Duke basketball: Coach K gets defensive, calls criticism ‘stupid’

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The media received a lengthy lesson this week: worn-out mentions of specific Duke basketball failures may rouse the 72-year-old in charge.

All records of Mike Krzyzewski speak for themselves. Nevertheless, a partial question at a postgame press conference on New Year’s Eve triggered the 40th-year Duke basketball head coach to speak at length in defense of his “new age” record.

Following the 88-49 home win over Boston College by No. 2 Duke (12-1, 2-0 ACC), one reporter started to ask the college game’s all-time wins leader (1,144) about his program’s inability to finish first in the ACC for the regular season ever since 2010 (not outright since 2006).

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Evidently, Krzyzewski viewed the question as an implication of a Duke basketball slump, for he raised his voice to interrupt and then didn’t stop talking for three minutes (the lecture begins at the 3:50 mark in the video below):

“So what would you rather win? You know, it’s funny, those things. Probably, my record on Tuesdays [isn’t] very good. Look, we are not gonna be judged [by the ACC regular season], and that doesn’t mean we don’t want to win the regular season. You’d probably look at the last decade and say in three or four of those seasons we had a hell of a schedule and finished one game behind…

“So am I supposed to say we had a bad year because we didn’t win? You know, it’s stupid. It’s stupid to say that. So I don’t get caught up in that.”

Krzyzewski instead opted to get caught up in the collective accomplishments of his teams from the 2010s:

“We won four [ACC] tournament titles. The main thing we won was two national titles and being No. 1 seeds a number of years. It’s a hell of a decade. It’s our best decade of the four decades that I have been here because it’s been the most consistent. When you average 30-7 — 30 wins and seven losses — in 10 seasons, c’mon. And so we’re not going to get caught up with regular season or [that] we didn’t win enough tournament titles.”

Next, Coach K boasted about effort, even that of his 2011-12 and 2013-14 teams, whose opening acts at the Big Dance also served as their farewells (via losses to No. 15 seed Lehigh and No. 14 seed Mercer, respectively):

“And during that time, we got eliminated a couple of times in the first round of the NCAA. But we went for it. We’ve gone for it. We’ve gone for the national championship.”

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Then, in a segue to his 2019-20 squad — again, mind you, without a peep from the media during his speech — the legend pointed to the Blue Devils’ current record and used analogies to other sports to support his glass-half-full view:

“This team has a long way to go before it can [win the national championship], but if it can keep going, we’d like that to be how this team is judged. You know, when you have the expectations that are on me and our program — like people say we’re inconsistent — look, we’re 12-1…

“In baseball, a team can win 10 games in a row, [then] give up four runs in the second inning, six runs in the eighth inning, and win, 12-10; no one is calling them inconsistent. Right? In football, you can not score in the first half and win, 21-7. And just because you didn’t do well [early], you’re not inconsistent — you won. It’s a full game.”

Coach K wasn’t quite finished, though, as he felt the need to broach the subject of the David that slew his Goliath in overtime on Nov. 26 and thereby snapped the Duke basketball program’s 150-game non-conference home win streak that dated back roughly 20 years.

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“Our kids have been really consistent, but they keep growing. And by the way, the other team is good. The other team sometimes beats you at the end, like a Stephen F. Austin did, or it beats you during parts of [a game], like [the Eagles] did tonight. But I’m proud of my guys.”

After that, Coach K touched on what haters of all things Duke basketball would definitely try to tag as an excuse:

“The other thing for the 10 years, we had a different team each year. It wasn’t bringing back the same backcourt or the same quarterback. We have a different team each year. It’s a hell of a thing.”

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Finally, Krzyzewski summed up his thoughts by expressing his personal satisfaction from the sustained relevance of the Blue Devils, both past and present:

“I’m proud of all these guys that have played for the 40 years that I’ve been there. But this decade, I’m really proud because it’s a new age. It’s a new age, and to stay in the hunt every year is a hell of a thing. All of my guys have made it possible for me to have that opportunity, so I’m proud of them.”

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Whew! So what’s the takeaway? Well, it’s simple:

Those who dare to question Coach K in person about any Duke basketball shortcomings — especially while #TheBrotherhood continues to set a standard for the sport — should postpone all other engagements that day accordingly.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more updates, analyses, opinions, and predictions regarding the 2019-20 Duke basketball season.