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March 23, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We will take questions for Duke student-athletes.
Q. Nolan, just initial thoughts on Arizona when you guys have watched tape, what are the things that have impressed you most?
NOLAN SMITH: We know they're a good team or they wouldn't be here, and Derrick Williams to start he's part of our game plan, trying to stop him and, you know, our big guys are ready for that task. Just for us to play them, playing our Duke defense and trying to make it tough for them and get after 'em.
Q. How important is experience in the Sweet 16, or having been here before? How much does it help when you play in these games and understand the rhythms of the way the tournament works?
KYLE SINGLER: Experience can help in some cases, but I think experience can only go so far and you're basically playing with your team and a lot of the guys on our team have a lot of experience but the guys that don't, I think, over the season have gained and understood what a game is like. Once you get in these games you're just playing to win.
NOLAN SMITH: I agree with that. Basically the team that is the most together, even if they don't have experience or some seniors to lead them, if they're a together group and know what they are doing as a team, they can be successful at this point in the year.
Q. Kyle, did you stay, in part, to see the coach get the all-times win record or was it purely a personal decision?
KYLE SINGLER: It was mostly personal. Coach has accomplished some records this year, and I have accomplished some records this year, too, so coming back wasn't to break any records for Coach or for myself, but I just wanted to come back and experience my senior year.
THE MODERATOR: Nolan you want to comment on Coach Mike Krzyzewski getting the "wins" mark?
NOLAN SMITH: He's about to accomplish something great, and we didn't think about it at the time; but as the year started, and he started to reach more and more milestones and accomplishments, that's when it hits you and it starts to excite you as a player to want to go out there and play as hard as you can for them.
Q. Do you ever start to think that his record, what we expect to be his record will be in part yours?
NOLAN SMITH: No, I think his record is his record. I think we will be a part of it just because Kyle and myself have done a lot for him and brought a lot of wins to this program but it's all him! All of his wins will be his hard work and his knowledge of the game.
KYLE SINGLER: Yeah, what Nolan said. Those are his wins, but definitely the players that he has coached, they're a part of it, but just a portion of it.
Q. You still have to go through however many years of getting yelled at in practice, and you earned it.
KYLE SINGLER: Yeah, exactly.
Q. Guys, can you talk about what Irving is bringing back to the floor and has there been any issue bringing him back in the practice in offense and having him participate, any change to the team?
KYLE SINGLER: Whenever you get a player back that hasn't been part of the team for three months, your team is going to change a little bit but we had Kyrie in the preseason and he was with us in the first few games, but it's always good to have a player like him come back on your team because he only makes your team better. He makes plays for himself and he creates plays for others.
So I think he only makes our team better.
NOLAN SMITH: Having Kyrie is a huge benefit for our team because he is so talented. Even though he's missed a lot of time, he was a great teammate while he was out and he kept his team championship, so adding him back into the lineup and getting back into the swing of things here in the tournament has been very easy. We've had a lot of time before we headed out here to practice and he started to look more comfortable.
Q. As you look toward tomorrow you've got some teams local that are expecting to have a fan base here, you guys may not have as big of a following here, does that make a difference to you, playing in front of a crowd that might not be in your corner?
NOLAN SMITH: Not at all, especially for Kyle and myself and a lot of guys on the team, we played Baylor in Houston and Butler in Indianapolis, but we will always have a fair share of Duke fans when we play, but we're ready to get out on the court and play for the Duke fans in the building. We always have a great support.
Q. Do you expect a large Duke contingent tomorrow?
KYLE SINGLER: I'm not sure but the fans that do show up, we know they're with us, that's all that matters.
Q. Has there been a moment this year, just a moment, where you did regret not going pro?
KYLE SINGLER: No, not at all. Once I made my decision, I never went back on it or even rethought about it. It's been everything that I expected, and of course you're going to have your up's and down's throughout a season but I definitely never regretted it.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We're obviously privileged, honored, and really happy to be here. We got in last night, around suppertime last night and we're adjusting to the time change and anxious to get out on the court. We're healthy, and we're ready to go, and I'd love to answer your questions.
Q. Surprise it's not going to be about Irving, but I'm talking about lineups this year, have you had as many seasons where you have had to make as many personnel lineup decisions as you had to make this year? Every time I turn the TV on I see a different lineup and how much of that was based on what happened to Irving and were some of them based on match-ups?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Your question is a great one. There have been a lot and there wouldn't be as many, if any, if Kyrie was healthy the whole year, because the perimeter we would have would be him, Nolan and Kyle for the entire season which would be a formidable perimeter.
