Another decade and another national title—such is life for the Duke Blue Devils and Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Kyle Singler scored 19. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith added 15 and 13 respectively as the Blue Devils trimmed Butler 61-59 in the national championship game
The victory gave Duke its fourth title under Coach K, and elevated the 30-year coach into some lofty status. Only Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp (4) and UCLA’s John Wooden (10) can claim that many NCAA Division One Men’s Basketball Championships.
Rupp’s titles all occurred from 1948-1958. Wooden’s teams won their 10 crowns from 1964-1975.
Leading his team in 2010, the beginning of a new decade, Krzyzewski has now coached teams to titles in three different decades.
The significance of such a feat is as simple or complicated as 7'1" Brian Zoubek grabbing an offensive rebound, pivoting, and kicking the ball to a wide open Scheyer for a 3-pointer.
Coach K’s first trip to the Final Four came in 1986. His Blue Devils won 37 games that year, but their third loss came in the national title game to Louisville.
That game was played without a three-point arc or shot clock.
By the time Duke won its first title in 1991, an arc, 19'9" from the basket, appeared at each end of the floor and a shot clock which counted from 45 stood mounted above each basket.
The Blue Devils avenged an embarrassing loss from the prior year downing UNLV 79-77 in the national semifinals. Duke used a deliberate, patient offense to slow the heavily favored Runnin’ Rebels.
Two nights later, the Blue Devils completed the run defeating Kansas 72-65.
Bobby Hurley led those Blue Devils with 76 three-pointers .
This past season, Scheyer trumped Hurley’s output from long range with 110. Singler added 85 and Smith poured in 60 from long range.
Krzyzewski’s '90-'91 team made 176 of 459 attempts from long range. Their opponents went 164-473.
The 2009-10 edition of the Blue Devils finished 296-795 from long range while holding opposing shooters to 158-559.
Hurley’s squad finished 32-7—scoring 3,167 points and allowing 2,615.
Scheyer and company went 35-5 and accumulated 3,079 while giving up 2,439.
The result is the same. Both teams won the title. The process used to arrive at that point varied.
Those numbers show just one aspect of Coach K’s ability to adapt.
Over the past 30 years, the game of college basketball has changed, arguably, more than any other period of time in game’s history. Throughout all those adjustments, Coach Krzyzewski, has shown that to be a great leader one must change with the times.
The Blue Devils repeated in '91-'92 with a similar lineup. Hurley’s three-point totals dropped due to injury. So, too, did the team’s totals drop (Billy McCaffery transferred after his sophomore year. He took 70 from behind the arc the previous year.)
The numbers did not show the change in mindset. Frequently, Hurley pulled up in transition and let if fly from long range. A tact that few teams attempted to the same degree of success that Duke experienced.
Duke and Krzyzewski returned to the finals in '94 but lost to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Injury and illness forced Krzyzewski from the sideline, and, over the next three years, Duke won just one game in the NCAA Tournament.
Coach K and the Devils returned to the finals in '99 but fell to UConn 77-74.
Then, Krzyewski would have to learn to adapt to a new situation. For the first time in program history, Duke players left early and went to the NBA. Elton Brand, William Avery, and Corey Maggette all opted to enter the draft. Along with Trajan Langdon’s graduation, Duke lost four starters.
Kzyzewski accepted it and moved on to his next recruiting class and team.
Within two years, the Blue Devils climbed the ladder at the Final Four again.
Duke reached the Final Four in '04, and the experience left Coach K with a new scenario with which to contend. Upon the season’s end, freshman Luol Deng went to the NBA.
"One and done" is now a part of basketball parlance. The shot clock counts down from 35. Three-pointers come from nearly 21 feet. Throughout it all, Coach K still wins. This year’s Blue Devils not only took more three-pointers than their fellow alums some 20 years ago, but '09-'10 Blue Devils might have caused people to look at the game differently.
Trading a deuce for a triple has merit. Instead of defenders trying to stop a rebounder from going back up with the ball, now they have to worry about defending the arc. It’s rather simple. The shooter’s hips are already squared to the basket. All he needs to do is step into his shot.
Why didn’t someone think of this before now?
All in day’s work for Coach K and his staff.
Monday night, the roles were reversed. Once the hunter, Duke was now the hunted. Instead of Duke slowing the game like they did 20 years ago against UNLV, it was the Bulldogs’ turn to try and dictate the pace.
It didn’t matter. The Blue Devils adjusted.
As the saying goes, the only constant is change. No one embraces that change more than Coach K.
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