Virginia D stymies Duke: And makes Coach K hospitable?
Having witnessed his team lose for the third time in its past four games, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewksi was anything like the Coach K we have come to know over the last four decades or so in his postgame media presser here Saturday evening.
Krzyzewski, fresh off a 52-50 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers, was at times downright complimentary and even jovial in his address to the gathered media.
Unlike his team;s previous outings – a 22-point loss at N.C. State and a 12-point overtime loss at Wake Forest, sandwiched around a beatdown of hapless Virginia Tech – the Duke head coach found little to fault in his team’s effort Saturday.
Instead Krzyzewski immediately began his remarks by praising his team’s effort.
“The effort was astronomically better, because there was an effort,” said Krzyzewski, referring to the Blue Devils’ prior two road outings against the Wolfpack and Demon Deacons. “Our guys played hard. I’m proud of my guys.”
Krzyzewski was with happy with just about everything, maybe except the final outcome.
The Duke boss went out of his way to reap praise on Virginia.
“They made a great play to stop a winning basket,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean, this game was that close. Virginia is a difficult team to practice for and defend.”
The rap, and well deserved, I believe, about Krzyzewsk is that he is a cordial, refined ambassador for college basketball – in victory. In defeat, well, let’s just say he’s not often a choir boy.
Tonight, just steps away from the playing surface, Krzyzewski entered the press room surrounded by his normal entourage of support and security personnel, stepped up to the table, and was just downright likable.
Heck, at one point, he mishandled the press microphone by dropping it on the table. Coach K picked it back up and actually made a joke – a rather funny one as well, saying something on the lines of, must have been made in Poland.
All this after another Duke loss, to Virginia no less. You know, the same Virginia that he has held a personal grudge against for about 40 years. A Ralph Sampson-led Cavalier team bludgeoned Duke in an opening round game of the ACC Tournament, and he accused then-UVA coach Terry Holland of playing Sampson the entire 40 minutes.
(For the record, Sampson played approximately half the game.)
Was it a kinder and gentler Krzyzewski we watched the birth of here Saturday?
If so, why?
Maybe he’s mellowing out some. At one time he hinted to the media that: “I won’t be doing this much longer.”
Or maybe, just maybe, he’s realizing what the rest of the country already knows about a Tony Bennett-coached team.
And that is: Virginia can turn even the most well-oiled offensive machine – Duke entered the contest averaging over 80 points per game – into a broken-down, abandoned car alongside the interstate with a white shirt hanging out the window.
The Cavaliers have been doing this for a while now, and it’s not surprising anyone any longer.
Virginia plays defense down to the final horn. Here at JPJ Arena Saturday, they needed to, as they used Jay Huff’s 10th block of the game to deny what appeared to be an all-but-certain dunk by Duke’s Vernon Carey.
Carey was on the receiving end of a pass from Trey Jones near the basket. Carey was open, briefly, before the Cavaliers quickly surrounded him.
Instead of going straight up, Carey made the fatal mistake of faking, allowing Huff to deflect the shot and grabbing the block.
Duke made just two shots from the floor in the game’s final eight minutes.
Virginia can demoralize even the best of teams. They’re kind of like the kid that shows up at the YMCA and actually wants to guard someone. You dread seeing that kid come in the gym.
Now maybe Virginia is starting to demoralize, or maybe humanize, even the best coaches.
The Cavilers have accomplished a lot over the last few years.
Saturday night they made Coach K hospitable.
That might deserve a banner.
Story by Scott German