What happened is we practiced for two months, played eight games playing a certain way and when you have a strength that's that strong on the perimeter you don't have to show your weaknesses, and as soon as he went down, our weaknesses were exposed, and we didn't have the two months before to correct those weaknesses.
So we basically started our preseason in the middle of December. As a result, kids had to grow, like Seth Curry wasn't playing that well afterwards, and now he's playing really well. Our big guys had to learn to screen more off the ball to get guys open than on the ball.
We didn't run as much, and basically we went from a team where people reacted to the ball, to where the ball now had to react to people, about 180-degree difference. But what's happened is our guys have gotten better and they didn't make excuses, but sometimes it was because of match-ups.
But I think more so as a matter of growth and where we saw different people grow and go how we would be together. We made a big change going into the ACC Tournament starting Miles instead of Ryan, and I thought we got better doing that; and now with Kyrie coming back, we're trying to incorporate him in on the run here in the tournament. But, again, I'm not complaining, I would rather have that than not have it.
Q. Coach, I apologize for this question because it's a little bit of history, but in your time at Army when you were a coach or player, did you ever remember hearing about the 1944 Army undefeated basketball?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No, I did not know that. Good scheduling maybe.
Q. Coach, you talk about how your team has evolved and improved on some levels without Kyrie, how much better are you with him in the lineup and your "new team" for lack of a better term.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You get better if you add talent, as long as it doesn't hurt chemistry. So in not starting him, which he shouldn't start, we've kept up pretty much our chemistry; and in bringing him off the bench -- he never left the team emotionally, if you've watched our games during the year, Kyrie was terrific with his teammates. So there is nothing about a kid saying, well, boy, he's coming back and now my role has changed or "poor me" none of that.
The other thing is, he's really good, so, again, he's not going to be at the level he was when he got hurt, but the guys know that he's that good, so they want him. They want to have him be a part of what we're doing.
But last weekend it turned out to be good for us, one, because we advanced, that's the main reason; but the other reason is he got to play 20 minutes in each ballgame, and his confidence grew. Then he got to play significant minutes with Nolan and not Kyle so much because Kyle wasn't -- had four fouls in the last 10 minutes of the game, but especially he and Nolan, so, you know, if we're fortunate enough to win tomorrow, I think we'll get better because we'll have to be really good in order to beat Arizona.
And then if we play on Saturday, and we're fortunate enough to win then we have a little more time, but if not, I won't look back at this if we get beat and say, well, you shouldn't have used Irving, that would be the most ludicrous statement to make. The kid, first of all, deserves to be here, we wouldn't have beaten Michigan without him because of the foul trouble we had. And Michigan was playing so well, they imposed their will as far as how we could use our bigs, and so Kyrie ended up being very, very valuable for us.
Q. Coach, what are your impressions of Sean Miller as a head coach?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he's been a little more than short time, compared to me maybe it's a short time because I'm a lot older than he is. I've known Sean for a long time and his family. He's a basketball guy. I think he's -- I consider Calhoun, Williams, myself, the old guys who got in it for the right reasons and love the game a certain way.
I think Sean is more of an "old soul." He got in the game for the right reasons. His team is sound. They're just good. I mean as good of a player as Williams is, and I think he's got to be a first-team, might be the best -- first-team All-American, may be as good as anybody. His coaches used him well, and a lot of coaches don't use their best players as well as Sean has used him. They're sound defensively, and I think a lot of him, and I've developed a good friendship with him, and I think Arizona is lucky to have him.
Q. Mike, what are the challenges or pitfalls of integrating a guy like Irving back into a team that has gotten along playing well without him?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, there are not many guys like Irving, so it's not like bringing a guy back from injury, it's bringing a great talent back from a very serious injury, and a great kid.
So I think it's -- I like having the opportunity to do that. I -- really, I didn't think there was any way that he was coming back. He made incredible progress over the last few weeks, and I -- I don't think there is really a pitfall, you know? He makes us better. How much better? Is it enough? What lineups will I have with him?
If we could keep winning that that might evolve, but for right now he's not starting tomorrow, but he'll play -- he played significant minutes last week when I thought he was going to play limited minutes, so I mentioned that he will play significant minutes tomorrow. I don't know what the hell that means, then. It means he's going to play "great minutes" hopefully tomorrow night.
Q. Coach, you had a losing record your last year at Army and a losing season two of your first three years here. Would you have been afforded the same opportunity today? Would you have weathered that? Would a coach have the same margin for error, big time basketball?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: If I worked for the same great people, yeah, a lot of people don't work for great people. They don't work for people who have a vision of a full picture. They want fast food service. At Army, you know, we won 73 games and we were 73-59 after -- the two years before we got there they were 7-44, my last year we probably should have been 4 and something, we were 9-17.
