Getty ImagesAnd it wasn’t just different defenders handling the assignment on a possession. The Devils switched defenders against him any time a screen or cross was coming, even if there was time for the primary defender to stay in the pl Carroll College Fighting Saints clothesay. The idea was to assure Notae never — well, almost never —


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SAN FRANCISCO — The bane of Mike Krzyzewski’s current circumstance is being asked so frequently to sort through his memories. These are the final few college basketball games he ever will coach, and that is rather a big deal given he has won more games than anyone in the history of his sport, and so in advance of such occasions as the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, reporters had been bringing up moments that occurred on the way to here that seem germane to this one.

Instead of reflecting, he has become an expert at deflecting, often by noting it is best for a coach to have “no rear-view mirror.” There are some things he recalls instantly, though.

“The Final Four is mecca for a player and a coach. It’s just — there’s nothing like it,” Krzyzewski told all of us on the day before his Duke Blue Devils played Arkansas for the West Region championship. “For me I call it Columbia University Jerseys ‘Crossing the bridge,’ and very few people cross that bridge. And so I’ve been able to cross it with my teams 12 times.”

Oh, yeah, there are some things he remembers to the digit. He began Saturday with 12 appearances in the NCAA Final Four, the same number as the great John Wooden. He ended the day with 13, following a comprehensive but demanding 78-69 victory over Arkansas.

BENDER: Are we rooting for Duke-UNC or Duke-Saint Peter’s?

Krzyzewski never will match the 10 championships won by Wooden, was never going to do that in an era with more colleges competing seriously in Columbia University clothes the sport, more players going professional after less time in college and more games — and more difficult games — required to reach the NCAA championship. This record, though, it is all his.

Of course he would never say such a thing. He is too gracious a competitor. “It’s an honor,” Krzyzewski said. “Coach Wooden, if he had kept coaching, probably would have 24.”

Wooden retired at age 65, the final game of his career being the 1975 c Notre Dame vs. USC Rivalry Shirts hampionship game victory over Kentucky that gave him the 10th title. The overwhelming pressure of keeping the program at a near-flawless level had taken too great a toll on his health and family. Krzyzewski has managed demands that are similar, but perhaps not as extreme, 10 years later into his life.

He might have retired a year ago, had all things been normal, but declined to depart after the misery of the 2020-21 season, which included every program being impacted in some way by the COVID pandemic. His, in particular, was shut down for the season with an outbreak during the ACC Tournament.

He returned having assembled a glorious young team, with five players demonstrating the ability to become future NBA first-round draft picks. That there was no obvious point guard was an issue, and Krzyzewski worked through multiple alternatives, from running the offense through veteran wing Wendell Moore to experimenting with freshman power wing Trevor Keels. On the eve of the NCAA Tournament, Krzyzewski returned to the unimposing sophomore he’d benched twice during the course of the season. Jeremy Roach not only hit the game-breaking 3-pointer to shut down Michigan State’s second-round challenge, he wound up on the All-West Region team along with shot-swatting center Mark Williams and All-American freshman forward Paolo Banchero, who was named the region’s Most Outstanding Player.

They fought through a furious challenge from Texas Tech’s top-ranked defense in the Sweet 16 and arrived in the matchup with Arkansas, featuring a different sort of demonic defense that was more disruptive and unpredictable.

Round 1 Duke 78, No. 15 Cal-State Fullerton 61 No slip-up for Duke
Round 2 Duke 85, No. 7 Michigan St. 76 Roach steps up
Sweet 16 Duke 78, No. 3 Texas Tech 73 Rare zone lifts Duke
Elite 8 Duke 78, No. 4 Arkansas 69  

“This game, I saw something Bill Self said yesterday about the regional championship game, that it really is the biggest game a college coach has to coach because it gets you into the promised land," Krzyzewski said. “For me to have that, I guess it’s 17 times now, that’s a big-time thing for me. I’m so proud of that, that my teams have put us in that position, and that we’ve won now 13 of them. And then whatever happens afterwards happens.”

Krzyzewski coached the Devil out of this game, starting with the emphasis on refusing to allow All-American guard J.D. Notae to be the engine of the Arkansas offense. Duke rotated multiple defenders against him, starting with Roach, who stands 6-2 and could more or less look Notae in the eye. Later it was bigger bodies such as Moore and Keels, both 6-5.

