By Pat Forde
April 7, 2015
Duke players celebrate with the trophy after their 68-63 victory over Wisconsin in the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament championship game Monday, April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
INDIANAPOLIS – The Krzyzewski family picture at midcourt looked rather different from the scene in this same city in 1991.
Back then, when Mike Krzyzewski was winning his first national title, there was just the Duke coach, his wife, Mickie, and his three daughters. Monday night, after the latest title was secured with a gritty comeback to beat Wisconsin 68-63, they needed a wide-angle lens to get everyone in the picture.
Caden had a pacifier in his mouth and no shoes on his feet. In his right hand was a piece of the confetti that rained down from the rafters of Lucas Oil Stadium minutes earlier, after the Blue Devils had won. The little guy wore a blue Duke jersey with the No. 5 on it – equaling the number of national titles "Poppy" has won, second in college basketball history to only John Wooden.
Krzyzewski has always been reluctant to rank his titles – but his glee in winning this one was obvious.
"I haven't loved a team any more than I've loved this team," he said. "We have eight guys, and four of them are freshmen. For them to win 35 games and win the national title is incredible. ... I've been in this for 40 years, and I'm the coach of that group that did this. You know, how good is that? They've been a joy. They've been an incredible joy. When you're already happy, and you get happier, it's pretty damn good."
The life changes Krzyzewski has coached through illustrate his incredible longevity and enduring genius. He's the first coach to reach 1,000 wins and the second to reach five titles – and there is no end in sight. The distance between the first Final Four nets he's cut and the last is 24 years, by far the widest span between titles of any coach in the sport's history.
The first two (1991 and '92) were captured with largely the same cast, but it was an entirely new group in 2001, and a different group again in 2010, and a different cast this year as well. Krzyzewski has reinvented his program multiple times to win a fistful of rings.
Wooden's run will never be duplicated, but it was condensed: 10 titles in 12 seasons. Adolph Rupp, who Krzyzewski passed Monday night, captured his four in a span of 11 seasons. Bob Knight's three were in 12 seasons. Jim Calhoun's three were in 13.
Among active coaches, the 68-year-old Krzyzewski is by far the oldest to have won a national championship. But he's also the sixth-youngest to win one, capturing the first at age 44.
"The ability to adapt is key in everything," he said. "I think I've adapted well."
Jahlil Okafor was badly outplayed by Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky – outscored 21-10, outrebounded 12-3. But Okafor, who was in foul trouble most of the game, scored four straight points to give Duke control of the game, 63-58, with just more than two minutes remaining.
Forward Justise Winslow also had a challenging night offensively, scoring 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting. But he had a team-high nine rebounds and three blocked shots, helping a relentless Duke defensive effort over the game's last 13 minutes.
Those two Blue Devils could be top-five picks in June. Yet it says something about Duke's talent that neither was brought to the postgame press conference – because there were others who played better.
Freshman point guard Tyus Jones was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, scoring 23 clutch points – 13 of them in the last 10:45. Athletic freshman off guard Grayson Allen was the biggest revelation of the game, scoring 16 – his third-highest scoring performance of the season.
"Grayson put us on his back," Krzyzewski said. "We went to him kind of exclusively because of his ability to drive and penetrate. And he did, he finished."
Those four – all Rivals.com national top-30 recruits – gave Duke the No. 1 recruiting class of 2014. Okafor and Jones both visited Kentucky, but decided that there is more than one express route to the NBA through college and went with the guy who has coached the U.S. team to multiple Olympic gold medals.
Whether Krzyzewski changed his approach to compete with Calipari and Kentucky is open to debate, but he has changed. These won't be the first one-and-dones Krzyzewski has had – Kyrie Irving and Jabari Parker came before the current Blue Devils who will leave Durham after a single season. This is the first time it's resulted in a national title.
That doesn't sit well with some people, and the list of one-and-done detractors would seemingly include Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.
"We don't do rent-a-player," Ryan said Monday night.
Krzyzewski did rent-a-player. And won yet another title.
And along the way he seemed to have a blast.
This is the only one of Duke's five national champions that didn't win either the ACC regular-season or tournament title. These Devils were almost nobody's pick to win it all when the tournament began.
"He has so loved coaching this year," said Caden's mother and Krzyzewski's daughter, Lindy Frasher. "He's been so happy. Sometimes you see that scowl and red face – you didn't see any of that this year."
That famous face was beaming as Krzyzewski stood on the podium with his team, watching "One Shining Moment." Quinn Cook had his left arm wrapped around his coach's neck as tears streamed down the senior guard's face. Krzyzewski's left hand clutched both a net and Allen's elbow as the Devils all stared at the Lucas Oil big screen.
The video has been the final act of the Final Four since 1987. Five times, Duke has starred in it. The faces all change, except for one.
Mike Krzyzewski endures.