The Nets Reportedly Wanted Mike Krzyzewski to Coach a Superteam Involving LeBron James

Instead of their current Big 3, what would have happened if the Brooklyn Nets tried buying a title with Mike Krzyzewski and LeBron James?

Now in fairness, both would have joined the then-New Jersey Nets. But yes, the Nets and former owner Mikhail Prokhorov once reportedly showed tremendous interest in hiring Krzyzewski, the legendary Duke men’s basketball coach.

Mike Krzyzewski was linked to the then-New Jersey Nets in 2010

LeBron James (L) and Mike Krzyzewski
Could LeBron James (L) and Mike Krzyzewski have teamed up on the Nets in 2010? | Ricky Chung/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Even amid an ugly season that ended with a 12-70 record, the New Jersey Nets carried some intrigue during the 2009-10 campaign.

Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, made an offer to buy a controlling interest in the Nets in September 2009. The NBA officially approved his bid in May 2010, three months after Michael Jordan took over the Charlotte Bobcats.

In addition to building an arena in Brooklyn, Prokhorov had his sights on assembling a superteam. Not only did he intend to pursue Dwayne Wade and LeBron James in free agency, the billionaire also reportedly wanted to hire Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

As NJ.com wrote in June 2021, Krzyzewski dealt with those rumors in the early months of 2010. Although reports suggested the Nets would pay Krzyzewski up to $15 million a year, the longtime college basketball head coach shot down the idea he would join Prokhorov and the Nets.

“The guy’s Russian, right? You think he’d hire a Polish guy. No one’s contacted me, and if they do, I think ‘nyet’ would be easy for me to say.”

Mike Krzyzewski

With Krzyzewski staying in college, the Nets hired Avery Johnson, the former Dallas Mavericks head coach, in the summer of 2010. 

Krzyzewski coaching the Nets could have changed NBA history

Prokhorov had lofty goals when he took over the Nets, and it is easy to see why he wanted Krzyzewski. The idea of Coach K taking over the Nets in the spring of 2010 is still a fascinating what-if in NBA history.

Would Krzyzewski’s presence have lured James to the Nets that summer? The Nets were the first team James met with during the free agency period. Don’t forget that Krzyzewski coached James at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and Jay-Z still held an ownership stake in the Nets.

Would Jay-Z and Coach K have been enough to sway James and another superstar to New Jersey? Imagine the Nets trading for Carmelo Anthony in the fall of 2010 instead of acquiring Deron Williams in February 2011.

If you believe in the NBA lottery being rigged, one has to wonder if Krzyzewski’s presence would have allowed the Nets to earn the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft. Remember, the Nets slipped to third despite their horrific record. Maybe the NBA decides it can’t pass up a pairing of Krzyzewski and Kentucky point guard John Wall.

The Nets fans who sat through 12-70 and the Kris Humphries glory years might be irate right now. We don’t blame them.

Krzyzewski made the right choice sticking with Duke

Krzyzewski chose to stay at Duke, and James opted to sign with the Miami Heat. Neither should regret their decisions.

Duke’s men’s basketball team won the national title in 2010 and 2015. However, the Blue Devils have not returned to the Final Four since their victory over Wisconsin in the 2015 National Championship game.

Both figures could be in the twilights of their current careers. Krzyzewski will step down from Duke after the 2021-22 season, and James turns 37 in December.

The good news for Nets fans? If Kyrie Irving doesn’t leave the team to work on an iPhone app that would prove the world is flat, the Nets should remain a title contender for the seasons ahead.

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