Wendell Moore

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And it wasn’t just different defenders handling the assignment on a possession. The Devils switched defenders against him any time a screen or cross was coming, even if there was time for the primary defender to stay in the play. The idea was to assure Notae never — well, almost never — had the hint of a crease to attack the goal.

And still he scored eight points in the first half. He got off only a half-dozen shots, though, a sign of his diminished influence. If it weren’t for a “career” half by sophomore guard Davonte Davis, who hit his first three shots, all of them pull-up jumpers, Duke might have begun making dinner reservations for Thursday or Friday at Galatoire’s during the 8-minute media timeout.

MORE: Banchero calls Coach K 'the GOAT'

This would be more difficult, even after an 8-0 run at the end of the first half to put the Devils up a dozen at halftime, even with Williams yanking down nine defensive rebounds and guarding the rim so effectively that Krzyzewski said if he were a hockey goalie, he’d win the Vezina Trophy.

“At the start of the second half, I thought they took control of the game,” Krzyzewski said. “We were not playing well, but they were making us not play well. They got it down to five, and at that timeout, our guys really got organized offensively. We scored on four or five straight.

“Changing the defense helped, and from then on we just had control over the game. For this group to do that in that half — because we were not playing well, and we were getting ready to get knocked out, and the last 12 minutes they didn’t get knocked out. They played beautiful basketball.”

It was a 9-2 Arkansas run that slashed the Duke advantage to just five points that led Krzyzewski to call timeout with 13:13 left. Having spent much of the first half emphasizing the work of its ballhandling guards, often enough to good effect, the Devils chose to begin attacking Banchero’s matchup with 6-6 Au’Diese Toney. It did not go well … for Toney. Banchero immediately scored on a layup, with guard A.J. Griff Cal State Fullerton Titans clothes in following with another after catching the ball on a curl at the middle of the lane. In the next two minutes, Banchero had Toney bewildered enough to be able to draw two fouls against him while shooting fadeaway jumpers. Converting three of those four free throws stretched the lead to 15 points.

“I was just trying to take my shots and make strong moves,” Banchero told The Sporting News. “I just wanted to be aggressive. I wanted to get to the line and convert. We needed a boost.”

DECOURCY: Banchero beefing up his NBA Draft resume

From there, it was mostly about managing the remaining time and pondering the celebration. Krzyzewski congratulated Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman, offered kind words to All-Region teamers Notae and Jaylin Williams, did the obligatory CBS interview and then headed to the stands to greet his wife, Mickie.

The postgame ceremony was narrated by a PA announcer as though we all were at a wedding with an overeager DJ. “And now it is time for the ceremonial cutting of the nets.”

Banchero, son of former University of Washington star Rhonda Smith, had seen his mother win a state championship Antelope Valley College Jerseys as a high school coach and then swing the net around, and he always wanted to copy that. This became his first opportunity, but not because it was his first big victory.

“I won state in high sch Kentucky vs. Louisville Rivalry shirt ool, and they lowered the hoop to cut Notre Dame vs. USC Rivalry Jerseys the net. They didn’t bring the ladders. S Michigan vs. Ohio State Rivalry Gear o it kind of ruined the moment a little bit,” Banchero said. “So when I got the ladder, I made sure I looked up there to tell my mom, ‘Make sure you get this on video.’”

Krzyzewski has done this more times than anyone, and there may be another opportunity in eight days, but he was eager to dismiss any discussion of that. This Final Four matters, because it’s a chance to share it with a team he loves, for his wife and three daughters and an army of grandchildren to experience with him all of its rewards.

“In this NCAA Tournament, my team has played Texas vs. Oklahoma Rivalry Shirts such good basketball in pressure situations,” he said. “They were a close team before the NCAAs, but during these last four games, they’ve been terrific.

“I’m so proud of you guys and happy for you. You crossed the bri Colorado School of Mines Orediggers Jerseys dge, man.”


Chapter 1: Ending the era
Chapter 2: Inside the greatest game
Chapter 3: Getting recruited by the legend
Chapter 4: Redeeming USA Basketball
Chapter 5: Coaching against K

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