As Duke basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski has always given comfort to fans.
The current Duke basketball season has been a little weird for me. And I suppose it was always bound to be with head coach Mike Krzyzewski manning his 42nd and last season on the Blue Devil bench.
It’s something else that is bothering me, though. And try as I might, I can’t figure out what that something might be. I thought, perhaps, it was the Blue Devils’ play on the floor.
It took me about two milliseconds to figure out that wasn’t it.
The No. 3 Duke Blue Devils are 7-1 and playing some of the best early-season basketball I’ve seen from the program since the 2015 team (those Blue Devils finished OK that year, from what I remember). But if not for the final 10 minutes of the Ohio State game last time out, they would be undefeated and still ranked as the top dog in the land.
Duke definitely has improvements to make, mainly in conditioning and 3-point shooting, but those are fixable. Make no mistake, folks, this team has it attitude-wise. The Blue Devils have that “it” factor, and it will take Herculean efforts like that of the Buckeyes to beat them this year.
So if on-court woes aren’t what beguiles me, it must be K’s last season. But there again, Coach K is all business this year. There are neither soppy speeches nor long-winded reminisces.
Again, Coach K is all business this year as he is every other year, maybe even more so now that we can see the light at the end of his coaching tunnel.
This season, there’s a focus and drive that manifests into a more intense version of Coach K on the bench than we’re used to. All of that aside, other than a few mentions of different daily proceedings during press conferences, I couldn’t think of what was ailing me.
Then the last train of thought came crashing through me, and I had my answer. Call me a nut, but what I’m going to miss the most is the man’s press conferences.
Not the 1,104-and-counting wins with the Blue Devils, not the master strategy, not going to Duke games and bowing down to the man as he walks on the floor. Nope, it’s the 20 or so minutes Mike Krzyzewski spends answering questions and talking to reporters after games.
I can’t think of anything else I do so religiously in sports. I mean, there are habits like closing my eyes whenever Cam Newton throws a ball, grinding my teeth whenever my UNC fan mother cheers during a Duke-Carolina game, or not watching teams with my fantasy football players due to me being a jinx.
But those habits are forgotten sometimes. K’s pressers, meanwhile, are a hard no for skipping. Win or lose, there’s something so comforting in listening to him elaborate — often hoarsely from all the yelling — about the two hours of torture I just put myself through.
No matter the outcome, he always gives praise to the opposing program. And no matter if it’s Kentucky or Campbell, Krzyzewski has never played a team he doesn’t respect.
Counting on Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski for illumination
When asked about the game, Mike Krzyzewski always offers insights that my overworked brain can’t quite process in the immediate aftermath of the contest. When I’m still wondering how Wendell Carter’s feet weren’t set — they were — Coach K is busy diagnosing how the team didn’t work on help-side defense.
His diagnosis is never too complicated so that basketball novices like us can actually feel like we’re having a conversation with the man while we’re actually receiving a lecture from someone you should have to pay a fee to listen to.
Mike Krzyzewski also always offers hope in one way or another during his press conferences. Maybe not the speech from “Any Given Sunday,” but it’s always an assurance Duke is constantly improving and getting the most out of its players.
My last and probably the favorite thing I get out of pressers is Krzyzewski’s love for his players. Most coaches can genuinely say they are fond of their team, but K is always the proud father in the room.
While reporters and fans on Twitter are busy ripping apart players for daring to make mistakes, K is busy in the presser attesting to how hard players are working and how, if mistakes were made, it has to be the coaches’ fault.
That’s it right there. That’s why I ultimately love to hear the GOAT talk. It’s because he’s a leader, and we as human beings follow Kanye’s advice and bow in the presence of greatness.
So next time you’re feeling happy or sad following a Duke basketball game, head over to the program’s Facebook page or any platform you can reach to watch the presser. It may be good news or bad news. But like time, gravity, and it always being too hot for a Christmas sweater party, Coach K will always be there to talk you through it.
Time will tell whether Duke basketball head coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer will be as calming a presence next year. For now, though, it’s safe to say that as far as press conferences or basketball strategy goes, Scheyer learned from the best.