City Sports Report

“I love my team. They are a pleasure to be with” Mike Krzyzewski

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Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke with the media after the team’s win over Gonzaga Sunday evening, as Coach K ties John Wooden for most ever with his 12th Final Four appearance.  Below is what Coach Krzyzewski had to say.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah. We played a great team today, and Mark’s kids were a Final Four team, and I think ours is, too, what we are because we won, but what a great matchup. Congratulations to them, especially their seniors who have won over 120 games and represented their university so well. I’m proud of my guys because we beat a hell of a team and our defense the last 16 minutes was spectacular, not good, and I love these guys and they came through. I mean, they came through. So, we’re off to Indy. It’s a nice thing to be able to say.

Coach K, so much is made of the offense, but it seemed like when the tide turned in the second half, the defensive intensity really ratcheted up. Guys switching, and guys sticking with their men, really forcing Gonzaga into bad shots. Can you talk about what you said to get them to dial up the defensive intensity?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Good point. I think for these four games we’ve played outstanding defense and played really good defense in the first half, we had three missed assignments, but look, they average about 80 points a game. They’re the top offensive team in the country, and so we felt good about holding them to 26, and then the start of the first four minutes of the second half we weren’t there for some reason. And after the two timeouts, one we called and one media, our guys responded and they played great defensively. I think they scored 14 points in the last almost 16 minutes, and that’s just collective effort. I thought not giving them transition points. So Quinn being able to find — I got to think Pangos is on of the best guards in the country. He really pushes it down on you. You can get a transition 3s. They only had two 3s and we never turned the ball over. We only had three turnovers. We gave up a live ball turnover the second play of the second half where they tied the score. Other than that, we were so solid defensively. Matt gave us such a huge lift. He’s been that dirty-work guy, and for him to hit those four 3s, it’s like a big difference. The two Texas kids did pretty good today. They got half of our points, more than half, little bit less than half. My math is bad. 32 of our 66 points. They played pretty well.

Q.Much is made about Jahlil Okafor’s offensive prowess. Talk about what he did defensively, especially with Karnowski not being effective.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Good point. His defense in the second half and his defensive rebounding in the second half. So, he was big. They missed a couple shots right around the bucket, but I think a big part of that was Jah being big, wasn’t just like they had a clear path. I think that one that Karnowski missed, I think it was 53-51 or 55-51 and we were able — Jah got it. Like bodied up and got it and we scored. That was a big, big play. So Jah contributed a lot in those 16 minutes defensively.

Q. Coach, you tied Wooden with your 12th Final Four. What does that mean to you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think a little bit like what Quinn is saying. I’m in this moment, you know, I’ve been so lucky to be at Duke for 35 years and in the ACC, and the great players we’ve had and, you know, my past is not important right now. You know, my present is incredibly important and just being with these kids and sharing this moment and this Final Four, I’m so happy. I’m so happy for them and to be with them. They are — look, I’m not saying because we’ve won. I’ve said it the whole year. I love my team. I love my team. They are a pleasure to be with, and as a result they’re taking me to Indy, which is kind of neat.

Q. I know you said you want to stay in the moment. Twelve Final Fours. Is this one a little bit different in that you’ve had such young guys really lead and change and get better and we’ve he seen it in the tournament? Are you still learning, is it possible for you to still learn as a head coach at this stage?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yes. USA Basketball has helped me immensely. A teacher should learn with every new year that he or she has an opportunity to teach, because the students can bring out new things for you. If you’re creative and see their talents and say oh, you know, boy, look how they’re meshing. To have Jah, Tyus curious as a point guard, to see how Quinn has led. That’s what keeps it refreshing, you know, and I’ve learned a lot. My staff, you know, Jeff Capel has been the Associate Head Coach and with me when we won the World Championship in Spain in September in helping out. He’s been masterful, masterful, allowing his personality to be in it. And John Scheyer, his first year. Nate has done a great job. We have a different dynamic as a staff. I think when you stop learning, you should retire, you know, in whatever you do. Learning is what keeps you fresh and so try to learn a little bit more going to Saturday.

Q. Yesterday, Coach, I asked Justise how many people he actually knew here at NRG Stadium. You actually laughed and said you were interested. How impressed are you with the composure he had and the fact that he didn’t let any of the media or the fans or anything really become a distraction? He had one hell of a tournament.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: He had a great tournament. It doesn’t surprise me about Justise. Justise is a very special young man, not just a special basketball player. First of all, he’s the youngest, so the older siblings have taught him well. He has — his mother is one of the great ladies and has been so good to work with in teaching her son. It doesn’t surprise me. He went to St. John’s. He learned to be a total person, not just a basketball player. And he came to Duke and he’s trying to do that at Duke. So, I just think he’s one of the really special young men, you know, playing college sports right now. He’s got this great background.

Q. Coach K, if you look at the stats, it would look somewhat deceptive. You have field goal percentage, you’re minus 7. When you look at turnovers off of points, it’s a plus 15. So, I mean, obviously is it just — were you more pleased with the defensive nature of what you were able to do to turn this team over?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah. And I thought Gonzaga played really good defensively. They were tough to score against, and, you know, three-point shooting in college — in anything but in college basketball is huge. We have six more made 3s. Whatever your percentage of 2s, 8 for 19, 42 percent from 3s, and the fact is, we got shots almost every time we went down the court. So, a couple of them came after offensive rebounds when you did have a miss. That’s where Amile and Marshall I thought gave us some really good, like Amile Jefferson had three offensive rebounds which gave us extra possessions. The fact we only turned it over three times was huge and our three-point shooting was the difference.

Q. Coach, there’s always this perception of Duke as this machine that wins all the time, yet you got players in there talking about how they didn’t know how to cut down the nets. Can you contrast that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We have eight guys. Come on. Four of them are freshmen. It’s the youngest team I’ve ever had. No one would ever say that because we’re Duke or because it’s me. These guys — there are eight guys. There’s not somebody hiding in the locker room that’s going to come out and appear. And four freshmen. They’ve been spectacular. This is such — it’s been such an incredible year. I’ve enjoyed it immensely without thinking about — I hear about people saying disappointments. Anytime you make the NCAA Tournament, it’s not a disappointment. Ask a football team if it goes to a bowl game. Seventy-something football teams go to bowls out of 110. Sixty-eight basketball teams go to the NCAA Tournament out of 350. It’s an amazing honor. We run the gauntlet. We don’t have to win one bowl game or be happy because of it. We’re judged by whether we win or lose in this gauntlet and too much is then forgotten about the journey that each of these teams made, the journey for Gonzaga to get 35 wins. Are you kidding me? But, somebody is going to throw up in them they haven’t gone to a Final Four. Come on. There’s a lot of football teams who haven’t played in a lot of the major bowls or whatever. We should celebrate the accomplishments of all the young men and teams that make this tournament because it’s not a birth right, it’s earned each year.

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