City Sports Report

Coach Mike Krzyzewski greets the media at the Final Four

Coach K greeting the media (photo courtesy of www.mlive.com)

Duke head coach Mike Kyzyzewski has his team in the Final Four yet again in his illustrious coaching career. He met with the media in Indianapolis and discussed a few things, including his thoughts on one-and-done players and his relationship with senior guard Quinn Cook.

” COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we’re anxious to get to the shoot here in
front of people. I think one of the great things that’s been added to
the event is our ability, all the teams, to practice yesterday and get
a feel for the court. Then you do the thing today with the fans, and
then you still have a shoot-around tomorrow. I think that’s great.
We’re in good health. We’re ready to go. So, questions.

Q. How has your relationship with Quinn evolved, especially in the
last year? Did something happen before last season with the two of you
or with the staff, et cetera, when it comes to Quinn?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We’ve always had a good relationship. It’s not just
a certain player, but any leader of our past teams, when you have
leaders, you get to be a little bit closer to them because it’s not
just about X’s and O’s, it’s just how you’re living as a group. Right
at the end of last season, after the season, we sat down with all of
our players. With Quinn, we talked about the fact that here is this
class that’s coming in. Tyus is one of the really good point guards.
People think of you as a point guard. They just put you in there. But
you have been a guard for us. You’re our best shooter. You’re going to
be our oldest player. Where does that fit? How does that fit? I tried
to explain what I thought. And he said, Yeah, that’s how I would fit.
I said, I’m going to depend on you. He’s taken that to the highest
level. So along through the season, yeah, you just become really close
to somebody. It’s like the frequency of contact and intimacy, intimate
situations, tough situations, that a relationship grows. We have an
unbelievable relationship.

Q. Coach Izzo, I asked him about how far back you two go. He talked
about recruiting Chris Webber. What do you remember about the early
times with Coach Izzo?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we were both unsuccessful. I guess that’s the
first thing (laughter). Tom is a guy’s guy. He’s on a staff where I
respected Jud Heathcote, always loved Jud. Respected Michigan State
when Jud was the coach and obviously when Tom has been the coach.
Basically, there were no errors about him. He’s genuine, a genuine
guy. He wasn’t trying to manipulate or anything like that. Then he
gives back, the coaching fraternity, whether it be on the board of the
NABC. He’s a team player. You get to know the guys who are team
players better who are in your profession. I mean, I’m sure you do in
your own profession. He’s the ultimate guy for that. I don’t think
there’s a guy out there who would say something even the slightest
negative about Tom.

Q. You’ve been to so many Final Fours. Is there something you’ve done
at every Final Four? I don’t mean in a superstitious way, but
something you found that helps your team when you get to a level like
this? And how different is the Final Four now from what it was the
first time you went to one?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I’ll take the second question first. It’s changed a
lot. It keeps improving. One, the stature of it keeps growing because
our game keeps growing. That’s a really good thing. Then the
organizers of the event. How the NCAA puts it on, it keeps getting
better. I think the influence of Dan Gavitt and JoAn Scott on this
Final Four has been remarkable. You can see a lot of new things that
have been placed, where it’s for the players. The locker rooms, just
everything. It keeps getting better. How the teams are treated. I just
talked about the ability to come into the gym, really get comfortable
with the gym. I think earlier it was more like ‘being used’ is too
harsh, but it wasn’t player-sensitive, it wasn’t team-sensitive as
much as it is now. I think the players are well, well taken care of.
They have an amazing experience. Again, this is a harsher word,
they’re not exploited. I wish I had a softer word. But even like last
night, we went to the thing they do for the fans. I don’t know what
they call that. Fan Fest. Tough word (laughter). It was beautiful. It
was just beautiful. It was for all the teams so they weren’t
inundated. We went to Salute presentation. Instead of it being long
and drawn out, Jim Nantz, CBS, Turner, all those people made the kids
feel good. As far as how we’ve changed, the first time you don’t know
what the heck you’re going in to. I think the main thing that we’ve
done is we refer to what was good for us when we left, how we
traveled, when we practiced, that type of thing, what we did while we
were in the Final Four. It’s a combination of all those things. It’s
more of an evolution of what you do. The main thing is how good the
NCAA, how good they’ve been. Again, I want to mention Dan Gavitt and
JoAn Scott again. They’ve been great.

