Fayetteville Observer reporter Bret Strelow made a recent appearance on the David Glenn Show, where he spoke about the hectic offseason for Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the Duke coaching staff, as well as a little analysis about some of the ACC players who were selected in this year’s NBA Draft. Check out our latest insider Q and A with one of the top sports journalists in the state of North Carolina.
What is the best summary of what has filled Coach K’s calendar in the offseason?
A lot of different things. He mentioned it’s a good problem to have, but last year they lose to Mercer (in the first round of the NCAA Tournament). This year, the season goes on 16 days longer, which is what every coach and player would like to have. You win a national title. You go deeper, into early April, and then what comes of that are public celebrations, all that kind of thing.
The big thing for them, they lose four of their five starters. So they had to rebuild their roster immediately, and hit the road. At that point, they didn’t have Brandon Ingram. They didn’t have Derryck Thornton. They got the big guy out of Florida (Antonio Vrankovic). Jeff Capel admits it was a pretty nervous time. They could celebrate a little bit, but they had to hit the road and really start immediately trying to address who they were going to fill out the 2015-2016 roster with.
Beyond that, the Coach K Academies, camps, unofficial recruiting visits (with Frank Jackson and Trae Young) after the NBA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville. Coach K went to New York for the John Thompson Award, presented by the NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches), and he went to Las Vegas to speak to thousands of people out there. It’s a nonstop thing. It’s better than the alternative, but it’s definitely not sitting around or playing golf, even though that’s not something that Coach K does.
True or false? Coach K does not tweet, but he does follow people on Twitter, including his own players.
He does. And even does a little bit on Instagram too. You have a lot of people out there, the John Caliparis of the world, who are pretty visible on Twitter. And whether it’s always them, or an assistant tweeting from that account, you’re never quite sure. I think he likes to keep a low profile there, but I think most of those guys are pretty well-behaved. I’m trying to figure out if he was a Cubs fan with a K, or something like that. But my primitive searches haven’t been able to unearth who Coach K is out there.
I loved one of the quotes in your article in the Fayetteville Observer (FayObserver.com). Coach K texts his own assistant coaches the words, “We won the national championship.” What’s that all about?
I think they have just been so busy with all those things we discussed a minute ago, and you kind of get lost in the fact that hey, this did happen in early April. As hard as we’re working now, there is a reward. And this is why we work this hard, and this is why we’re doing all these things. Because there is that carrot of a national championship. So let’s not lose sight of kind of what all this can produce, and has produced for us.
At the conclusion of his interview with David Glenn, Strelow broke down several ACC players as a preview of the NBA Draft. A total of 12 former league standouts ultimately got drafted.
Strelow indicated prior to the Draft that he would have selected former Duke point guard Tyus Jones over Notre Dame star Jerian Grant.
Jones went No. 24 to the Cleveland Cavaliers before getting traded to his hometown Minnesota Timberwolves, while Grant was taken No. 19 by the Washington Wizards before getting dealt to the New York Knicks.
On why he would have taken Jones over Grant, Strelow replied, “Seeing him (Jones) go above and beyond every level, where I thought he wasn’t quick enough or tall enough, and scoring on big guys at the AAU level or college, with the way he can create contact. He’s going to have to prove me wrong first.”
Another ACC player was drafted and subsequently traded, as Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton was taken in the second round by the Brooklyn Nets, and dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Nets stuck with their first round choice — former Syracuse one-and-done Chris McCullough — who they took with the No. 29 pick. Strelow provided his thoughts about both former ACC standouts.
“I think Pat Connaughton really helped himself at the (Draft) Combine. I think Chris McCullough, he’s this unknown that got hurt early in his freshman year. But he’s a guy (that got took in the first round) because of his potential, and what a big recruit he is.”
On Louisville’s Terry Rozier, who was selected by the Boston Celtics with the No. 16 pick, Strelow said, “I like what he can do defensively to create offense. I think he’s a guy who played point guard most of his life, but they didn’t really need him at that position last year before Louisville had some issues with (Chris) Jones leaving, and starting a freshman (Quentin Snider).”
On former Virginia sharpshooter Justin Anderson, who the Dallas Mavericks took with the No. 21 selection, Strelow said, “I like Justin Anderson for what he can be. I need to see him shoot better from 3-point range for more than just one year. His numbers took such a jump that I think he will be a solid pro. But I think it’s hard to expect him to shoot at the level he did last year. And I don’t even blame that on the hand injury he had. I just think I need to see more out of him to see him jump up to the level of the other guys (who got drafted).”
Strelow said he didn’t blame some of the other ACC players, such as North Carolina’s J.P. Tokoto and NC State’s Trevor Lacey, who made controversial decisions to come out for the NBA Draft despite having remaining collegiate eligibility, and despite no assurances that they’d get drafted.
Tokoto did get selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the No. 58 pick — where he’ll team up with former nemesis Jahlil Okafor of Duke — while Lacey did not get selected.
“I don’t have a problem with the decisions they made,” Strelow replied. “We think they’re not an NBA player immediately, or they’re a failure when there’s only 400 of those spots available. Some of these guys are older. Some of them are just ready to be done with school. Lorenzo Brown bounced around, but when it was time for him to go, it worked out. James Michael McAdoo, he wasn’t getting drafted, but he just had a year he’ll never forget. For us to determine these guys’ paths — I don’t blame guys who are 22, 23, who want to start getting paid when their professional clock is ticking.”
On Okafor, who was the ACC’s highest selection at No. 3, Strelow mentioned his advanced offensive game while also pointing out that defense could be a potential concern.
“I do think defense will be an issue for Okafor in the NBA,” he said. “We all made a big deal about the Miami game, and I think that was proof that he needs to improve in that area. But I think he will still be a very good player with as elite of an offensive skill level as he has. They will be able to force Okafor into more of those high pick-and-roll situations that he needs to improve on.”