There are times when there is some tension between players and coaches in basketball. That can happen for a variety of reasons. For LeBron James and Mike Krzyzewski, the tension was present between the two early during their time on Team USA due to a shootaround practice.
An article by Evan Glasspiegel of the New York Post shared an excerpt from Ian O'Connor's book “Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski”, which shed light on an incident that happened between Mike Krzyzewski and LeBron James during the Olympics.
On a bus ride to "a shootaround practice", LeBron James was reportedly "heard complaining" about the event, and it seems as though he thought "the session was unnecessary". Mike Krzyzewski reportedly pulled him aside "immediately", and told LeBron James that he had to "trust" that Krzyzewski wouldn't make the team do anything he didn't "feel is important".
The US would go on to win its first of three Olympic gold medals under Krzyzewski who, at 75, is now in his 42nd and final season at Duke. O’Connor reports on the early tension that existed in the Coach K-LeBron relationship. On one bus ride to a shootaround practice, James was heard complaining that the session was unnecessary.
“If you lose LeBron, you lose the whole enterprise,” one Team USA staffer said. “You can’t have LeBron doing that. They get off the bus and Coach K pulls him aside immediately and says, ‘Look, you have to trust that I’ll never ask you to do something I don’t feel is important. I’m not going to wear you guys out, or put you in a bad situation. You have to trust that we’re doing this for the right reasons.’”
For that staffer, it was a revelatory moment.
“Along the way I always thought to myself, ‘That’s probably the first time LeBron James has been talked to that way,’” they said.
It is clear that Mike Krzyzewski chose to address this issue early, and it's good to talk about disagreements before they become something bigger. Notably, coach Mike Krzyzewski also had a private meeting with Kobe Bryant after he got called out by LeBron James over his shot selection, so it's clear that Krzyzewski is someone that tries to resolve problems within the team quickly.
There is no question that the Olympic team in 2008 wouldn't be as successful without coach Mike Krzyzewski's guidance. LeBron James and Mike Krzyzewski are clearly past this incident, with LeBron James once expressing that he hopes the coach is still at Duke when Bronny James is eligible to play. Perhaps one day, we'll see Bronny James do well under Mike Krzyzewski's guidance just like LeBron James.