Mike Krzyzewski Talks Duke Basketball at Final Four Press Conference

Duke returns to Indianapolis, the place where coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils won the title in 2010. They are returning to the Final Four for the first time since that victory. Duke, one of three top seeds in the Final Four along with Kentucky and Wisconsin, will face East Regional champion Michigan State in the national semifinals on Saturday. Coach K had this to say at his press conference yesterday.

DAVE WORLOCK: Good morning, everyone. We look forward to having everyone in Indianapolis later in the week. We’re going to start today’s call with coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Coach, congratulations on making another Final Four. We look forward to having you in Indianapolis, as well.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you very much.
DAVE WORLOCK: At this time we’d like to go ahead and start with questions.

Q. Mike, it occurred to me this is the Mount Rushmore of current basketball active coaches. If you weren’t a coach, have you ever considered what you’d be doing? I thought it would be fun to consider what you’d be doing otherwise.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, I’d be a teacher. That’s what I’ve wanted to be my whole life.

Q. What kind of teacher?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I hope a good one (laughter). I’d work at it, let’s put it that way.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the three turnovers in yesterday’s game. Can you put into perspective the ability to play with that kind of composure, take care of the ball on such a big stage.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, that’s a good question. Really wanted to keep points in the game because we had a hard time scoring. Our threes saved us, the fact that we didn’t give them a lot of run?outs.
Two of the turnovers, one of them was a charge, and another one was right at the end of the game when we didn’t take a shot, the shot clock violation.
I don’t think we’ve had a better game this year as far as valuing the basketball. That helped keep them out of transition. Certainly with some of our offensive rebounding, especially by Amile, it got us a few extra possessions. Gonzaga played very good defensively.

Q. What qualities does a player who is good in the clutch have to have, someone like Christian Laettner, for instance?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, there aren’t very many people like Christian Laettner because he was a fabulous talent in addition to being clutch. He wanted to be in those moments.
But a clutch player does not have to be as talented. It doesn’t have to be a star player. A clutch player can be somebody who can make a defensive stop, somebody who watched the ball and a lot of times is not one of your top two or three scorers, but all of a sudden can make a play, whether it be with a score or a rebound.
Usually a clutch player is really smart in pressure situations, and as a result is immersed in the moment that is going on. I would say, like a player for us in the past, Battier was that type of player.
On our team, Winslow has come up clutch. Our two guards have really been great in handling the ball, shooting free throws in pressure situations.

Q. Is that something a coach tries to develop in a particular player or just tries to use once it sort of emerges?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: A little bit of both. But mostly it’s in the kid himself, then you should recognize it, try to make sure that kid is out on the court during those times and in a position where he can make a play.
If it’s a scorer, obviously you’re going to do some things to get him the ball. If you’re being full court pressed, trying to make sure he’s the one that receives it and gets fouled.
Tell the player you have confidence in him in that situation. Most of it is on the player and then the coach to make sure that he’s trying to use it, he’s trying to use that talent. It’s really a talent.

Q. Amile said back in October that the dynamic of your team, even with so many freshmen, was unlike any other. How much managing have you had to do this year compared to other seasons?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You still manage the same, but you’re not managing egos and attitudes, you’re managing X’s and O’s, how to use guys and develop them, how they complement one another.
This group has really been like brothers from the beginning in July. They have not posed any problems for me. Over the last couple months, they’ve gotten maturity through play, the freshmen have developed where they have a comfort level in playing with the rapidity we have to play big?time games. That’s a learned experience. They’ve learned that.
But they’ve become closer and closer. It’s really been an amazing group of kids to work with.

Q. Coach, you often try to downplay all of your accomplishments when talking about your team, saying it’s the first time for them no matter how many times you’ve experienced something. You seem to have really enjoyed that and lived it, this year especially. Maybe it’s some of just what you were talking about how easy it is to be around these guys. Do you have to do something before the season or during the season to reset yourself with each team and try to live it for the first time?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I think you have to get on their page, in their moment. With this group, that’s been easy.
But I usually don’t have a hard time doing it. Sometimes it’s hard to find the page because they’re a little bit complex, some teams, to work with.
But this group has been easy. It’s a lot more fun living in the present than trying to build some kind of record or live in the past.
These kids, to be in their moment, is so much more fun. So I’ve really loved the year. I was worried going into the year because of when USA Basketball ended. That was pressure because Madrid, winning the World Championship, middle of September. I was worried, I hope I have the gas, the energy.
It hasn’t been a stretch at all. In fact, I think I’m as energized now as I’ve ever been at the end of the year.

