clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Zion Williamson On How Coach K Motivated Him At Duke

And a pretty great Jayson Tatum story too.

New Orleans Pelicans v Boston Celtics
 BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 11: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics embrace after the game on January 11, 2023 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Zion Williamson is currently sidelined by a hamstring injury but he has been having a revelatory season with the New Orleans Pelicans. One sign of greatness is that everyone knows what you're going to do but has no idea how to stop you.

That’s Williamson: he’s getting to the basket and good luck stopping him.

He’s been amazing this season, not least of all because he's been so assertive.

He wasn’t always that way though and at Duke, Coach K helped him to understand that he didn’t have to defer to anyone.


By demoting him to the second team.

Williamson told JJ Redick this on his podcast The Old Man and the Three: “He did it for a reason, he plays mind games so well. He says ‘I just wanted to bring the beast out in you’ and felt I was holding back because I had other stars around me. Putting me on the blue team really made me come out of my shell and attack those guys and always make my presence known on the court.”

Lesson learned and it’s paid off.

Redick has talked periodically about some of the stuff that K did to get the best out of him, but he’s not the only one: at the bottom of the link above is this one, where Jayson Tatum recalled this story: “We (were) playing at Virginia and I only had two points. I had two points in the first half, and I guess I kept passing up shots. Came in, (Coach K) took his suit jacket off and he threw it like right at my feet. And he was yelling at me, and I’ll never forget this — he said, ‘You acting like a soft-ass St. Louis kid. I should’ve left you where I found you.”