Q. Mike, John has gotten some criticism for the number of one-and-done players.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: John Calipari?

Q. Yes. It’s not a phenomenon unique to Kentucky. Do you think it’s
fair, the criticism he’s got? How much of a reality does it have to be
for coaches now, knowing that you’re going to have some kids only
there for a year?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think a lot of criticism we get as players and
coaches is not right. Look, it’s there. What, are you going to
discriminate against one-and-done? Where are these kids going to go?
How well can they be taken care of? When we recruit a kid, we don’t
say, You’re one-and-done, but we recognize he could be. Basically you
say, Look, when you’re here at our school, you’re going to have to go
to class, you’re going to have to move forward towards a degree at
Duke. We don’t have athletic dorms. You’re going to be a student. If
they qualify and adhere to all that, that’s good. One thing, in
college today, there are many kids who are not graduating from
college, who find something in a profession before the end of four
years, to do something. The other thing is I think our sport, I have a
Sirius XM show that I’ve had for 10 years. This past week we had Mike
Trout on. Like at 17, he was playing minor league baseball. He’s 23,
and he’s the best player maybe in the Major Leagues. They have their
things where you either go out of high school or you come for three
years. He shouldn’t be criticized for that. I say that, and we
shouldn’t be either, you know. Our kids are good, they become
successful, we have no control over that. The next time there’s a
Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Players’ Association and
the NBA owners, I’m sure that will come up. It seems like they’re at
two opposite ends of that. I think Adam and the NBA would like two,
and from what initially has come out from counsel from the players
union is they would like kids to come right out of high school. To me,
that’s a pretty big variance.

Q. When you look at Jahlil, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Frank, is this
the best collection of big men in a Final Four? If not, what would you
say rival it? Are the best big four men playing here in Indianapolis?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I’m not as good a basketball historian to remember
who was in all these Final Fours. I will speak to this Final Four. You
have a great collection of big men. I mean, Jah is just an amazing
talent who is only going to get better. In Frank, I think it’s one of
those great collegiate stories where you come in, like that kid’s not
going to be that good. Well, he’s pretty good. Well, he’s great. What
a neat story with that. Towns is a little bit more like Jah. He’s an
amazing talent, great kid. Willie Cauley-Stein is the gifted athlete
at 7′ that was playing a different sport, and John Calipari was able
to see that. That’s a lot of talent here. I’m sure all four of those
guys are looked upon very highly by the NBA.

Q. On the subject you were just talking about, how you identify guys
who could become one-and-dones. With this particular year, this
particular class, was there any reservation at all on your part, these
are great players, we may have to replace as many as three of them
after one year or is that the reality of fielding a championship-type
team at this time?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It wasn’t one-and-done. There were maybe eight to 12
kids that we didn’t recruit each year because we felt they would go
right to the NBA. Most of them did, but some of them didn’t. Then when
one-and-done became in effect, we still didn’t recruit those kids, and
then we started to recruit because we said, Maybe some of them or one
of them could fit the profile for Duke. When I say that, that doesn’t
mean they’re not great kids and all that, but there’s a certain
profile we look for, for whether he’s one-and-done or four years or
whatever. So if we can find kids that fit our profile, we’ll deal with
the consequences of whether they’re there for one, two, three or four
years. I think to get the right kid is the most important. We need to
respond accordingly. If we lose them earlier… You’d always like to
have them stay for the entire time. In a lot of respects, I think the
kids would like to stay that long, too. Financially, it’s very
difficult to make that decision.

Q. You have these four teams here with such a high pedigree. Three of
the four coaches have won championships before. So much of what we’ve
talked about has been this Kentucky team being still undefeated. No
one has done that since the ’70s. Talk about the respect you have for
what Kentucky has been able to do even to this point and what it would
mean historically if a team can go undefeated?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, the other three coaches don’t want him to go
undefeated. We don’t want to be a part of that history. But I said
yesterday, the Kentucky story has been a great story for college
basketball because we’ve talked about a team. I think part of the
marketing of our sport, because it’s not coordinated like the NBA
marketing, it started to shift towards what the NBA does, promoting
individuals, especially the potential one-and-done players. I thought
that was to the detriment of our sport. This year, with Kentucky’s
story, it’s about a team. Hence, you’ve been talking more about other
teams, too. So I think it’s been all good for college basketball.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the concept of clutch performers or
players. Do you think that’s something that is innate, something a guy
has, or is that something that can be developed? Laettner is probably
the all-time —
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: That’s why I love him.