Q. Mike, you’re obviously familiar with Izzo and Michigan State. I’m curious your thoughts about the Spartans this season. I’m curious to get inside your head as to what you think about this year’s team.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, first of all, I would really start out with Tom. I mean, Tom is as good as there is. Not just a coach, but he’s a great guy. He’s a terrific friend. I think we have an amazing relationship.
Nothing surprises me that he and his program would do. They don’t have a team; they have a program. As he develops each team, I don’t know what the timeframe of it is until that group understands what the program is about, whether it be offense, defense or just character?wise, but they’re going to keep improving because it’s a program. It’s a program of excellence.
They’re really good. That doesn’t surprise me at all. They’re going to show up every game with a great game plan, with a toughness and an unselfishness to play that they’re not going to beat themselves.
That’s who Tom is. That will be him for as long as he coaches because that’s what he does. That’s why he’s so good.

Q. In regards to Jahlil, how important is it for you to run through him, especially given Michigan State not having a dominant big man?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, Jah has been very important for us through the entire year. No matter how many points he scores, he’s the focus of attention. He’s the top person on every scouting report. People are going to double?team him or triple?team him or figure out how to defend him. As a result, it opens things up. Whether he’s scoring or not, it opens things up for the other guys.
His stats, they’re really good, outstanding stats, don’t really tell the story of how important he is for us because he creates better stats for everybody else on the team.

Q. Obviously John Calipari is going to figure out whether he got in the Hall of Fame this week. Seeing what he’s done over the last several years and his career as a guy who has been there, does he belong?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, that’s why he’s up for it. People aren’t up for it unless people believe that he belongs. I think whether it happens this year, it will happen. Just like with Bo Ryan, they belong. Tom.
Look, they’re all really the best of the best. It’s really an honor for me to be in a Final Four with those three programs and those three coaches because they’re all really good guys and they’ve all understood the commitment to excellence that a program needs to make.

Q. Mike, this group of freshmen in some respects, especially to an outside observer, it almost seems like instant oatmeal with them. You could just roll the ball out on the floor and they’d play. What were some of the growing pains that you encountered with them throughout the course of the season?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I know you didn’t mean it that way, but it sounds like a question I usually get for USA Basketball. You just roll it out, and the Gasols and Ginobilis of the world will just let you win.
Obviously you don’t just roll the ball out. There’s certainly a level of learning that every freshman has to go through. These guys have talent, but they also have a willingness to learn. They’ve really learned.
You know, for about a two?and?a?half week stretch, Justise was averaging three and a half points a game, Tyus has had poor games, Jah has pretty much been consistent.
But the environment in which they’re in, they have an unselfish, terrific environment for them to grow. It’s led by Quinn Cook. He and the upperclassmen have created an environment where the freshmen feel like they’re not freshmen, that they’re just a basketball player.
So all four of these guys have gotten better, and they’ve worked hard at it. They’ve worked really hard at it. They’re going to work hard at it this week because we can still get better.
It’s still a group that’s played 37 games. They haven’t played 100, they haven’t played 110 or whatever. They’ve played 37 games. They’ve done a magnificent job thus far.

Q. Say, for example, Jahlil, if there’s a game where maybe he had a double?double, but you looked at the film, instead of 18?12, he could have had 25?20, how much would you challenge him on that level, to reach his potential, not necessarily what is satisfactory to a lot of other people?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don’t know if the word ‘challenge’ is the right word. I think you try to teach, motivate, show them how to get more, if there is more to get.
Again, they’re learning. Sometimes players put limits on themselves based on their previous limits. In other words, this is how much I used to score, and once you get there, I’ve done a good job. A lot of it’s psychological, these limits that people put on themselves.
What you try to do, it’s not so much challenging so much as showing them that you can do more. You don’t just do that after a game, you try to do that during a game.
It’s not just the freshmen, it’s any player. I mean, that’s part of teaching and that. I hate to use the word ‘challenge’ because it seems like then you’re fighting somebody or you’re doing this incredible face?to?face encounter to get him to do something, to get a player to do something. Most of it is not that. Most of it is learning to change limits and how you do that.

