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March 20, 2009

Mike Krzyzewski

Kyle Singler

Lance Thomas


AMY YAKOLA: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. I'm working on a story about the impact of conference tournaments on on NCAA. You guys have come into the NCAA off a poor ACC tournament. You know, you lost in the quarterfinals a year ago. You win the ACC this year. Is it any difference at all? Does it help in terms of building momentum confidence or does it hurt in terms you invest so much energy and time in winning the tournament? Any impact at all?
LANCE THOMAS: Well, for us, winning the ACC tournament was big. But it does give us a lot more momentum coming into this tournament. You know, we're older and more mature team. We're not worried about what our past was like or anything like that. We're living in the present. You know, from here on out, we're going to do everything in our power to make sure we keep winning games.
KYLE SINGLER: Going off what Lance said, last year to this year, we believe we're a different team. That, you know, you have a different team every year. So personally coming off a championship weekend in Atlanta, I mean, it does give the team a little confidence. You're coming off three games that you played fairly well in. I think there is a little bit of an edge that you get winning that conference championship, or a tournament.

Q. Last year the perception was that you were kind of gassed at the end. This year you played just as many minutes. Played just as hard. Yet you appear to be really fresh. What is the difference?
KYLE SINGLER: I think just having the year of experience has helped me a lot. I mean, last year was just different for me physically and emotionally. So, you go through different things that you might not expect. This year those things that I went through last year, I know what to expect. So it's different from last year. And just like you said, I feel fresh, and, you know, it's time to, you know, win tournament games for this team.

Q. You guys were a two seed this time of year, you're a 2 seed this year. But you look like a much better basketball team than you were this time a year ago. In your eyes what is the difference between a year ago and right now?
LANCE THOMAS: In my opinion, I believe it's experience. You know, we have a much older team. In years past, we didn't have as many upper classmen to basically show us the way. In my junior class, we've been through everything. We've been there when things weren't going well with. We've learned from it. You know, playing under one of the best coaches in college basketball, he's shown us the light that, you know, we are a better team.
You know, not to look back. You know, keep moving forward. Keep doing the things that we're doing. We're preparing well for every game that we're playing in. So taking that, and take the momentum we've gotten from the ACC tournament is going to be very big for us.

Q. Can you talk about tomorrow's match-up? Texas is pretty well rounded. They've got a big man in the middle. Can you particularly talk about dealing with Pittman and then also the sort of well roundedness of their offense in general?
LANCE THOMAS: Oh, yeah, it's going to be a handful. They're a very big team. You know, Pittman's a great post player. So, you know, we just have to basically do everything in our power to try to keep him off the boards. Be relentless. Going up for the rebounds with two hands. You know, making them run. Things of that nature.
You know, especially if they have a great perimeter, too. A.J. Abrams is one of the best shooters in the country. So we can't focus in on just the post. We have to play an overall game. And we're going to need everybody. Guys that haven't been playing as much of, we're going to need them. You know, Zoubek is a guy who didn't play much yesterday, we'll need his big body tomorrow. Everybody's going to have to bring it. The time is now.

Q. I know you were talking about how y'all have been through everything the last couple of years. Really, the last couple of years you played nothing but close tournament games. To have a pretty one-sided victory in the tournament. How much of a confidence boost is that for you going into the rest of the games?
LANCE THOMAS: It's a huge confidence boost. Just because like you said, we have been in close games. And, you know, it has helped us grow as a team. Being in close games like that, it gives you an edge of what to do at the end of the game to win.
So you know, coming off a game where we did win pretty big, it's a confidence booster for our team. Everybody is in the mindset believing that we can win. Like I said, not thinking about the past. We've been playing really well. Very good basketball recently. So just taking that and running with it will be big for us.

Q. Because Duke hasn't gotten out of the second round the last two years and there's been a drought of a Final Four for four years, does that amuse you when people talk about Duke falling off? Or does it anger you? What is your reaction?
KYLE SINGLER: Well, you know coming into a program with a rich tradition, a program that has success that Duke has. I mean, you're just kind of born into it. I mean it's something that you have to -- just because you're here, it's something that you have to take. You know, we place ourselves in situations with high expectations. You know, we feel that we're good enough to meet those and excel.
You know, when you guys, media say that the last couple of years we haven't gone past the second round or gone past the first round, haven't made a Final Four. We believe each year is different. You know, this year is different. It's a different team. We're trying to leave a different mark this year.
LANCE THOMAS: Just being here. I've been here longer. I was here when we lost in the first round. You know, it's funny to me just because people are saying that we're not living up to the Duke tradition and things of that nature. But the team that we are is the team that we're going to be.
In the past, Duke teams have no effect on what we're doing right now. We're the ones in there practicing going hard at each other every day. We're the ones that are laying our blood, sweat and tears on the line. You know, it's time to just be this Duke team.
Duke teams of the past, like I said, have no bearing on what we're doing. So, us just getting in the right frame of mind to keep moving forward with what we have now. You know, that's key for us. Not feeling any pressure of a past Final Four team.
If we do everything we're supposed to do and keep playing hard, there is no doubt in my mind we can get there.

