Coach K deserves this one
Published 10:10 am Friday, April 2, 2004
I am not a Duke fan. Never have been.
I despised Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner. I even disliked head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
I was only in my mid-teens during the time those three were rolling over the competition and racking up NCAA titles.
As I got older, I started to realize how talented they were and began to soften up to the whole Duke tradition.
Then in the summer of 2002 I had the opportunity to see Coach K address the Economic Club at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor.
The speech he gave and the way he presented himself won me over.
I used to think of Duke as the spoiled brat of college basketball. When Coach K gets upset he looks like a whiny child and it seemed like Duke players always got their way.
After seeing the coach in a setting away from basketball and realizing the whiny-child expression is not related to his attitude, I became a Krzyzewski fan.
Now, I still am not a Duke fan. I don't think you'll ever see me wearing a Duke hat or cheering for the Blue Devils. But, I do believe Coach K is one of the best things about college basketball.
The philosophy he brings to coaching, which he presented at LMC, is about more than getting the most talented players available. He puts a high priority on character, academics and work ethic. Talent is obviously taken into account, but I believe Krzyzewski would take a less talented athlete if he displayed an impeccable character, solid work ethic and a strong grade point average.
That is precisely why I feel Coach K deserves to win the NCAA title this year.
Duke's point guard, Chris Duhon, is a perfect example of the kind of player Coach K recruits. He's a senior, which in today's college basketball landscape is a rarity in an of itself. Duhon has been the Devils' point guard since he was a freshman, but has never been one to look for his own shot first.
Duhon averages less than 10 points per game but has a 2.1/1 assist/turnover ratio and averages 2.2 steals per game.
During the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, Duhon suffered a rib injury as he was diving for a loose ball.
The injury is still nagging him, but he has played in all four of Duke's NCAA Tournament games and found ways to contribute. In a 72-62 win over Illinois to advance to the regional finals, Duhon led the team in rebounds and assists with 10 and eight, respectively.
Of course, Duke has other players who have carried larger offensive burdens than Duhon over the past two weeks.
Freshman Luol Deng has been outstanding as have sophomore forward Shelden Williams and sophomore guard J.J. Redick.
All those players are typical of the athletes Krzyzewski brings into the program every year. All are talented, of course, but they are also determined to get better with the help of Coach K.
With a national semifinal contest against Connecticut on Saturday, Duke certainly has its hands full. The Huskies have been dominant throughout the tournament, winning all four games by an average of 17.5 points per game.
If there was one coach who I would pick to show enough confidence in his team and withstand the pressure of facing an outstanding team in the Final Four, it would be Coach K.
I think Duke deserves to win the NCAA championship this year, for the sake of Krzyzewski and players like Duhon who stick it out for four years and care more about winning than scoring.
Dan Weiss is sports editor of the Niles Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org