Indianapolis—Some final thoughts from Indy on football and basketball as we head home this morning.
**–I was fortunate enough to be in Albuquerque in 1983 to see Lorenzo Charles’ dunk at the buzzer give N.C. State a stunning upset of mighty Houston for the national championship. I was in Philadelphia in 1992 when Christian Laettner’s shot at the buzzer beat Kentucky in overtime and sent Duke to the Final Four. But if Gordon Hayward’s heave, which came just a little past half court, had gone in and given Butler the national championship, it would have instantly become the most famous shot in NCAA Tournament history. Milan’s Bobby Plump, whose shot beat Muncie Central in now famous 1954 Indiana state high school championship, would have given up his position of having hit the most famous shot in the state’s basketball history. Plump was among the 70,000-plus at Lucas Oil Field. He would have happily given up that title because he also went to Butler.
**–Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has been in eight national championship games. He didn’t hesitate to say that last night’s 61-59 win over Butler win was the best. “It is going to be a landmark game in the history of the NCAA Tournament,” Coach K said. “It was one of the toughest games we’ve ever played against one of the toughest opponents. I still can’t believe we won.”
**–I’ve been to 22 national championship games. It will take me some time to decide if it was the best of those 22, but it is certainly in the top 2 or 3. The N.C. State win over Houston and Phi Slamma Jamma, which included the sight of Jim Valvano running to hug his players, was a very special night. If Hayward’s shot had gone, there would be no debate. It would be a clear No. 1.
**–Butler University will never be the same again. Because of the exposure Butler received around the world in this tournament, there will be a huge spike of applications come next fall. Its current enrollment of about 4,500 is about to grow. “What happens is that the great things that are already at a place like Butler are exposed to a lot of people,” said Krzyzewski, who has seen the same sort of growth and increased prestige in his 30-plus years at Duke. “What is going to happen to Butler will be scary good.” Thousands of people just showed up on the Butler campus yesterday just to see it.
**–Coach K gave us a couple of interesting college football notes leading up to Monday night’s championship game. He told us that he did meet with Florida coach Urban Meyer to discuss Myer’s “burnout” in December that caused him to announce that he would retire only to change his mind about 24 hours later. The two men talked by phone and then met in person when Meyer was at Duke for a physical exam. “The main thing we talked (about) is that he wasn’t the only guy who, you know, that kind of stuff can happen to. I think it happens to a lot of people, whether you’re in sport or business, and you haven’t done anything wrong by feeling that way. “
Krzyzewski sat out most of the 1994-95 season recovering from back surgery and exhaustion. Duke went 13-18 and for a while he wondered if he would return to coaching.
“The main thing I told him (Meyer) was not to make decisions while you’re feeling that way (exhausted); to feel better then make decisions, whatever that means. Getting away, counseling, whatever it means,” Krzyzewski said.
Krzyzewski did have a humorous view of Meyer’s recent dust up with a reporter at practice.
“You know I didn’t call him to tell him about press relations,” Kryzewski said. “But (the episode) showed me he may have had his vigor back.”
**–Krzyzewski said that a national championship game against a school like Butler could not happen in Division I-A football. “No it can’t because the top hundred football programs have their own thing and then there’s I-AA. It’s a completely different animal. And they don’t have a system that would allow a smaller school to get into their spotlight in the BCS. They know what they’re doing as far as (a) monopoly.”
Ouch. That line should go over well with the boys from the BCS.
“That’s why I think our tournament has captured America, is because everybody can get in it. Everybody can identify. Everyone’s got a chance. And they got a chance right now, whether there is expansion or not, through their conference tournaments.”
**–Krzyzewski is now 63 years old. He has been to 11 Final Fours and with one more he would pass Dean Smith and tie John Wooden for the record of 12. With his fourth national championship (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010) he passes his mentor, Bob Knight (who had three) and ties Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp. With one more national championship he would be all alone in second place on the all-time list only to John Wooden’s 10. Coach K has 868 career wins going into next season. He would need only 35 more wins to pass Knight to become Division I basketball’s all-time winner. At this point in his life those things mean more to Krzyzewski than taking $12-15 million from a Russian billionaire to coach the moribund New Jersey Nets. That story popped up yesterday and he said he would have no interest.
Krzyzewski said he is not dwelling on the numbers and what they mean as he nears the final stages of his career.
“I really try not to look at a career. I think I will when it’s over. If coach Knight had never left Indiana, Coach Knight would have over 1,000 wins and probably a couple more NCAA championship. And so you always have to put it in perspective. You know some of the games won and things like that, their seasons were shorter, the tournament was different. You know, you just feel lucky that you’re one of that gang. Let’s put it that way.”
I predict that if Krzyzewski has no health issues, he will coach until he is 70 and will go over 1,000 wins.
All-time Division I wins
Thanks for letting me indulge in some basketball. I’ll be home later today and we’ll get back on our spring football tour on Wednesday.
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