Coach K ‘strong-armed’ Kyrie Irving from playing for Australia

Aug 6, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; United States guard Kyrie Irving (10) runs to the court before the game against China in the men’s basketball group A preliminary round during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Team USA’s starting point guard Kyrie Irving has been a key player for the Americans this year, but it almost wasn’t meant to be. If not for the efforts of head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Irving would have been playing for Australia as a young man.

Speaking with Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports, Irving related an interesting story about how Krzyzewski “strong-armed” him into not playing for the Aussies in the Olympics. As a 17-year-old native Australian, he was thinking about playing for his home country when the coach told him he needed to change his perspective and “think bigger.”

“It was very serious,” Irving said of how close he came to playing for Australia, which would’ve later made him ineligible to play for the nation where he grew up. “It was a legit thing, until Coach K intervened. He strong-armed me. As a young fella, he did tell me I had a chance to be a part of something bigger than myself. He said, ‘You could be the starting point guard on the U.S. Olympic team.’ I never thought it would happen as soon as it has, but I had aspirations and dreams of being a guard on an Olympic team.”

One wonders how Irving felt about Coach K when he missed out on playing for Team USA in 2012. He was being considered for that squad but ultimately was left off the roster — a bitter pill to swallow, especially in light of this information.

But eventually he did make it onto the American squad and has become a tremendous leader already for the latest edition of the “Dream Team.”

Irving and the Americans narrowly avoided an early upset against Australia during Wednesday’s action. Just like he did against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, Irving came up big in the fourth quarter to down the Aussies and help lead Team USA to a 98-88 win.