Q. Talking about you staying fresh this year, you've got two other teammates that can go for 25 on a given night. Has that been a different grind for you knowing that the way the defenses are defending you guys as a whole, maybe the focus isn't as much on you as it was a year ago because Gerald wasn't giving you those kind of performances, and Jon wasn't giving those performances, but they are now?
KYLE SINGLER: Yeah, just going back to what Lance said, I think this team has more experience, just all together. And it's really just not about Jon, G and myself. Looking back on on last night we had six guys in double figures, that was big for us. We're going to have to have those type of performances. Like Lance gave us a huge lift on the boards, and Nolan coming back. He's been playing very well for us, too.
But those are the type of players that help us. We feel Jon, G and myself will be there every night. I think for the most part of the season our supporting roles have been there, and that's been a big key for us.
AMY YAKOLA: We're joined by Duke University Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Just our teams no injuries. Excited to play Texas, and open for questions.

Q. Just wondering what jumps out when you look at A.J. Abrams on tape? What is it that separates him from most other, not just shooters, but players overall?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, his quick release. He doesn't need the dribble. He reminds me a lot of how J.J. shot, and they can shoot while they're turning. They get into a rhythm. So he doesn't need a large window of opportunity to get a shot off. And he's right there. I mean, even his misses are right there. Just one of the most dangerous shooters, I think in our game right now in college basketball.

Q. Similar question about Dexter Pittman. I don't know if you guys faced a guy quite so big and athletic. What kind of challenges does he present?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I remember when I was with the dream team in 1992 in the Olympic team as an assistant. Talking to Barkley and saying why don't you blockout? And he says, I don't have to blockout, I have my space. I never was with a guy who had a space. And he was right. You know, he has his space. Pittman's like that, he has his space. You're not going to knock him out of his space. You're -- he has his space.
He's been a really good player for them since inserting him in the starting lineup, they've developed a little bit of a different style of play. But to be a double-double guy there sometimes very high double-double, is huge. He's extremely difficult to defend down there.

Q. Rick talked about when he was an assistant at George Mason he was interviewed for a job with you. And he's pretty ticked off -- no, I'm teasing?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: He's beaten me enough times since then to make up for it.

Q. But not at Texas. I was wondering if you could remember the interview session and starting out with Rick?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don't really. I'm too old to remember all those things. But I've known Rick for a long time. Really like him, consider him a good friend, and really one of the outstanding coaches we have.
I say that because he's constantly evolving. He's constantly getting better. I think if you trace his career and where he's been at, those programs have always gotten better. And he's gotten better along the way. He's a heck of a competitor.
But really good guy. Down to earth guy. He understands like most of us in on our game, that the game's bigger than all of us and we just should do our part and get along and try to become the best we can be.

Q. You talk about Pittman, and they know they have this weapon inside. But I know they're concerned with how good your team is not letting the ball go to where people want it to go. How long did it take you to develop that philosophy, and who influenced you with that? Just the whole thing of getting people out of what they want to do?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, when I was in college or if you call being at West Point being in college, but playing for Coach Knight, I just wondered about what it was like to play defense and intense defense. As the point guard really trying to understand the whole game plan. I just tried to do that throughout my coaching career and putting pressure on the ball, denying passes, having an active help side, and not doing too many other things that would then ruin the foot work and the instinctiveness of that defense as a result of doing too many other things.
But Coach Knight, by far, was the biggest influence.

Q. You guys were a number 2 seed last year, you're a number 2 seed now. But it looks like you're a much better basketball team than you were at this point a year ago. Why is that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, really last year the thing that -- last year doesn't make much difference about this year except the fact that a lot of those kids were on the team last year, and they got experience. Not just in the NCAA Tournament, but just the experience of playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and playing in our programs.
So we're an older, more experienced team. And we are a better team. I mean, we're a very good team, we're not a great team, but we're a very good team. And we're going to play a very good team.
If we advance, we'll still be a very good team, and if we don't advance, we'll still be a very good team. This team just has to play in this moment and not because of last year or anything else, and try to do the very best they can. We're just much more experienced, and we're healthier. Last year at this time we were not healthy.

