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March 21, 2008
Q. Was your sense of confidence at all affected by the close nature of last night's game?
GERALD HENDERSON: No, because we know what kind of team we are. We played over 30 games up to this point. We know what kind of team they were. Obviously by the way they played, we weren't just going to run over them.
Our confidence going forward is just as high as it's been all year, just because we know what kind of team we are, and have been all season.
KYLE SINGLER: We played top teams in the country and we beat them. So we know we can play with anyone in the country. With the game pressure last night, with the close game, we have the most confidence in the world that we can win each and every game.
Q. I wanted to flip that question a little bit. If it didn't change how you guys view yourselves, do you think it's feasible how other teams might have viewed you? You've often walked on to the court with a psychological advantage over some of the teams you've played.
KYLE SINGLER: We're not too worried about it. Some teams would overlook us, and we think that's an advantage for us. If teams overlook us, I would guess that's an advantage, right?
GERALD HENDERSON: Yeah, I agree with Kyle. We really can't control what other people think about us. All we can control is what we do on the court and our attitude towards every time we step on the court. We know within us it's all about Duke. We want to do what we can control.
Q. Gerald, was your assertiveness last night more the product of necessity because DeMarcus wasn't playing well and Jon and Greg weren't shooting as well as usual or was it something else that kind of triggered it?
GERALD HENDERSON: Well, the game was pretty close. Knowing that could have been our last game of the season, I guess that gave me extra incentive to play harder and assert myself even more.
We always like to say we have each other's backs. Some guys are going to be there some games, they just might not be there that night. If we all play together and have each other's backs, then we'll have winning nights like we did last night.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk about the match-up with West Virginia now.
KYLE SINGLER: We're looking forward to it. West Virginia is a very good team, well coached. They have great players. They kind of play somewhat the style as us. They don't really have a post presence, they like to shoot the ball. They have a good player in Joe Alexander. It's going to be a fun game to play.
It's one of those games where you win to move on to the next round. We're really looking forward to it.
GERALD HENDERSON: We're looking forward to this game. Like Kyle said, they have a lot of good players. We scouted for them.
We'll try to defend them the best we can and try to attack them on the offensive end. It should be a tough game for us.
Q. I was just wondering about your confidence level this year. I know there were aspects of last year you weren't pleased with. Do you think you would have had the mindset and assertiveness to do what you did last night last year at this time?
GERALD HENDERSON: There's no real telling. But this year is a different year. It's a different team. Guys have a different attitude towards the season.
I think definitely my confidence is better this year than it was last year, mainly because I'm a better player. I've been through a whole year -- well, almost two years now of college basketball and I think that experience has helped me.
Q. Coach had mentioned last night that it was top three, top four game atmospheres he's ever coached in. Is any of that the fact that they were the lower seed, that maybe the pressure was ratcheted up a little more. You mentioned that you beat a lot of good teams this year, I didn't know if the vibe was different when it's a 15 versus a 2.
KYLE SINGLER: In this tournament there's really no team that's bad. Every team that's gotten to this point has gotten here because they're a good team, not just by luck.
We knew Belmont was a very good team, just the game pressure within itself, you can look at that and say, We played well when we needed to.
But right now we're past that. It's a new day, and we play West Virginia.
Q. Tomorrow what are the two or three things that you guys think you need to do or do better in order to be successful?
KYLE SINGLER: We just have to play like we've been playing all year and just play Duke defense. Those two things will take care of itself, too. We just need to come out with the mindset that it could be our last night.
With those things it will create a winning atmosphere and a winning night for us.
GERALD HENDERSON: I think like Kyle said, really lock in defensively, to get back to the Duke defense that we played pretty much all year.
And also just going out there and playing with emotion. This is going to be probably one of the biggest games of our life tomorrow night, and just go out there and just put everything on the line and just be together and try to pull a win out.
Q. How much have you seen your dad play, either in person or on tape? How does your game compare to his? The other thing, is he here this weekend?
GERALD HENDERSON: Yeah, he's here. He'll be here through Saturday.
My dad's about 6-1, so we have a little different style of game. He can jump a little bit, but it's on a different level, I guess. But he could always shoot the ball, probably a little bit better than me.
But I've watched a lot of his tapes. In the basement, he's got all of his best games (laughter) on video.
Q. West Virginia has had to sort of adapt, they used to be an all-zone team in the previous administration, not playing a lot of man. You guys have played a little bit of zone this year. Can you describe what it's like for a player in general to have to adapt, in your case, Gerald, to new offensive or defensive philosophies as they become introduced.