Q. Can you discuss that maybe.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think some of it, it just happens for a youngster.
They have it. They have a certain personality, a certain will. In
order to be a clutch player, you have to be good. First of all, you
won’t be on the court. Secondly, you won’t get a play called for you.
In other words, you see that, you see that with talent. Then as a
coach you try to put talent and attitude in a position that in a
pressure situation you have a better chance of winning if that kid has
the ball. There have been a number of clutch performances by all these
guys, from all four teams. That’s why I made mention of Trice. I think
he’s been a big-time performer. Quinn Cook and Tyus at the end of
games free throw-wise for us. The whole Kentucky team against Notre
Dame. You know, you talk about a lot of clutch plays. But Harrison,
with his shooting… Dekker in their regional championship game. The
constant is they’re talented. They have something about them that
wants to be — they’re willing to accept the consequences of that
play. You know, they’re strong enough to absorb if they don’t do it.
Thank goodness there are players like that.

Q. What have been the traits that have made Jeff Capel a successful recruiter?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: One, he understands a player because he was a
terrific player. He’s been a head coach already, and a very successful
head coach. He is really the one who started the VCU program. When you
look back, when he left to go to Oklahoma, he left some really good
players there. Then he coached one of the best players in college
basketball in Blake Griffin. Yeah, he grew up. His dad’s a terrific
coach. He just understands the game. Jeff is very current. You know,
he knows how to communicate, music-wise, people-wise, sports-wise. I
just think he’s one of the really gifted coaches. And he knows ball.
He was with me and was my main coordinator with the U.S. team when we
won the World Cup in September in Madrid. Really, he’s got everything.
He and I have had an unbelievable relationship this year because of
having lost WoJo and Chris Collins over the last two years.

Q. Elements of college sports are generating large sums of money. The
NCAA makes money. The conferences make money. Yet it seems like the
most important element of the athletic equation, which is the athlete,
continues to go unpaid. Do you ever think there will be a set of
circumstances where the athletes can get compensated for some of the
things they do to make the sports what they are today?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think we’ve moved forward significantly in trying
to do more for the student-athletes. This past year has been a
landmark year for how we feed, how we take care of an athlete on our
campuses. I mean, will there be more? I hope so. I don’t know all the
things like the taxes, what a school does. I’m not familiar enough to
know if being able to get paid would eliminate you from getting funds
and that. But taking care of them, even for this trip, a really cool
thing, we’re on the bus going to the airport in Houston. Our director
of compliance, Todd Mesibov, goes in the back of our bus. He has
forms. He talks to our guys. He said, I got to talk to you about your
families are going to receive $3,000 for travel expenses and that for
the Final Four. If we make it to Monday, they receive another $1,000.
Our guys are like, Wow. Now should that have been done a long time
ago? Yeah. But it’s now being done. How we feed them, what they get
from a scholarship is much more. Hopefully we can keep doing more and
take care of them, to include health benefits afterwards to make sure
that their education is there if they do leave early, that it’s always
paid for, things like that. I wish I was good enough to be able to
explain. If they could get paid, if they can, if it can be worked out,
obviously coaches would be all for it. If not, then let’s keep moving
in the direction that we’re moving, because certainly the players
deserve that.

Q. You spoke yesterday about your relationship with Quinn. What makes
that so special?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, I want to say everything. I love Quinn. He’s
loveable. He and Nolan are real close. Nolan is like his big brother.
He and Nolan both shared a very tragic experience in their lives in
that they lost their fathers, I think Nolan when he was eight or nine,
and Quinn when he was 14. So an older male relationship was voided.
There’s a missing part. I think every coach would say this: When we
recruit kids who have one parent, especially if their father is not a
part of it, they understand there’s going to be a different
relationship. They need to work on that. My middle daughter, Lindy, is
a counselor for our team, she’s a psychologist. We talk about how you
develop a relationship with each kid. When you have that, that’s going
to happen. In Quinn’s case, there’s a damaged heart there. There’s no
question about it. But there’s a beautiful heart there. So I think our
relationship I believe has filled a little bit of that. We believe in
one another. For a whole year, and it just started, he’s the one who
started it, every time we meet as a team and we get together and we
join hands, his hand is in mine. I mean, there are hundreds of times.
And he initiated that. And now I so look forward to it. So, you know,
that’s one of the beautiful things. A beautiful thing if we won the
whole thing, but I’m not sure it would be any more beautiful than
that.