Q. Mike, Karl?Anthony Towns seems to be captivating a lot of imaginations. Some suggest he’s the best freshman big man in your sport. I’m not asking you to compare him and Okafor.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you.

Q. You’ve seen enough to be pretty sure it’s your guy.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you are asking me that then (laughter)? What you just said you asked, though.

Q. You’re right.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: What I would tell you is, I don’t watch Kentucky very much because we haven’t played them. You all watch these other teams more than we do, or more than I do. I try to watch the teams that we’re going to play against.
I know our league. I really try to know the teams we just played, Utah and Gonzaga. But I’m not watching Kentucky like I would if we were going to play them.
I know Towns. We recruited him. He played for the Dominican team. He’s a great player, great young man, beautiful family. He’s going to be a terrific pro.
Where he stands in comparison to anybody, who knows. The people who do that are the people who are called professionals who are going to draft. But he’s going to be a terrific player. Based on what I’ve seen of him as a youngster, what I know of his character, then the little bit that I’ve watched Kentucky play, he’s terrific.

Q. A lot of people have compared your on?the?court success with John Wooden. Basketball has evolved since the ’60s and ’70s, but is there anything directly or indirectly that you’ve learned from Coach Wooden that you have incorporated into your basketball philosophy?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think all coaches learn from previous outstanding coaches. I mean, I’m sure people in every walk of life do that, in business, in teaching, in government hopefully, they learn from the people who preceded them.
Coach Wooden will go down as the greatest winner, greatest coach of all time. No one will ever match the amount of titles he has. So you learn from that.
One of the main things is how to handle any level of success you had. I always thought he handled it with great dignity. I always thought that his players loved playing for him. They played like a cohesive unit.
I also saw in his teams the ability to adapt. Everyone would talk about Alcindor and Walton. Half of his championships he didn’t have those two guys. His first championship, the 2?2?1 press was with a guy named Erickson back there who was a pretty good athlete, Goodridge, was one of the more beautiful things to watch in basketball.
So you learned from that, just like I’ve learned from Coach Knight, Coach Iba, Coach Newell, some of the great, great coaches in the history of our game.
DAVE WORLOCK: Coach Krzyzewski, thank you so much.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you for having me on.

The Final Four: Bo Ryan, Wisconsin’s Head Coach, Press Conference Transcript

Wisconsin has returned to the Final Four. Bo Ryan, long-time head coach for the Badgers, talked a little bit about his background, fellow conference member Michigan St., and upcoming opponent Kentucky Wildcats at his press conference yesterday.

Q. Bo, was there a point after you got one at Wilkes, before you start the coaching and teaching at junior high, where you could have ended up doing something else rather than coaching? What might that have been?
COACH RYAN: Well, the fact that you’re from Harrisburg, you have to let me recover here a little bit because Steelton?Highspire gave us our only loss at Chester. So I’m still recovering from that. We lost in overtime at the Palestra.
In order to get right to your question, I took a job with Arco coming out of college. I was an economic, marketing, business major. Then being drafted in the Army kind of changed everything.
Yes, I was going to be a CEO, looking to run a corporation or a business. That was what my training at Wilkes was in.
I ended up changing professions when I was in the Army. I decided I wanted to teach and coach.

Q. You’re talking about Arco the oil company?
COACH RYAN: Yes, in Philly.

Q. Bo, there’s been this idea that scoring and tempo have slowed across college basketball generally in recent years. I’m curious if you feel like that’s extended to the post?season. The data is a little bit mixed on that.
COACH RYAN: Well, that’s a mixed bag.
You know, the rules are always fine ’cause people coach to and teach to the rules, whether it’s shot clock or extended arc or anything else. It’s just a matter of what’s going to be called fouls, what is a foul, what isn’t a foul, how a game’s going to be called. I think that affects tempo quite a bit.
But, you know, still in my mind I think it’s all by people throwing this out there is a way to talk about college basketball. It gets talk shows going. It gets sales in advertising. To me, there’s a plan behind all this, a master plan by people who try to want to stir things up.
Our ratings have been the highest for the tournament. There’s so much good about college basketball. People kind of refuse to talk about or get into it.
I like to spin it the other way. I think the game’s in great shape. The fact that it is our college game, you get the pro guys doing all the announcing on these post?season games, and they want to act like it’s supposed to be an NBA game, not an NCAA college game.
To me it’s all about who’s spinning it.