GERALD HENDERSON: You kind of take your man principles into the zone defense. Some people think zone and automatically think you're going to rest or it's not the same. It's kind of the same where you're not following your man around, but you do have a man at all times. And you've got to be in a stance and you've got to be ready to make a play just like if you were in man defense.
And also everyone is together, just like you are in man defense. Everyone is helping each other. We like to think that it's for containment, but it's also just a good tactical defensive strategy.
KYLE SINGLER: I would say basketball in a large aspect is just your ability to adapt to the game, whether you're playing on offense or defense.
In this case you're talking about man defense to zone defense. It's just your ability to adapt to just the different styles or different strategies you're trying to approach at. So I'll just say it's just your ability to adapt to different things.
Q. Gerald, I was wondering, you said you stepped up this year. Were there things you worked on in your own game in the offseason you specifically wanted to improve? How well do you critique your improvement in your game overall this year?
GERALD HENDERSON: Well, I think it starts with just my teammates. I've had great teammates since I've been here at Duke. They've always showed confidence in me as a player, just encouraging me all the while I've been here.
But individually, I guess over the offseason I worked on my conditioning a lot more and just being able -- be ready to play extended minutes during any game. And then also, I guess, my ball handling a little bit more, just because I may have the ball in my hand more than I did last year.
Q. Kyle, I'll ask you about Gerald and that play last night, what it was like to see that and whether you saw that coming?
KYLE SINGLER: Gerald is one of the best players on our team. His ability to take over a game like he did in the second half was nice to see, because Gerald can take over a game just not by scoring points, he made plays on offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, he made some steals.
He's the type of player that can win a game for us without even scoring the basketball, and that's the sign of a good player. But Gerald's transition play to win the game was a type of play that most college kids can't make. Gerald is a very good player.
Q. You guys have to be big on communication, what you guys try to do. How has that been going, how did it go last night? Your coach can't talk as well as he usually does. How are you guys trying to compensate?
KYLE SINGLER: With coach not being able to talk as much as he would like and be as vocal as he usually is, I would say, in a big part has brought the team closer together because it just unifies us because more people are being aware that coach is not at his best right now. We just need to just come together as a team. There's more coaching from the assistant coaches and we just need to respond to them.
GERALD HENDERSON: I think really it's just about us being his voice. This far in the season we know what he would say in different situations and what he wants and stuff like that, so we have to communicate that between ourselves, just because his voice is hoarse, and I guess it hurts for him to talk now. So I think it's just about us coming together and communicating within ourselves.
Q. Most of us dads have had that experience playing in the backyard with our kid, playing basketball, and at some point the kid gets better and starts beating us. I wondered, at what point, how old were you when you started having those games, or do you still have those games with your dad?
GERALD HENDERSON: No, my dad's pretty smart. Once I started to get to that point he stopped playing me. He'll tell you that to this day. I guess that's something that he thought about as he was growing up, thinking about having kids, that was going to be his strategy for not having to tell one of those stories.
Q. Mike, I know that you're ill. I was wondering if you had a fever last night and how you're feeling today?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's better that I'm sick and not one of my players. I had a 104 fever during the game and after the game. And during the night -- I think it's coming on a little bit right now because of the question you've just asked. And it's just something you've got to work through. That's a part of it.
I feel a little bit better, but I still don't have my voice. That's the thing that's frustrating during the game, because you can't communicate as well, even to where last night there were a couple of times I wanted to call a timeout. You're trying to get the official and he didn't hear me. And then -- they did a good game and everything. And one of them said, Just tap me, if you need one. I said, Oh, yeah, that will look good. You'll throw me out of here and I'll never coach another NCAA game for touching an official.
But that's just part of it. No excuses.
Q. I was curious, if you had ever been that sick and were able to do film and stuff last night?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, we stayed up and watched -- we did some stuff after the game that got the temperature down. I just feel like I'm taking everything in the world, which is crazy. I hate doing that.
Q. How much have you gotten to see West Virginia, specifically Alexander, and what do you think he presents challenging?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, well, they're on TV a lot. They're in the Big East tournament, I got to see them a few times. And Bob and I are really close friends. I think he's one of the best coaches.
And I think Alexander, the last part of February and early March, became an elite player. He was always a really good player, became an elite player. And as a result, their team took another step up. Because once you have an elite player to go along with other really good players, it makes those other really good players better, because you have to give a lot more attention to an elite player.