THE MODERATOR: We’re going to stop momentarily and welcome the Duke
players. We’ll continue with questions.

Q. Your opponent Saturday, what it may lack in talent it makes up for
in toughness relative to the number one seeds. Can you talk about that
aspect of who they are, plus the motivating factor of Tom’s record
against Duke and what that means for the challenge that you’re going
to face Saturday night.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, well, the record, I’m not a big guy on records
on Mondays, Tuesdays, coaches, when you were 18. You know, stats are
unbelievable, man. That doesn’t make a difference at all. They’re
going to be ready. You know what, they don’t lack talent. C’mon. I
mean, Trice has been as good a player as there’s been in this
tournament. Branden Dawson is as good an athlete. Valentine is a
versatile a player. I mean, Michigan State is a championship-level
team. They probably should have beaten Wisconsin. They had it if they
called an out of bounds. A guy out of bounds at the end of the game,
they had the Big Ten championship won. It’s a championship-level
program and team. Are you trying to butter us up here or what? I just
told these guys, we just watched them, they looked pretty good, didn’t
they, on tape? Anyway, that’s mine.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: They’re six possessions away from having
30-something wins or being a number one or number two seed. That’s how
crazy our game is, because they’ve been in so many close games.

Q. Mike, concept of servant leadership. I’m sure there have been
leaders who servanthood isn’t number one in their priorities, but how
important is that concept in your mind and can you give a couple of
examples who have been the epitome of that in your career?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I have many examples. I went to a school that is
about servant leadership. The United States military academy. Our
relationship with the military, you might as well say everyone who’s
serving in a leadership role, whether it be Marty Dempsey, Chairman,
Joint Chiefs of Staff, or a platoon sergeant in Afghanistan right now.
To me, that’s where I’ve learned the most. I can’t think of any better
example than that.

Q. Coach, you’ve coached many Final Four teams. What do you think
makes the identity of this year’s team unique?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: The fact that they play as one. They’ve shown up to
play every time. When they’ve been a little bit nervous or weren’t on
top of the games, they were able usually, except for two games in
early January, to turn it around and either win the game or put us in
a position to win the game. They’ve been a really easy group to coach
because they’re believers. But playing as one, and we have talent. So
talent coordinated as one usually produces some good results.

Q. You’ve been to many Final Fours. Obviously the last time you were
here in Indy, the outcome was what you want most out of a season. How
special is it coming back to a place where you’ve won a national
title? What ring do you have on your right finger and does that have
any significance?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: The ring I’m wearing, I actually have more than one
right finger, so I’m not a one-finger guy (smiling). It’s our 2010
national championship ring. I’ve worn it throughout the tournament
just as a reminder to me and to our team of our ultimate goal, to win
a national championship. Usually I don’t wear a ring on my right
fingers, but I did for the tournament. Not for luck or anything, just
as a constant reminder of what it is. To come back here, again, I
think this is the best place to have it. Nothing against any other
place. Yeah, it starts with the state of Indiana. They just love the
game of basketball. Indianapolis is where the NCAA is headquartered.
Everything’s within walking distance. It’s terrific. Yesterday, I
mean, for these guys, it’s your first time in Lucas Oil, it was a huge
thing. What did you guys think of the arena?

Q. Mike, when Tom was up here earlier and I asked him about shooting
in domes, he said he feels like it’s gotten better over the years
because you have situations where it’s not just a court being dropped
someplace, it’s built more for basketball. Has it gotten a little bit
easier or better for shooters? Quinn, can you elaborate on the
challenges for a shooter in a dome.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We like that it’s in a dome because that means more
people are here. I think it’s good for the game. It’s up to players
and coaches to adjust. That’s why I think giving us an opportunity to
practice yesterday for each team, to practice today and shoot tomorrow
during the day, that should be enough really. If we don’t shoot well,
we’re not going to be up here Saturday night saying it was the dome.
It will be Michigan State, probably. I don’t know how you feel, Quinn.”

Duke versus Michigan State is the first of two HUGE contests at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night. It should be fun to see two great coaches match coaching wits in Krzyzewski and Izzo.

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