Q. On Wednesday you kind of joked around about how President Obama had worried about the economy more than brackets?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, it was -- go ahead.

Q. And you did it with a smile on your face?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I won't stop you and take you out of context like people might take it.

Q. That's where I'm going. Yahoo.com had Coach "K" bothered by Obama's NCAA picks. And even a legitimate news source like CNN had a story that said Coach "K" dis Obama's picks. It didn't mention in the next sentence you said, I love the guy and I think he's going to be great. Does that bother you that things like that happen? And why do you think you're such a lightning rod for people doing things like that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I don't know. I don't know why people do that. I mean a lot of you were here. We were all laughing, and really it was kind of a throwaway line. It wasn't even -- not that I would throwaway anything about the President, you know, (smiling) -- get in trouble for that.
But I think because of being in this room -- especially the last 25 years on a very high platform, so to speak, people want at some times want to create news, they don't want to report news. And in their zest to create, they tell quarter stories on or tenth stories or 25% instead of telling the whole thing.
When I heard that first of all, I said, well, it's the way it is. You know, because I've had that happen to me a number of times.
What we did do about that because Reggie Love is President Obama's, I don't know, body man or whatever it is. And my wife, Mickie, text Reggie and said just in case -- not that he should know that. We weren't presuming that he should know that with the whole world, you know what I mean, to know what Coach "K" said in Greensboro, you know because an AP reporter decided to give a sentence instead of the whole story. And said, Coach didn't mean that. This is what he meant. And I hope he wasn't offended.
And Reggie text back and said, He wasn't on offended. Though some of the staff was concerned because they have to always be concerned.
President Obama thinks Coach "K" s all right. Then she text back and said, Thanks.

Q. So Mickie got more upset about it than you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No, my wife and daughters always get more upset than I do. But they should, and I like that. I like when your women stick up for you, you know (laughing). That's the cool thing. That's a really good thing. As a guy it makes you say maybe I still got it or whatever I have, I got.
No, that was, you know. I heard he was on Leno last night and one of the things he said, I like Coach "K" s a competitive guy. Really, he's got better things to talk about than me. I don't know if that gets me in trouble with the Polish-American people in the United States or whatever, but it's crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazy.

Q. That just totally threw me off.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It almost threw me off yesterday, so when I came to breakfast and heard that.

Q. When was that text back and forth? Was that yesterday?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I'm losing days. Yeah, yesterday. It would have been yesterday.

Q. Back to my question. Up in Philadelphia, there's been some, I don't if controversy to have is too strong a word. Talk about Villanova getting to play there, and that comes up a lot in North Carolina. Can you just address the fairness of how that works with the NCAA? And then on the flip side, obviously, you're not going to have much of a home-court advantage with the Carolina fans here. Wouldn't it have been almost easier for you to be in Philadelphia?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I think when the NCAA went to the pod system, they basically said that that's what they're going to try to do. So everybody knows that. The key then is to be one of the top seeds, so that, you know, you might get in that pod so you're playing for something.
It's just the way it is. So I don't know how controversial it is. That's the way it is, and it's going to be that way. If you want to change it, finish higher, you know what I mean? It's competitive is what I'm saying. As far as playing here, we think it's an honor to play here. Whether somebody's -- there are some people who cheer for you or cheer against you, that's all good.
The biggest thing for us about not going far is we completed the ACC tournament. Got back late Sunday night. Three intense games in less than three days, really. And to play close helped us, because we were a little bit banged up, and you're a little bit tired.
So when we, you know, we walk into arena last night and if there's a lot of Duke fans here, but if there are any people cheering against us -- the Binghamton people were cheering against us. So it's not that big a thing.
I've walked into places where everybody's booed me. The sad part is if it's me coming home back to Chicago with my family and they do it. Then that's a real problem. But if it's walking into an opponent's arena or walking into a lot of different fans, that's okay for me. I think it's a sign of respect.