I think that showed up yesterday, where it kind of limited him. But the other guys are veteran college players, they knocked things down. They played a heck of a game last night.
Q. Just curious how you and Bob did become friends. What does it say about his ability to adapt?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I just have kind of known Bob. We were both Nike -- there were Nike trips. He and I have worked Jordan's fantasy camp in Las Vegas since it started.
I really like him a lot. He's got a coaching background. His dad was a coach. He's just been a basketball guy his whole life. He's done a great job everywhere he's been. He's a survivor.
I was really happy to see him get the opportunity to coach at his alma mater. He had that one other time and I think his allegiance to Cincinnati stopped him from doing it. But this time it just kind of worked out. He's done a great job in taking over from John.
Q. Could you talk a little about Gerald's performance last night and what it says about where he is in the maturing process, that on this stage he can assert himself the way he did and take over the game like he did?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I didn't think he had a particularly good first half. So it makes what he did in the second half even bigger. Right away the first play was a rebound. He was strong. And then we went to him inside on one of our sets and he was strong.
He just played very strong throughout. And then everything we did down to the last couple of minutes of the game we went to him, whether it be a shot or to make a play and he responded.
Q. Was that a matter of necessity, because DeMarcus was not having a good game and some of the other guys weren't shooting well or you just felt it?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It just felt like he was the guy. And over the year and season we've had different guys step up. So it's not like you go into the game planning that that's the guy. But it was obvious that he was the guy.
The play he made at the end of the game was a big-time play. Getting the rebound, it's a big-time play, especially with the amount of game pressure that's on our team at that point. You're already playing a really good team, but you know what I mean, there's a lot of game pressure on our basketball team. When a kid responds with that kind of play at that time you're very proud of him for doing that. And he just missed it the time before. The time before it was in and out.
Q. One thing that stood out to me last night was your guys' inability to exploit Belmont in the paint, and you guys have to adapt to not having an elite post guy. Can you speak to how you adapted that and why in recruiting you guys haven't gotten that big man that Duke has had to score?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I'm not sure we've always had that big guy at Duke that's been able to draw a foul inside the paint.
One of the reasons there was not separation in the game is that we had it there 8 to 10 times and just had a bucket or one free throw. We have confidence that our guys can score better than that. I don't think we have the experience yet of doing that on a game-to-game basis.
I'm okay with our recruiting.
Q. There's been a lot of history in this tournament of higher seeded teams just barely escaping, kind of the way you guys did last night. Can coming through like that be a confidence booster to a team as opposed to shaking their confidence?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, just getting to the next round is a confidence booster. I've been in the tournament over 20 years, a lot of games, and every one of these games is a tough game. One of the reasons is that the magic that is created about the tournament, people expect more positives than negatives, especially if you're well received. You're kind of celebrated.
The other thing IS that there are lots of championship level teams. You're not playing a team that hasn't won anything. Their egos, their system has produced three consecutive championships in their league. That's good. Whenever you're playing a team like that, you may face a team that has a bigger ego than a team that was from a major conference that has not been a champion.
Belmont played a great game. They played a great game. We beat a team playing a great game.
Q. You mentioned earlier, and I'm not trying to make you feel sick again, that you did everything imaginable last night after the game to feel better. What was that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: What was it?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I'm not going to go through medications, just -- one was just to not be in a pressure cooker for three hours.
So the main thing is just to settle down and try to get your temperature down and get on whatever protocol they give you. So I tried to do that and get a little bit of sleep. It's not about me being sick. Let's talk about the game.
Q. Tomorrow night what are the two or three things your team needs to do well or do better in order to be successful?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we have to play good team defense. West Virginia can score from all their positions. And so they become a difficult team to defend. And so it will all start with our defense.
And then can we create good shots against their defense. Last night we didn't create as many good shots as I thought we should have created. And so we just have to be better on both ends of the court, just in general. We've got to play better. We just have to play better.
Q. At what point last night did you feel, or did you always feel, that your team was aware that they were in a serious contest that might ultimately benefit them?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I knew right from the start that they were a team that wasn't going to go away. I said it last night and I want to say it again, their coach, whether he did it purposefully or not, really has done one of the most interesting things I've seen since I started coaching. He's created an environment where every kid on the team believes he's a starter. I don't know if I've seen that before.
