Mike Krzyzewski took a satisfying look back.INDIANAPOLIS – During the plane ride back from Houston on Sunday night, after all the celebrating had been done, Duke coach
Coaches often watch film on the team charter to review what went right or wrong during the game. At the end of this viewing session, there was a bonus.
On the replay, Krzyzewski saw Duke director of basketball operations Chris Spatola's arms go up and a look of sheer joy on his face. Moments like that are what make this 11th Final Four trip special to a coach who's already won three NCAA titles and an Olympic gold medal.
Krzyzewski and Duke are back in the Final Four after a six-year absence during which doubters questioned his recruiting and the effect of his Olympic commitment on the Blue Devils while rival North Carolina went to three Final Fours and won two NCAA titles. But because it's has been a while, and Krzyzewski especially enjoys this team, this trip to the Final Four is different than the earlier ones.
Krzyzewski will have a chance to add to his NCAA-record total of tournament wins when Duke (33-5) tips off against West Virginia (31-6) at about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday in the national semifinals in Indianapolis. Krzyzewski also has tied former North Carolina coach Dean Smith for the second-most Final Four appearances ever, one behind the record of 12 set by UCLA's John Wooden.
Despite Duke's championship history, though, Krzyzewski has been reminding everyone throughout March that this particular group is as new to the chase for a Final Four as a team like Baylor. Spatola, for example, played at Army like Krzyzewski and served in Iraq but has never participated in a Final Four. That's why Spatola's reaction Sunday touched Krzyzewski.
He has grown to admire, appreciate, even love this team. He is thrilled that this group will experience the special event that he has enjoyed so many times in his career.
"This one is really good," he said after Duke defeated Baylor, 78-71, in the South Regional final.
"I mean, I want to just enjoy it with these guys. I never had a group exactly like this one. Again, we're not a great team, but we are really a good team. But we have great character. To be around that character on a day-to-day basis is so fulfilling for me. That's why I'm very, very happy for them."
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