Q. Talking about a quarter of the news or 10% of the news, you know, the last two years haven't been great for y'all in the NCAA Tournament. You haven't been to the Final Four in four years, but you win three national titles. Does that anger you, amuse you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's more amusing to me. I was just reading through Texas' notes. I don't know how many times they've been to the sweet sixteen in the last six offer eight years, and they report it well. So we could say we've been to the Sweet Sixteen 9 out of the last 11 years.
We're one of the only programs that have been to two Final Fours in this decade. We're one of the only programs that have won a national title in this decade. I mean, I can give you a list of we're one of the few programs.
But when you become one of those programs, especially ours, people don't have a tendency of writing those things. They have a tendency to write what you have not done. I think when that becomes -- that's also a sign of respect because they hate saying about what you've done.
I remember before we won our first National Championship we had gone to four Final Fours in five years. We got beaten by UNLV by 30 in 1990. And there are people who said I can't win the big one. You know, like, you know, and I could never go there. You know, understanding that, because for me to go to the Final Four was a dream.
Now all of a sudden it was going to be a monkey on my back? I said, come on, man, put more monkeys. Put more monkeys on.
Then we won it, and then the next monkey is when are you going to win it again? So you're just in that thing. So, that's cool.

Q. Doesn't anger you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You know, we live in a world that's very critical. And people who use 10% of a quote -- we're just in that a. In a world where I'd like to just -- you want to talk, I'll meet you eye to eye. I don't have much respect for. But it's just there. So it's not going to anger me. I'm going to do what we do. And have my women fight for me (laughing).

Q. You mentioned coming back from Atlanta. There's a school of thought that when you have a team like yours it's going to be in the tournament anyway and be highly ranked. That it's counter productive to invest a lot of time and energy in winning conference tournament these days. Is there any validity to that or does it make any difference?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think there is some validity, and depending on your team. We felt that because of our new lineup that we needed and we wanted to get as many games and as many accomplishments as we could. We wanted to win the ACC Championship, but we wanted to play those three games. Also we were getting Nolan back for the first time.
So we could not have practiced in a better environment than we played in, and the ACC Tournament was great for us, and then the accomplishment of winning is something that can't be taken away from those kids.

Q. The whole one and done thing, you're recruiting. I know you've kind of spoken out against that because you want guys to graduate. Have you changed your thinking at all?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No, I would rather have kids who want to go, go right out of high school. I think and then if they come stay for two years. And this way I think that's the deal we should make with our academic partners at our school. In that when someone comes to your school they should be coming to your school with the intent of getting an education.
It's okay for a kid not to go to college. I mean I coached a number of the guys on my Olympic team that didn't go to college, and they're doing just fine. So that precedent had already been set. I don't know why you go against that.
But by going for only a year, actually it's less than a year, it could be 7 months, what does somebody do in a second semester? Does anybody really come back to pursue a degree? You're using the institution, and I think that's the wrong message we should -- I'm not saying every kid is a bad kid for it. But the message is not a good one. Whereas, if you say you're going to come and you're going to come for two years, you can get more than half your credits with summer school and those two years. Then there is a chance that you could come back.
In the big picture of things, that's what we should do in college, I think. So, anyway, that's what I think.

Q. Can you talk about Coach Barnes was in here and said that you guys switched a lot of screens. Can you talk about how that system has worked and why it's worked for you guys this year?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, it's worked primarily because we have guys who can switch. In other words if Gerald and Kyle switch, they're big enough to guard and good enough foot-speed wise to guard either guy they're switching to. So we have a team that's more compatible to switching. As a result, we do it.
It's better for this team. We've always kind of switched on the perimeter and inside, but now we do a lot more with perimeter and inside. It's because we have kind of the same type of lineup in there.

Q. Back on the subject of expectations and raising the bar. Some coaches must get irritated constantly that when you set the bar there that everybody thinks the other part of it is easy. I know you have your wife and your daughters defending you, but how do you deal with it with the fact that what you've done is supposed to be easy to a certain point, and then everything else you're supposed to give us another one, and another one, and another one?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I think you have to keep things in perspective. I think if I was a pro coach and had my same team every year, then the thought of doing something the same each year would be more realistic. If I had Derek Jeter playing for me each year and Rivera coming out of the bullpen, but that's not the case.
We have new kids. Especially, every college coach has pretty much a new team every year. So I would rather have what I think happens with our kids is the expectations that somebody has of me as the Duke coach falls on them as Duke players. I still have to give them the opportunity to mature and develop like the teams that I've had in the past, you know, and when they do that, to get the recognition that they, as they do it. Not that it's, Oh, okay, we won another one. You know?
Like our team last Sunday, those kids won their first ACC Championship, even though we've won a number of them. I think we've won 11 ACC Tournament titles, and 8 or 9 out of the last 11 or 12 years, but that team hadn't. So that was a joyous occasion for me because I got to see them win and enjoy it. You just have to keep it in perspective.

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