And you can tell -- I saw it on tape, but seeing it in person I knew right away, this team is going to be really hard. It didn't matter what line-ups he had. There wasn't a kid who was on the court for them that ever felt he was the 8th man on the team. Not that that's bad. But the 8th man felt like he was one of the top two, whoever they had in.
And I asked him about it, really, the day before. And he said, We've done different things because there's not much separation. I said, You don't have to give me -- I'm not going to be coaching that long, but you've done something there.
I just thought that was a heck of a thing. You've always thought you've seen everything and then the game -- there's so many good coaches and so many good players that all of a sudden you see new things. I've done that the summer competing against the international community. There's so many ways of doing this game and so many innovative ways of playing and teaching. And I think that guy has got one of them.
Q. What similarities do you see between what you faced last night and what you are going to face tomorrow offensively against those two teams, and any similarities are there?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: The main similarity is they have five guys who can score, just like Belmont. But they're bigger. They have one of the elite players in the country in Alexander. He's become that good.
And they have -- in their coach, he's been here before and won. It's a different type of game, just different type of game.
Q. I'm wondering when you played Jerry Tarkanian in the championship game, the media made it out to be a good versus evil thing. I'm asking you if there are any truth to those stereotypes media fans make, and people are talking about you and Huggins tomorrow?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: First of all, the West Virginia people are some of the great people in the whole world. If I didn't say that, Mike D'Antonio would leave my staff. They follow their team. They're genuine.
And for me, Bob's a guy's guy. I really like Bob a lot. He knows how to coach. But as a friend he'll tell you the truth and this is definitely no good and evil or whatever.
And it wasn't then when we played Las Vegas, either. They had Greg Anthony and these kids who were good kids. And it gets stereotyped a little bit.
Q. I'm not asking this because you're sick, I'm curious, how much of a physical toll it's been on you to juggle both coaching a program like Duke and Team USA.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: That's what makes these last couple of days very frustrating for me is I think it's been terrific. I've been in the best shape of my life -- not my life, but in the last ten years. I've been fresh. I haven't been sick at all, energized. It's a bug. It has nothing to do with my commitment. I'm already starting to feel better, knowing how concerned all of you are (laughter), it makes me feel good. I'm teary-eyed.
Q. Coach Huggins has said several times this year that basically the success of his team comes down to making jump shots and making shots. Is that really the key for your team this year, too? And is that the No. 1 thing that's going to determine the outcome on Saturday?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Knowing Bob, he may say that, but knowing Bob and knowing me, it starts with defense. His team plays good defense and they rebound well. And then maybe when he said that, it was the assumption that those first two things were going on and that was the missing element.
Right now they're doing all three, rebounding, playing defense, and they are hitting their jump shots. They hit their jump shots very, very well last night.
For us, similar. We're not -- we have to get to the line, too, by penetrating. We haven't been doing that as well. And that sets up a few better jump shots if you're penetrating better.
Q. I know you expect to get your best shot from an opponent every time out, but do you find over the years based on what we've seen over the last few tournaments, teams aren't as intimidated by Duke as they have been in the past?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don't know if we've won through intimidation. I think that we've had teams that have been more talented than other teams the last few years, so in some respects it didn't matter.
We could impose our will certain years. The last two teams have not been that way. However, this team has been an exceptional team for us. And it needs to regain a little bit more of a verve.
And winning yesterday helped, especially the manner in which we had to win. And hopefully we can win against West Virginia and advance and then see if we can get better.
But tomorrow will be a real tough game for us, which we look forward to. It will be an honor playing against Bob and his kids and the West Virginia fans, good people. I hope they don't shoot that musket right near our bench too much.
Q. Just wondering if you can even remember the last time you were at a neutral site and the non-Duke fans actually joined together and jumped on your bandwagon, if that gets annoying, it doesn't happen more often?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: They jumped on our bandwagon?
Q. The last couple of years you go to neutral sites and people start rooting against you. Do you remember people were rooting for Duke, instead of rooting for you guys to lose?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No. But if I'm in the stands and a lower seed has a chance -- and I don't have an affiliation, I'm going to go for them.
I mean, I think that goes -- an interesting thing when we were in the world championships in Japan, the game we lost to Greece, it was interesting, we were down and we were coming back and the whole stands were cheering for the United States. I don't think that's ever happened. I was shocked at that. And I'll be shocked if that ever happens. It's okay, though, as long as our fans cheer for us, it will be good.
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