Q. What qualities do you think a guy who is good in the clutch, can make clutch jumpers or the clutch play, what qualities those guys have generally?
COACH RYAN: Short memory. A belief. I don’t know how much guys today play. For example, in the ’60s growing up, you’re on the playground, you probably play 10 to 15 games in a couple?hour period where you play to a number. First team to 10, first team to 20, got to win by 2.
Now, with all the organized basketball games and practices and things that are going on, there’s not as many pickup games played.
I can remember being on the playground, because you had to win by 2, having some games where there were 10 clutch jumpers that were made, or 10 buckets that extended the game or gave you the win. So I think that’s where guys, when they used to play a lot on the playgrounds, there was a lot of that clutch.
Now I think guys aren’t in as many clutch situations, but there are some who will say, Hey, I want the ball, and they’ll get the ball. They want the shot, they’ll take the shot.
Sometimes with teams you got to make sure, okay, there’s clutch guys, there’s a lot of people who want that shot, but it’s your job as a coach to make sure it’s in the hands of a person who can make a play. If they don’t make the shot, they can find a player.
When you say ‘clutch player’ I don’t know if you’re referring to the guy that makes the jumper, the layup or the three, or if it’s the guy who makes the play, which could also include making the pass to the teammate for the bucket.

Q. Who is that guy for you and how much of that can be developed in a player by the coach?
COACH RYAN: Well, you can stir that within the player. With what we do in practice, I’m sure other people do it, we don’t have a patent on it, but you put 10 seconds on the clock, 5 seconds on the clock, 15 seconds, and we go through situations. You find out through those situations at least who the players are trusting to be in that position, and you let them do it simply by playing out the last X number of seconds that I mentioned. Then you strongly encourage, Okay, this is what happened eight times, three times this happened, and you play percentages. That’s what I do.
We have certain things in practice where we know what to go to. Obviously we’re not going to tell the public. If they shut off one guy, then this is what we could possibly go to, or this, or this, or this. Like the quarterback looking at four or five receivers, checking off who isn’t open, finding who is.

Q. Obviously it’s a rematch between last year’s Kentucky team and Wisconsin, a game which was obviously very close, came down to the final shot. Tell me what you see different in this team other than they’re undefeated. They have veteran players. What makes them different, that much better, going up against them the second time?
COACH RYAN: Well, I think they’ve been through so many pressure situations when you’re undefeated. Not to promote my University of Wisconsin Platteville team necessarily. I had a chance to coach two college teams that went undefeated in a season, and I know what it’s like to be 10?0, 15?0, 25?0, what that does to a team.
It actually made our practices better. Our practices were very competitive, knowing that all eyes are on you. Needless to say in Division I there’s more eyes, all on Kentucky’s team.
But going through that, I just thought it made us better while we were undefeated because of how you learned to deal with the outside pressures. Then it builds inside. Okay, in practices you got enough good players going against each other, so you’re actually developing the skills of your players while the season’s going on because you have that depth.
So I think Kentucky is in a pretty good position from that standpoint of being able, even though they don’t have the same players as last year, what they’ve developed in the last four and a half months is some pretty competitive drills, some pretty competitive practices and work, to where not only were they good in November, but they’re even better now.

Q. Cal always says that they may be undefeated but they’re not perfect. I don’t know how much film you had to look at since two days ago, but is there really any weakness, big or small, that you tried to show the team so far?
COACH RYAN: I thought you were talking about John said he wasn’t perfect, because I was agreeing with that (laughter).

Q. I’m sure he says that, too.
COACH RYAN: We had a nice talk this morning, by the way.
Even if there’s a guy that shoots a bad percentage or has a rough day, look how many other guys can pick them up. There are some teams who have two, three, maybe four scorers. If they all have a bad day the same day, they’re definitely losing.
Kentucky can have guys have bad days but still have enough guys to make up for that.
So, no, I don’t think as far as comparing the last year or anything else… Again, we played Oregon again, then Arizona, now Kentucky. That’s three of our five games playing against the same people we played against the year before. The only thing we’re hoping is that it’s not the same outcome.
But, no, they’re strong from point to post. You don’t go undefeated in college now without something pretty special.

