GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI/Los Angeles Times * Until last night, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski always had been April's fool. His Blue Devils teams would skip happily through March Madness only to disappear when the calendar struck April.
But on a magical night -- April 1, to be exact -- Duke would be denied no longer. The Blue Devils, more preoccupied with beating Kansas, 72-65, than revising history, finally presented Krzyzewski the national championship he wanted.
At last, Krzyzewski was able to scale the steps of a wooden ladder and snip the remaining strings from a Hoosier Dome basketball rim. This time, after going 0-for-April in each of the past three seasons, he left the court with a thin smile, an NCAA title and maybe a little vindication, too.
FRED MANN/Wichita (Kan.) Eagle * I bumped into the vice president of the United States on the way to the Kansas locker room after the Jayhawks lost the national championship to Duke last night. The vice president, his wife, and 100 or so of his closest Secret Service friends in dark blue suits and earpieces.
They were all trying to find their way out of the Hoosier Dome and failing. The entourage swept past reporters, went through some glass doors, milled around at a dead end for a while, returned through the same doors, and swept past us again.
On their way by, Dan and Marilyn Quayle smiled at me, and the vice president offered his opinion of Duke-Kansas:
"Nice game," he said.
So he doesn't know much about basketball.
It was not a nice game. The real national championship game was Saturday when Duke beat Nevada-Las Vegas by two points. This was anticlimax time, with a Kansas team that was not up to par.
DAN McGRATH/McClatchy News Service * He was too spent to be outwardly elated, but Mike Krzyzewski was doing an internal joy dance last night. The Duke University basketball team that he coaches had just presented him with his first national championship. He'd been close enough to taste it four times before, and as hard as it is to get a team in that position, he's in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately profession.
That he reaffirmed his status within that profession with his team's stunning upset of powerful Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday was almost secondary. Nobody remembers who finished second, in the NCAA tournament or anyplace else.
He was concerned about what his team had left after Saturday's remarkable effort, but not surprised that it found enough to subdue Kansas 72-65 in the title game.
"I love these kids," he said. "I told them, 'Don't worry about me. Do it for yourselves.' I'm so happy for them. Did you see their faces after they won?
"And my girls, my daughters. They were crying. I'm happy for them."
MELISSA ISAACSON/Chicago Tribune * Defiantly, this team on the brink of a national championship insisted it did not need to prove anything. That its coach did not require any sort of validation.
Whether the players truly believed it this past month, or whether their denials were merely a way to relieve a pressure they could do without, no one outside the Duke locker room will ever know for sure.
But last night, after their 72-65 victory over Kansas gave the Blue Devils their first NCAA basketball championship, they were not afraid to let down their guards a little.
"I can't speak for Coach [Mike Krzyzewski]," said their indomitable point guard, Bobby Hurley, "but I thought a lot about how much it must have hurt him to come [to the Final Four] so many times and not win. In the back of my mind, I wanted to win this for him."
@NEIL BEST/Newsday * In the cold glare of the Hoosier Dome's interview room, Kansas coach Roy Williams tried gamely to put his team's unlikely run to last night's NCAA championship game in perspective.
"What they've done down the stretch in the last three weeks has been amazing," he said after the Jayhawks' 72-65 loss to Duke. "It's something I hope those kids will always remember."
But in the sweaty reality of the locker room, forward Alonzo Jamison insisted his memories more likely will be haunted by a frustrating finish.
Asked if, in time, a fine season will temper the disappointment of his team's loss and his 1-for-10 shooting, the 6-foot-6 junior said, "I don't think it's going to be for a long while. We wanted to be the spoilers. It just didn't happen."
ALAN GREENBERG/The Hartford Courant * They kept waiting for Christian Laettner to miss a free throw or pick up his fourth foul. He never did. They kept waiting for Bobby Hurley, who drained himself with worry in big games last season, to rush a pass, force a shot or sit his tired butt on the bench. He never did.
They took turns being iron and silk, these two, and last night, Duke won its first NCAA basketball championship. After four trips to the Final Four in five seasons where the common denominator was disappointment, the Blue Devils were finally good to the last drop. At last, Mike Krzyzewski could finally smile for a long while.