Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Winning Isn’t Everything to ‘Coach K’ But It Always Beats the Alternative

In his first game against his former boss, Pitt coach Jeff Capel learned a lot about how far Pitt has come and how far it still has to go and we all learned a little bit more about what makes Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski tick.

Embed from Getty Images

His team was still comfortably ahead with less than 10 minutes remaining, but what had been a 61-39 lead had been trimmed to 61-45 and Mike Krzyzewski had seen enough. Anger that was approaching rage was written all over his face, and likewise betrayed by the way he spun away from the court in disgust.

“Coach K” demanded a timeout.

This was a much different Krzyzewski than the one who had sat quietly just prior to tipoff, alone in an arena that was bursting at the seams, head down and hands clasped, saying a silent prayer before crossing himself.

And it was a different Krzyzewski than the one who engaged the media late Tuesday night after No. 2 Duke’s 79-64 victory over Pitt at the Petersen Events Center.

The postgame “Coach K” was the most revealing of all.

That was the one who was addressing his relationship with first-year Pitt head coach Jeff Capel, a former player at Duke under Krzyzewski and for the last seven seasons Krzyzewski’s right-hand man on the Blue Devils bench.

“Look, Jeff’s part of our family and I’m part of his,” Krzyzewski maintained. “I love him and Kanika and their kids. It was tough before and now it’s tough after because one of us lost, but I’d still rather have him lose. I love him, but I love us a little bit more. I know that’s a selfish kind of love, I guess. Unless you love yourself you can’t love anyone else, let me put it that way.

“But I love the hell out of him.”

Perhaps that, in retrospect, is the real secret to winning over 1,100 games and five national championships, to reaching 12 Final Fours and 34 NCAA Tournaments.

Players such as 6-foot-7, 285-pound monster Zion Williamson help immensely.

But Krzyzewski’s maniacal focus has helped to make him not only the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach, but also one who remains seemingly as driven and determined as ever 39 seasons into his Duke tenure.

The relationship he shares with Capel is real.​

Capel framed going against his mentor and his alma mater as “very weird,” and “surreal, a little bit.

“It’s a coach that means the world to me,” Capel continued. “It’s a man that means the world to me.

“I miss him. I miss the daily interactions and the talks and the constant communication about basketball and life and leadership and all those different things.”​

Capel also insisted none of that mattered once the ball was tipped off.

He probably learned that from “Coach K,” who likewise maintained anything as potentially distracting as emotion wasn’t about to be allowed to interfere with business.

“No, not for me,” Krzyzewski said. “Once the game starts I don’t ever look at the other bench.

“My responsibility is to my guys. There’s no emotion any way except the emotion of winning.

‘I’m good with that. I’m really good with that.”

Perhaps that’s why a guy who played for Bob Knight at Army and came of age in the time of Vince Lombardi remains the gold standard in an era when Jay-Z showing
up for the festivities is considered a big deal.

Perhaps it’s the other coaches who ought to be praying just before a game.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Steelers' GM Kevin Colbert Clears the Air on Big Ben

As a franchise QB with Hall-of-Fame credentials and as the only player in the locker room that’s actually won a Super Bowl in a Steelers’ uniform, Roethlisberger is perfectly positioned, Colbert insists, to run the show.

Impossible Burger 2.0 Comes to Pittsburgh

The plant-based meat alternative from Impossible Foods is a significant improvement on its initial offering.

Our Full 2019 Oscar Predictions

Somewhere beneath all the headlines and controversies, there are actual awards to hand out.

The 400-Word Review: Fighting With my Family

The rags-to-riches tale is an easy winner, when it's not a straight-up ad for WWE.

Pittsburgh's New Airport Design: What It Means for Travelers

A key goal of the new terminal at Pittsburgh International is to get passengers to their planes faster.

Defy Winter: 7 Great Ways to Get Moving in March

With spring (hopefully) right around the corner, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy gears up for a month of nature-centered activities.

Now Open Downtown: Magic Done Right

Liberty Magic, the new venue in the Cultural District, is all about perfect presentation.

The 400-Word Review: Paddleton

The Ray Romano/Mark Duplass dramedy is heartbreaking, but absolutely worth watching.

Perspectives: ‘He Wants to Talk to Ms. Betty’

An encounter at a healing garden in Larimer leads the writer to reflect on his own connection to others.

Astroid Brings Dialed-In Coffee to the South Side

Manager Emerson Graham's detailed approach to crafting a beverage makes for a tasty experience.

Watch: The First Episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

The landmark childrens television series was first broadcast 51 years ago this week.

Sweet Designs: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner and Runners-Up

These Pittsburgh couples certainly know how to bring the cookie table tradition to life.

Skip the Gift at this Wedding at the Carnegie Museum of Art

In a romantic twist on its Third Thursday events, the Carnegie Museum of Art is throwing a wedding this week, and everyone in Pittsburgh is invited.

See What Piece of Pittsburgh is Going to the Moon

Of all of the items proposed, this one earned the most votes.

The 5 Best Seats at PPG Paints Arena

From ultra-premium experiences to bargains with great views, here are five perfect places to watch the Pens.