Q. Bo, I was wondering what your relationship now is like with Tom Izzo and how it’s maybe changed since you arrived in the Big Ten.
COACH RYAN: It’s the same as it’s always been: two coaches trying to get their programs to be successful year in, year out.
I knew when I came into the league, every place I ever became a head coach, there were certain programs that you say, Okay, if you want to be good, this is who you got to get. There’s some standards that are set. The state conference, there were three schools that were totally dominating, Eau Claire, Stevens Point, White Water. At UWM it was Butler. Then coming into the Big Ten, at the time obviously it was Michigan State.
We were on the board of directors together. I’m still on it. Tom is past president. So at the Big Ten meetings you talk. It’s a profession. It’s professionals trying to do their jobs.
I had a talk with Tom this morning, too. It’s kind of interesting.

Q. Can you share anything from that conversation?
COACH RYAN: No. Just two guys wishing each other well, representing the Big Ten. Good enough. Hey, we’re in it. We got a chance.

Q. What’s been your most important message that you’ve told your guys this month? Has it changed at all game to game?
COACH RYAN: No, because of all the guys that we’ve had back from last year, you can definitely see the difference after getting to the Sweet 16, now getting to the Final Four, of the guys in the locker room. They are very, very excited, but they’re not awestruck.
They were sitting in the locker room waiting for me after the Arizona game. Okay, coach, are we going back tonight? Is the plane ready? What’s our next move? More so than last year, where everybody was looking around like, Okay, what do we do next?
But, believe me, they don’t take anything for granted. They’re very happy to have been able to get this far. We know what we’re up against. Our guys are pretty smart guys. They know what it’s going to take, a pretty perfect game or close to it, to get these guys. We’ll see what we have in us.

Q. Are there any guys on the team that are sort of taking over and saying, This is what we need to do in terms of stuff going on in the locker room?
COACH RYAN: I’ve let all my teams do that. The seniors. I’ve always encouraged that because that’s the way my coach allowed me to be that I played for.
There’s a lot of talk in our practices, in between possessions, guys going over things. I strongly encourage that. There’s always going to be voices in the locker room. We’ve been pretty fortunate to have some really good voices.
I can only say that not because we’ve secretly taped them, but because of the way they’ve handled everything. It’s obvious to me that the right voices are being heard in the locker room when they’re away from the coaches.

Q. I’ve heard plenty of coaches talk about gut?wrenching Final Four losses, how hard they are to overcome. How did you handle last year? How hard was that to forget about once you went into summer, the fall, et cetera?
COACH RYAN: You know, you get up the next day and you just start saying, Okay, we got this coming up, camp, recruiting, practice, workouts with the players a couple hours a week. It was just ‘next’. That’s all I ever lived by.
We’ve also been the ones that have given people gut?wrenching defeats and stuff like that. You expect people to handle that because they’re going to have to handle things like that in life a lot more than just after a basketball game, where things are a lot more important than a basketball game.
The example we try to set is, Okay, next, here we go. Let’s get the guys that are back, wish the seniors good luck, try to help them out with where they’re going. I’ve been doing it so many years, it’s not all the same, but you can’t change what just happened, that score was that score.
Like I said, we’ve done it to other people where they’ve got to deal with the score, then get ready for the next season.
So, no, there wasn’t anything different.

Q. What do you think is relevant about the game last year given that clearly their team is different, as is yours. What do you think is relevant about that game last year?
COACH RYAN: Simply that was a great game for fans and for the experience of the players involved in it. But so much has happened since then. It’s like our game with Arizona last year. I guess the only way to answer it is we’ve already had two reoccurrences of games last year with Oregon and Arizona. Like I said, the difference is in the Kentucky game we were on the short end.
It’s not like if you’re on the positive end you’re going to practice or do anything different going into the next season, so… For our guys, hey, we get another 40 minutes. That’s all they know.

Q. The Big Ten championship game you played against Michigan State. Did you sense then they might be capable of a run like this, even though they weren’t one of the favorites?
COACH RYAN: Oh, yeah.

Q. What did you sort of see about them then?
COACH RYAN: The same we saw when we played them at our place or during the year. The Big Ten is a good conference. We got two representatives left. I think that speaks for itself.

Q. Did you see any difference between the first time you played them and the second time maybe?
COACH RYAN: Not really. Seems like the games with us are usually the same anyhow. Usually a tight game for the most part. Some have been a little different. It just seemed like a regular Wisconsin?Michigan State game. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they’re where they are.
DAVE WORLOCK: Coach Ryan, thank you so much for your time today. Safe travels to Indianapolis. We’ll see you in a few days.
COACH RYAN: Thank you.