pros, and having Gersson there really helped me in that regard.”
How did Rosas help prepare the squad?
“He served as our international — I wouldn’t call him a scout, as an assistant,” Krzyewski said. “He was there every day. He has great knowledge of the game. But also knowledge of people. He’s a real team player. I was very, very impressed with the input he gave us and the fact that anything that we needed, he did.”
Coach K said one of Rosas’ unique skills was his ability to chart player personalities.
“You can get stats and watch tape but he really knew each player,” he said. “He would talk about the personality of the player. It really helped our U.S. team in preparation. When we gave a scouting report, you could see, even after the scouting report, before a game a lot of guys would interact with him to get a little bit more information. He was always there to give it.”
Still working Minnesota
While Krzyzewski mainly wanted to talk about how happy he was for Rosas, he did mention that his Duke squad is going to have a very good season this year with two big-time Minnesota recruits, Apple Valley sophomore guard Tre Jones and Rochester John Marshall freshman forward Matthew Hurt.
“Tre Jones coming back is terrific, we got Matthew Hurt from Minnesota also. Matthew has had a really good summer,” he said. “We have been lucky to get some of the really great players from Minnesota. They are top-level players, top-level young men.”
He said that with a great number of standout prep basketball players still coming out of the state, he plans to keep recruiting it as hard as he has the past several seasons.
“I have been lucky getting great kids from Minnesota, they have made me look good. Hopefully they make me look great this year,” Krzyzewski said. “There are some other really great players up there and we are looking at them. We’re looking at them.”
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