But when I got to Duke, it was different. Guys didn't go early, and we had a great president and a great A.D. and a plan and I never felt threatened. I'm not sure coaches today feel the same way. I don't think there is as much of a team effort. I always felt I've been on a team whether it be at West Point or at Duke and still consider being on a team. My boss is Dick Brodhead and my other boss is Kevin White and I get along with them great.
Q. When you got to Duke did you have any reasonable expectation of how long you might last?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No, no, I mean --
Q. 10 years? 20?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I coach every game like it's my first game, and my mom and dad, the neighborhood I came from believed that. The next game, the next thing you do is the important thing you do.
How does it turn out? You know, you don't look too far ahead, and you definitely don't look back; but you really focus on now, and that's the way I've enjoyed coaching and it's turned out well.
Q. Coach, I was wondering if you could talk about whether it's a challenge to coach two guys who are brothers who essentially play the same position, especially when maybe one of them, middle of the season was struggling a little bit and another was having success?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You know, I know your question is good. I'm not sure how many challenges we face as coaches. There are decisions you make, but those are -- they're evolving players, so it's not a challenge. I think they're both talented. They're great kids. I've loved coaching them, but I also know they have a process to go through. As long as the people around them know -- and they know that they have a process to go through then you get through that process better. Both Miles and Mason have grown as players.
They're playing very well, and they're going to play even better as their career now goes forward because they've gotten it, they understand it better now. If it's that big of a challenge we wouldn't have recruited their brother, he's coming in next year. Imagine how challenging that will be! But that's the beauty of coaching. Those are the things I love -- I love to coach Kyle Singler who is good from day one. He gets it. He's been a great player, one of the greatest in the history of our conference.
But Roscoe Smith who wasn't a great player initially, and because of how he's changed and because of a circumstance where Kyrie goes down, he's elevated his game. We haven't had a player who has done what Nolan has done in my 31 years here. From where he started and even going into this year and now where he's at as a player, that's a beautiful thing. Those aren't challenges. They're just good experiences.
Q. You've been to this part of the tournament and beyond so many times. I wonder if you could put into words how hard it is for a team like San Diego State -- which a week ago today had never won an NCAA Tournament game -- to get deep into the tournament and to win tomorrow and maybe on Saturday?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think it's hard for anybody. Again, every team that's in this tournament shouldn't carry the baggage, it's expensive baggage because you've been to the tournament and have won before, or you have no baggage, you've never been. You play in the moment, and that's the beauty of the tournament.
The San Diego State team is exceptionally talented and exceptionally coached and it's their time, their time right now. It came as a result of a commitment that that administration made to Steve Fisher to build a program, and now it's a program deserving of being in these moments. I mean, they've done an incredible job. Their record and the way they play, they've been sensational.
Q. Coach, talk about your unhappiness --
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: My happiness.
Q. You're happy at being at Duke, when the Lakers came to you to talk about coaching Kobe Bryant, has your standpoint changed at all about coaching in the NBA?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I've never thought of ever leaving Duke for another school, but there were three serious times where I almost left to go to the pros, one was when Dave Gavitt took over the Celtics, and another was with the Trail Blazers, but one that I took to a far level was the Lakers situation, and they were great with me. I could not give up what I've got, what I have at Duke. It just wasn't worth it.
I didn't know that I would have the opportunity to coach internationally again until Jerry Colangelo asked me and I've loved that and it's made me a better coach.
I love the NBA, but it made me love the NBA more. I'm good with where I'm at, I'm too old to do anything else, kinda like Bob Ryan.
Q. Mike, I wanted to ask you, you passed a milestone in December talking about piling up wins wasn't as significant as you wanted championships, that's what you aim for. Can you talk about making that the focus of your program with the expectations and the burden of being judged that way in terms of championships and what that means?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I don't think you play for other people's expectations, you know, you don't go and become a lawyer because your mother or father want you to, you don't become a coach because somebody wants you to. You should do things because of what your expectations are of you, and then if you're fortunate to have a business, a program, something that you're in charge of, what are your expectations? Do you try to lead the people that you're -- it's your privilege to lead to try to meet up with those things?
So I don't think -- for me that's not a burden. Every kid that comes and plays for us, I want them to think that they are playing for eventually to play for a championship, and that's why any individual win during a season is never that big, except if it leads to a league championship, a tournament championship, and obviously the national championship.
I would rather do it that way, and it's never been a burden for me. It's kinda new each year and with this team, I mean, they're 32-4, I think we're playing real well, they get along great, and we have a chance to win tomorrow, and so does Arizona. But we have a chance to win and that's all I'm -- if that can lead, then, to potentially playing for a national championship, then that's the journey we have to be on, and it's a good journey.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports