DURHAM — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski didn’t stop coaching after his Blue Devils edged Florida State on Monday night at home, winning their second straight big game in 48 hours.
Instead, Krzyzewski paused while walking off the court. Then he gestured to the Duke fans for more applause, believing the appreciation they were showing the Duke players didn’t match the degree of difficulty displayed in Duke’s 70-65 victory over the nation’s No. 8 team.
The applause came in a flood then, of course, for Krzyzewski has long been able to conduct the Cameron Crazies without a baton whenever he wants to do so. His explanation came a few minutes later, too, after he had taken his second fan-related action in the Blue Devils’ past two home games.
Before you decide what to think about it, you should read a few paragraphs of Krzyzewski’s quotes, not just a few words.
And also remember the backdrop: This was Duke’s first home game since Jan. 28, when Krzyzewski got furious at the Crazies and told them to “shut up” after an innocuous chant directed at former Duke player and current Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel. Krzyzewski later admitted he didn’t fully understand the chant, and the Hall of Fame coach apologized.
As for this time against FSU, when Krzyzewski used his hands to call for more excitement and applause in the moments just after No. 7 Duke (21-3, 11-2 ACC) edged the Seminoles, Krzyzewski said calmly: “I think our fans need to know what the hell happened. You know? C’mon. Not that they (the fans) weren’t good, but c’mon. We have a really young team, playing against a top 10 team. ... We don’t go to the supermarket and buy these things. And they (the fans) weren’t bad. But you’ve got to be even more hungry. You’ve got to be even more appreciative.”
Krzyzewski then said to make sure to note he wasn’t asking for more applause for himself.
“I don’t need anything. I’ve got everything I want. ... These kids, it’s their first time,.” he said. “They’re young, and they just fought like crazy. There should be a standing ovation. They should be going nuts! And not that they’re not. We’ve been spoiled, to watch Zion (Williamson) and (Jayson) Tatum and (Marvin) Bagley and all these guys play. That’s not who we have. We have an old-fashioned team that needs for everybody to be hungry.”
Where you stand on what Krzyzewski said Monday night largely will depend on how you feel about Duke, Krzyzewski and a program that has won five national championships in the past 30 years. Was he completely right? Was he completely wrong?
And who’s really to blame here — the Duke fans for lingering too long in a post-Zion hangover, or Krzyzewski himself for believing that players who routinely play before sellout crowds in college basketball’s best setting aren’t getting enough love?
“They’re accustomed to outstanding,” Krzyzewski said of the Duke fans. “And this team is trying to be (outstanding). Just — don’t get on the ride at the end. Be on the ride the whole way.”
After going along in this vein for awhile, Krzyzewski softened his criticism a bit.
“Some of you are going to put out I’m knocking the fans,” he told the media at his news conference. “Try to listen to what I’m saying, OK? They (the fans) are good. We just needed more. Just more.”
This is far from the first time Krzyzewski has called out the fans for not paying proper tribute to the players, and it won’t be the last. He long has tried to coach up the Cameron Crazies, often in real time — cheer louder here, don’t do that chant there — and in return has paid them back with more respect and reverence than practically any coach has ever had for any fan base.
The Duke fans sounded pretty darn loud to me Monday night, but it was also the first game I’ve covered in Cameron Indoor Stadium in awhile. It was also obvious that the standing-room-only section of students wasn’t nearly as full 30 minutes before tipoff as it usually is.
Krzyzewski was certainly being protective of his team, which did play well in difficult circumstances. Duke won three straight games on the road — including that overtime classic in Chapel Hill on Saturday — and then came home to beat a very good FSU team that was 13-1 over its past 14 games.
“These guys are developing,” Krzyzewski said to the media about his players, whose balance Monday was shown by the fact that no one scored more than 13 points.
“Not many teams would have won tonight after Saturday (and the win over UNC). I’m so damn proud of them. I wish you could feel what I feel. I hope that in your jobs you have a moment where you feel as fulfilled and proud of a group as I do of this group. ... We beat a heck of a team tonight, after beating a heck of a team in an epic game 48 hours before,” he told the media Monday night.
All of that is true.
But honestly, even though it provided an interesting epilogue to a fine win, I can’t get too worked up over whether Duke’s fans are cheering loud enough for yet another outstanding Duke team that has another good shot at the Final Four.
That’s a problem UNC, Wake Forest or N.C. State, or just about any other college basketball team you could name would love to have. It’s a Top-10 team sort of problem.
Krzyzewski is entitled to say what he wants, and the Duke fans are entitled to cheer as loudly — or as quietly — as they want.
We’ll know a little more on Saturday — when Duke plays again at home vs. Notre Dame — how all this works out.
But my guess is that Krzyzewski knew exactly what he was doing with this Crazies call-out, and that a Duke team that is on a big roll will win again vs. Notre Dame — and that Cameron will be extremely loud.