During the final media timeout of Duke’s win Sunday against San Diego State, with the Blue Devils holding a 66-41 lead, coach Mike Krzyzewski decided it was the right time to celebrate.
“I knew we weren’t going to be jumping around on the court after a 20-point win,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday. “So we just said, when we had the timeout I looked at them and said, ‘We’re going to to Houston. We’re going to Houston!’ And all of the sudden, you could see them just smiling and put their arms around one another.
“Instead of,” Krzyzewski continued, “‘You’re expected to go to Houston! You’re expected to go to the Final Four! What about Mercer?’”
Krzyzewski has made a point of staying in the present moment with these Blue Devils, a team that wasn’t here last year and won’t be here next. And the next stop for these Blue Devils will be Houston, where they will play Utah on Friday in the Sweet 16.
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“They shouldn’t be expected, they should be enjoyed. They should be followed,” Krzyzewski said. “People get caught up in what happened before if it was negative and what should happen because we’re Duke instead of just enjoying it. And that’s what I’ve tried to do with our team. Let’s just enjoy them.”
From the beginning of this season, Matt Jones said, Krzyzewski told his group he was going to have more fun with them this season. The offseason program review that was triggered by last year’s early NCAA tournament exit led Krzyzewski to conclude he needed to be more hands-on, delegating a little bit less, so that meant he was going to be more active and around, he told the team.
“When Coach K is doing that, and as great as he is, as a player, that gives you more confidence,” Jones said.
The early celebration caught Jones a little by surprise – Krzyzewski went from laser-focused, like he could be coaching his last game of the season, to ready to celebrate. But once Jones and the others realized what was going on, they, too, released their joy.
“When we play great, he is our biggest fan,” Quinn Cook said of Krzyzewski. “It’s our first time together, and it’s our last time together. So, we want to make it special.”
Capel a candidate at Ariz. State
Multiple media outlets reported that Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel is a prime candidate for the head-coaching opening at Arizona State. The Sun Devils parted ways with former N.C. State coach Herb Sendek after nine seasons.
Krzyzewski said Arizona State had not contacted him about interviewing Capel, but Krzyzewski also said he gets calls inquiring about Capel “all the time.”
“Which I should,” Krzyzewski said. “Jeff is really good.”