Mike Krzyzewski had a chance to assist with the legendary 1992 Dream Team, the first U.S. Olympic Team to feature NBA players. That team was coached by former Vic Bubas assistant Chuck Daly. Daly told Krzyzewski that there was one word that would be key to his coaching career, a word he should embrace. That word was “ignore.” As in ignore all the noise, all the sidebars, all the distractions and concentrate on the task at hand.
“As long as it’s done, it’s done,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday. “Let’s talk about that some more? Why are we doing that? It’s useless.”
Krzyzewski addressed the media at Cameron Indoor Stadium, his home away from home for the last 42 years. It will be the last time he appears in Cameron as Duke’s head basketball coach.
His team is trying to ignore all the noise before the long anticipated and equally dreaded matchup against Duke’s arch-rivals from Chapel Hill.
But his team is doing so after a four-game regional run that many pundits did not see coming.
After beating Arkansas in the regional final Krzyzewski said his team had crossed the bridge.
What does Krzyzewski mean by that?
He said it references his obligations as an educator.
“You get a chance to help an individual or a group cross the bridge of limits. That’s the whole purpose of education, to change limits and increase what a person is capable of doing. As a teacher, if you help that person or team go through and develop a new limit, I call it crossing the bridge. It’s the best thing a teacher can do. You get a chance to do that with a team. It’s unbelievable. We should take joy in that. Now, there’s another one and this one leads to the national championship.”
Krzyzewski said Duke hit the reset button after the ACC Tournament and worked its way back into the dominant team we saw earlier in the season.
“We won a lot of games and won the league before we played poorly for two weeks. What happened during that time is we played really good teams who played well against us and we didn’t practice to the level just because we had come off eight out of 11 road games and stuff like that and that hurt us. Our approach hurt us and we back to the other side of the bridge and your habits weren’t going to do very well. So, that period of time from the loss to Virginia Tech to playing Cal-State Fullerton we had great practices. And we’re healthy. We got better.”
Krzyzewski said Duke had to be better to get out of a loaded West.
“We had a heck of a region. We were in four really tough games against teams that were really good defensively; and physical. They made us better. We had to be better in order to beat them. We’re playing better then we did before that lull. You get better if you beat really good competition.”
Krzyzewski didn’t really discuss Xs and Os and no one really expected him to. Duke is familiar with North Carolina, which is a good thing, except North Carolina is equally familiar with Duke. So, that’s a wash. And Duke is a different team and North Carolina is a different team.
“I really don’t draw much from those games. I draw more from watching them play other teams. They’re really playing well.”
Which brings us back to ignore. Krzyzewski acknowledged the rivalry and the fans and the disdain and the demographic reality that Duke is and always will be outnumbered, even in its backyard.
But that cannot be a motivator, not what happened earlier in March or what didn’t happen in 1979 or 1991.
“You can’t go into the Final Four just thinking rivalry, payback or any of those things. You’ve got to go in saying ‘we want to win a championship. This is who we are now, whoever we would play.”