College Basketball: Former Players revel in Coach K’s record win
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011
By Rachel Cohen
NEW YORKó Surrounded by three decades of former Duke players, Grant Hill understood how his old coach set the career wins record.
ěHow you motivate a guy in 1984 compared to ë94 or compared to ë04 or compared to 2012, each group is a different era,î Hill told The Associated Press as the seconds ticked down on victory No. 903 for Mike Krzyzewski. ěA lot of coaches can get out of touch. They canít connect. Heís been able to do that and actually almost get better.î
The Blue Devils beat Michigan State 74-69 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night with more than 30 guys in the stands who helped tally up all those wins. Hill talked to Coach K at his hotel Monday night, marveling at how the Blue Devils have dominated the ACC for the last 13 seasons in a way they couldnít even when he starred for Duke on national championship teams in 1991 and ë92.
Two of Krzyzewskiís Olympic players, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, also attended the record-breaking victory.
Krzyzewski was coming off two rough seasons when he recruited Shane Battier in the mid-90s. Battier isnít at all surprised to see his former coach pass the record of his own college mentor.
ěI saw firsthand the level of preparation, the level of passion he put into his program every single day,î said Battier, who led the Blue Devils to Krzyzewskiís third title in 2001. ěI know if you gave him enough opportunity, heíd give Bobby Knight a run for his money. Itís just amazing to be here on this night to see the culmination of this work.î
Hill, Battier and many of the other players in the crowd should have been busy with NBA games this week but found themselves free because of the lockout.
ěItís been a dark time for us NBA guys, but this is one of the few blessings that this lockout has allowed us to partake in,î Battier said.
His former classmate, Elton Brand, insisted: ěEven if Iíd had a game, I wouldíve tried to be here.î
The coach on the opposing sideline, the Spartansí Tom Izzo, was touched, too, by how many ex-players turned out.
ěTo me personally thereís nothing greater than that,î he said.
ěIt shows what the program is about,î said NCAA career assists leader Bobby Hurley, an assistant coach at Wagner still stinging from a lopsided loss to Connecticut a day earlier. ěIt shows what the guys think of Coach.î
Battier predicted Krzyzewski would call this just another win ó which indeed he did.
ěThatís what makes Coach so great,î Battier said. ěItís not about the numbers for him. Itís about the journey. Itís about consistency. This is just another step on the road for this team this year. Thatís his singular focus.î
At 39 years old, Hill sees the generation gap with his own younger NBA teammates. Yet Krzyzewski keeps winning with generation after generation of players, even after some started leaving early for the pros.
ěHeís kept the same principles along the journey,î said Jay Williams, another star on that 2001 team who departed after his junior season. ěA lot of people have to change with the times. Heís been able to adapt, but the core values have been the same.î
Battier grinned broadly, his eyes a little moist, as he watched Krzyzewski hug Knight after it was over. ěAgeless,î he called his former coach, the guy who still looks the same as when Battier was a freshman. He expects many more years of victories.
ěI think itís wrong to put a limit on it,î Williams said. ěHeís 64, and he walks and he talks and he acts like heís 50. If thatís another 10 years, I think his record is going to be untouchable.î