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Blue Devils fans anxious, but Coack K will not depart

July 04, 2004

For all of the long weekend he has held them locked in agonized suspense, from the baskethead to the Blue Devil with pitchfork in hand. The clock is winding down in Mike Krzyzewskiville, and, by God, the coach is going to let their stomachs quiver right to the last buzzer.

What's it going to be?

Duke or the Lakers?

They don't dare breathe. They whisper prayers. Silent promises are made.

Will he leave?

Don't worry, Coach K has his world exactly where he wants it.

It's become a rite of summer the way America's college-basketball coaches sing this song of longing. They beg to be cradled by an adoring public, have tender ego stroked, to be told how wonderful they are, how needed they are.

Then, when words can't express the love quite like an annuity or a low-interest loan, they gush like beauty queens when handed three more years on a $1 million contract.

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Then everybody sighs, and summertime rolls blissfully along.

Now Mike Krzyzewski, of 10 Final Fours and Duke and all that is good and decent about college basketball, is singing that song himself, the one once performed annually by the Rick Majerus Chorus. And as he does, the heart of his Blue Devils empire does a flop.

There are 8 million reasons a year as to why Coach K might be tempted to replace Coach Karma on Staples Center's sideline. But the thought of K on the Lakers' bench is so preposterous someone ought to smash the turntable before the music plays too long and the song of love goes off-key.

No sane man should want the Lakers job. It is nothing but failure cloaked in Armani and sent wobbling across a red carpet of Hollywood glitter. The inheritor of Big Chief Triangle's place on the Lakers sideline will find not a championship team but the frayed remains of basketball's last great supernova, run by the newly anointed prince who points fingers at what he doesn't like and immediately wishes it away.

Phil Jackson. Gone. Shaquille O'Neal. Gone.

Kobe Bryant claps, and Lakers owner Jerry Buss keeps running to his shooting guard's feet, arms laden with gifts, all in the hope that Bryant won't choose to spend the rest of his basketball life in Phoenix, Denver or - gasp - with the Clippers.

So desperate is Buss to make his young star happy that he is willing to give his team and his power to a player who could be three months away from a long-term contract with the state of Colorado's correctional system.

Imagine Coach K leaving the cocoon he built, the one that brings him almost any player that he desires until he is assured of being occupied for at least three weeks of every March.

Imagine him giving all this up for the Lakers without O'Neal, without Karl Malone and possibly without Kobe. Eight million dollars for an empire of Gary Payton and Bryant's handpicked serfs.

This will not happen.

By weekend's end, white smoke will not billow from the chimney at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Everyone can relax: Mike Krzyzewski is staying put.

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