Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is looking to become the first Division I coach since John Wooden (1972-73) to win back-to-back NCAA championships. Staff writer Don Markus talked with Krzyzewski recently about his team's reaching its goal.
Question: At the beginning of the season, you spoke about how your team wasn't thinking about defending its national championship. Considering that the team has been ranked No. 1 the entire year, how difficult has it been to keep it out of the players' minds?
Answer: I think once the tournament starts, it's the appropriate time to start talking about it. What the players have done is focus in on the task at hand, whether it was in November or December or January. They've tried to focus in on a lot of intermediate goals, like winning the [ACC] regular-season championship, which they did. We didn't have the team together for five weeks and under the circumstances, I think we've accomplished a great deal.
Q: Has the schedule your team has played, especially some of the non-conference road games at Michigan, LSU and UCLA, prepared it better for the NCAA tournament more than in recent years? Do you think other schools will start scheduling like Duke in order to get tournament-tough?
A: We have taken the approach that in order to get better, you have to play the best, and that is what we've done. It has made us a better team. There's also a lot of fun in winning those kind of games. When you're ranked so high, people expect perfection, so when you come out of those kind of places after winning, you feel pretty good about yourself.
Q: If your team returns to the Final Four this year, do you think the term "dynasty" should be applied to Duke? If it does return, which would be the fifth straight year and sixth in the past seven, do you think that streak is as impressive as the one put together by UCLA, considering the proliferation of quality teams?
A: I don't think it should be. Whether it will be, I don't know. The thing you can say is that we have an excellent program. I don't think anyone has cornered the market on it. There are too many good teams. If we're considered one of a few of the better programs, that's great. Maybe if we get there and don't win, they'll say, "I told you he couldn't win the big one again." It's tough for me to compare. What UCLA did was great. They won. What we've done is also good. I just want to play each season. I don't want to look back. Maybe somewhere in my life, I'll say that was great. But right now I just want this season to be great.
Q: Getting away from the NCAA tournament for a moment, let's '' talk about the Olympic team and your involvement as an assistant coach to Chuck Daly. Do you know what your duties are going to be?
A: I don't know an exact role, except that it will be in complete support of Chuck's. There's nothing he can ask that's beneath me. Just work hard. We should make sure as a staff that whenever he looks at us, he sees consistency.
Q: Do you think it's fair that only a couple of collegiate players are going to make the team?
A: The way it is now, I'm not sure a couple of collegiate players will be on the team. Because this has changed so dramatically, who knows what fair is? As we go on, our overall objective is to win. I'm open to any combination, including all pros, if that's the best way to win.
L Q: Do you hold any aspirations of coaching the team one day?
A: I don't think that's something you can set as a goal. Timing is so important and how you're doing in your career. It's something I'd love to do, but if I don't, I don't think it would be terrible. It would be a tremendous honor.
Q: If you were writing a story about the Duke basketball coach, how would you describe Mike Krzyzewski?
A: I'd think I'd say he's a real good coach and he's very straightforward and he seems pretty down to earth. Keeps it kind of simple. I'd hope I'd recognize that I have a decent sense of humor, which a lot of people don't recognize. You have to have a sense of humor in this business to keep from going crazy.
Q: If you weren't a basketball coach, what do you think you would be?
A: I'd be in something to do with psychology. I don't know what, maybe in research, maybe working with people. Hopefully helping some people out. It's certainly of great interest to me. People interest me. How they react to situations and to each other.
Q: Do you have any dreams of doing something else with your life, say by the time you're 50?
A: I could see doing something else aside from coaching basketball, especially at times when people put too much importance on winning or losing. When things get ugly in sports, it makes me wonder how important it is in the world order.
Q: When you turned down Dave Gavitt's offer to coach the Boston Celtics last spring, it seemed as if you were saying that you'd be at Duke for a long time. Do you think this is a career job?