Coach K hopes to fade to black with gold

USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said this will be the final year he will coach the Olympic basketball team. If he wins gold Sunday in London, he’ll tie Henry Iba as the only U.S. coach to lead the Americans to gold medals in consecutive Olympics. Enlarge photo

Charles Krupa/Associated Press file photo

USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said this will be the final year he will coach the Olympic basketball team. If he wins gold Sunday in London, he’ll tie Henry Iba as the only U.S. coach to lead the Americans to gold medals in consecutive Olympics.

LONDON – Mike Krzyzewski’s last game as U.S. coach will be for an Olympic gold medal.

As the American men’s team prepared to play Spain for the Olympic title, Krzyzewski told The Associated Press the game will be his final one as national coach, a position he has held for seven years.

Krzyzewski had left open the possibility of staying with the team beyond the London Games, but before practice Saturday he said these will be his last Olympics.

When asked if he was sure, Krzyzewski didn’t hesitate before again saying, “Yes,” this will be his last game.

Krzyzewski, who has led Duke to four NCAA championships, took over the U.S. team in 2005. In the last seven years, he has restored the powerful American program, which was in disarray after a third-place finish at the 2004 Athens Games.

However, led by Krzyzewski, the U.S. got redemption and a gold medal four years ago in China, won the world championships in 2010 and can win gold again by beating Spain.

“If we can win it, then it would be three major championships in a row, which I don’t know when that’s been done because we haven’t usually won the world championships,” Krzyzewski said. “It would be a huge thing for our program.”

Although he won’t take credit, Krzyzewski’s impact on the U.S. program has been immense.

“It goes beyond what has happened on the floor,” said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, who hired Krzyzewski to run the U.S. team. “He’s been so important to me in everything we’ve done in building the infrastructure and philosophy and standards – all of it. His legacy goes beyond the record on the court. We’re 52-1, I guess since this all began, and hopefully we’ll be 53-1 after (Sunday). That’s a legacy in itself.”

Colangelo was asked if can persuade Krzyzewski to remain as coach.

“Chances are not,” he said. “But we’ll have to have that conversation on an official basis. He’s said this is it, and I’ll respect his choice. But knowing me as I know me, I’ll have that conversation, and we’ll see.”

With a win Sunday, Krzyzewski would join Henry Iba (1964, 1968) as the only U.S. coach to lead the Americans to gold medals in consecutive Olympics.