It was the Blue Devils’ One Shining Moment.
The fireworks had been shot, the confetti had fallen and the hardware had been presented after Duke beat Wisconsin, 68-63, to win the national championship Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. Tyus Jones had been named the most outstanding player — that was accompanied by chants of his nickname, “Stones! Stones! Stones!” — and the Blue Devils were assembled to watch the annual NCAA tournament highlight video, starring them.
Mike Krzyzewski was in the middle, with his right arm around senior Quinn Cook. Cook’s arm was around Krzyzewski’s neck, and his teeth were biting into his bottom lip, but the tears were still coming, visible in the corners of his eyes.
He squeezed Krzyzewski tighter when the video board showed Krzyzewski grabbing his head with two hands, bringing him in for the embrace.
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“Probably the best feeling in my life,” Cook said. “To be next to coach, he’s been like a father to me over these last four years.
“I’m just blessed that coach thought I was good enough to come to Duke.”
Krzyzewski had the net in his left hand and his hand wrapped around Grayson Allen’s arm – fitting, because Duke would not have won without Allen, the freshman at the end of the bench.
Allen didn’t get off the bench at all in four of Duke’s games – including the December win at Wisconsin – and he had only scored in double figures four times, too. He scored 16 Monday night, including eight straight in the second half after the Badgers took a nine-point lead.
He was by far the least heralded of Duke’s four freshmen recruits (and the only one expected to return next season), but he was the first one to commit to this team, a lifelong Duke fan achieving beyond his wildest dreams.
“I dreamed about it ever since I think about eighth grade – I saw them win 2010, that national championship against Butler,” Allen said. “I’ve dreamed about being in this moment since then. Never thought it would actually come true.”
Justise Winslow was behind Krzyzewski, and Krzyzewski tilted his head back with a smile as the film showed Winslow in Houston, sinking a 3 against Gonzaga to send Duke to the Final Four.
Winslow, Allen, Jones and Jahlil Okafor – the four quarters, as they called themselves on the high school all-star game circuit – scored every single one of Duke’s second half points. They accounted for 60 of Duke’s 68 points.
“They’re amazing. I mean, they make up half our team,” Cook said. “The number one class, I mean, they came in so humble. It was all about the team. All of them worked. All of them looked to the upperclassmen for advice. They didn’t think they knew it all and things like that. They worked. I mean, they worked hard. It paid off tonight.”
As the video ended and the group cheered, so, too, did an incredibly memorable season for Duke. This team had a one-year window, and the Blue Devils capitalized on it.
“We know that it won’t be the same after this point,” Matt Jones said. “Luckily you can’t take this championship away from us, and you can’t take the bond that we had as brothers away from us either.”
It was, indeed, one shining moment.