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Duke's Journey to the 2001 National Championship
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FIVE-POINT PLAY. Copyright © 2001 by Mike Krzyzewski. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
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A hardcover edition of this book was published in 2001 by Warner Books.
First eBook Edition: November 2001
A few moments after my wife, Mickie, and I walked into the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Shane Battier and Jason Williams spotted us and waved. They were in the middle of a summer practice session as part of the U.S. Select Team chosen to help the 2000 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team prepare for competition. We had just arrived in Hawaii at the invitation of the National Basketball Association to attend a reunion of the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team"—on which I had served as an assistant coach.
After a break in the action, Shane and Jason jogged over to greet us. "Hi Coach. Hi Mrs. K," they said almost in unison.
"Hi guys. How's it going?"
"Great. When did you get here?" asked Shane.
"Our plane landed about an hour ago," I said. "We thought we'd come over, check things out, and see if you wanted to have lunch with us."
"You mean you came here first?" asked Jason.
"Of course," Mickie replied. "We've got plenty of time to spend with those NBA stars. You two are our top priority."
Every preseason, I identify at least one or two individuals who will be the heart of our team. Invariably, they'll be the ones who will lift everybody else to a higher level of performance and achievement. In 1986, it was Johnny Dawkins and Mark Alarie. In 1994, it was Grant Hill. In 1996, Chris Collins. In 1998, Steve Wojciechowski and Trajan Langdon.
This year, it was clear to me that Shane and Jason were going to be the two key guys. They already had a good relationship, but on a different level. Shane was one of the leaders on the court last year and Jason was an inexperienced freshman. But because they were both going to be leaders this year, it was imperative for them to relate differently to each other.
I viewed it as my responsibility to start them on the path to that new relationship—and also let them know they could count on me. The best players need the support of the head coach because being the leaders on a team can be lonely. Who do they turn to in moments of doubt? I had to deepen my relationship with Shane and Jason, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.
Later that afternoon, we met for a casual lunch in the restaurant next to our hotel. We were outside, a cool breeze was blowing, and the iced tea tasted sweet. All in all, it was the perfect setting for a no-pressure, amiable conversation with my wife and two of the main guys on our basketball team. We laughed, joked, and talked about our families until, eventually, the discussion turned to the upcoming season.
"I hope you both realize that this year you will have to be very close on the court. We have a fairly young team and the guys will need both of you to lead. You two should know that you can depend on one another at the highest level. Your relationship should be mature. Not that you'll never get on one another, but for the most part, you guys should be calming influences as we develop our team."
I asked them how they felt about the situation they were in and how they felt about the team overall, and I asked for their perspectives on each individual player. It was a good discussion and I learned a lot about how they think and what they believe. Then, knowing that Shane has a tendency to wear himself out, I decided to address a key issue with him right off the bat.
"You're going to have a lot of pressure on you this year, Shane. You'll probably be the preseason pick for Player of the Year. So you shouldn't come in and be running at 100 miles an hour. You should run at 80 miles an hour and work your way up to 100. Also, you'll need to rely on Jason more so you don't become the worrywart for the entire team—which would diminish your performance. We'll need you to be healthy both mentally and physically."
Then I turned to Jason."Jason, can you help Shane?"
"Yeah, I can help," he replied.
"Good," I said. "But you know there'll be pressure on you this year, too—mostly to go pro."
Jason, who had just returned from Brazil where he led the World Junior Team to a silver medal, was definitely NBA material. But I knew he still had a lot of improvement to go before he became the great professional basketball player I knew he was going to be.
"How have you liked playing against the pros here in Maui?" I asked.
"Oh, it's great, a lot of fun."
"Well, it can be intoxicating. But don't get caught up in all that. Remember these guys aren't at the top of their game right now. You still have a lot of improvement to make. We'll watch your progress this season and keep talking about it. And don't forget that your plan is to graduate."
"Right, I won't. Besides, my mom won't let me forget."
After awhile, Jason excused himself to go to the restroom. "How's Jason doing," I asked Shane.
"Well, he's the best player here. No doubt about it." "You should tell him that. Do you feel comfortable telling him that?"
"Then tell him. The two of you should be joined at the hip. You know he wants your approval. He respects and admires you. If you tell him, it will help him."
"Okay, Coach," replied Shane. "I'll tell him."
After the guys took off, I looked at Mickie and said, "Well, he's rock solid."
"You mean Jason and the way he's playing?"
"Well, yes, Jason's doing great. But I was actually referring to Shane. Did you hear how honestly he responded about his team-mate—the one who, no doubt, will give him the most competition for attention this year? Shane could just as easily have said something noncommittal about Jason and talked about himself. But he didn't; he simply stated that Jason was the best player there. That's our senior leader, Mickie. Honest. No jealousy. Rock solid. I hope he can spread that to the rest of the team."
At this point, we had completed our first major step of the year. We had determined that the heart of our team was going to be these two young men. And, as always, I was going to lead with the heart.
* * * * *
During the summer, other players also were busy preparing for the upcoming season. Actually, preparation for the 2001 season began in March 2000—only a few days after we lost to Florida in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. Nate James, for instance, our rising fifth-year senior, was in the gym right away working out, shooting, watching tape—and he continued to do so nearly all summer. He was determined to graduate from Duke with a championship ring on his finger. Many of the other players followed his lead in the off-season.
Mike Dunleavy went home to fully recuperate from the mononucleosis that had sidelined him for part of last season. Toward the end of the summer, he worked out with the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers—which were coached by his dad, Mike Dunleavy Sr. Casey Sanders traveled to Europe to play on a touring all-star team. Carlos Boozer headed in the other direction— paying his own way to Hawaii where he attended the Pete Newell Big Man's Basketball Camp. And our three freshmen, Chris Duhon, Reggie Love, and Andre Sweet, stayed in Durham to take classes and, in the process, became fast friends. Not only did they study together, they played full-court one-on-one games nearly the entire summer. They were in unbelievable shape when the fall semester started.
Also that summer, Carlos Boozer's parents moved down from Juneau, Alaska, and Chris Duhon's mother moved up from Slidell, Louisiana. All our players enjoy wonderful support from their parents. And that's the way it should be. One of the things I look for when I recruit a player is parental support and mutual respect. And perhaps because I had such a close relationship with my mom, I especially home in on those kids with a special mother-son connection. It seems to provide a particularly strong foundation for character, courage, and the capacity for learning and growth.
In the off-season, I like to work in my garden. If I take something from good soil and replant it in even richer soil, it seems to grow great. It's kind of like that with our players. All of them come from good homes to join our Duke basketball family. As individuals, they arrive with a certain amount of intelligence, confidence, and unselfishness. Their parents plant them with me and say, "Coach, here's my son. I'm going to support you." And I try to create a fertile environment to grow the individuals into one collective team— into a beautiful garden.
Here's how I saw our players as the year began.
Senior, 6' 8", 220 lbs.
Born leader; potentially a great, great leader. A responsibility vacuum cleaner. Wants to be The Rock for everybody. Not afraid for everybody to be good while he's good. Enjoys the success of his teammates. Maturity and thought processes are way beyond his years. He does need to have somebody ask, "Are you okay?" But you have to do that privately. Sometimes I have to counsel him about not over-committing himself. Have to be careful not to wear him out; can't have the maître d' sweep the floor every night. Tremendous will to win.
Sophomore, 6' 9", 270 lbs.
Has a big heart. Understands he needs a team to make him the very best. Very coachable; doesn't make excuses. Craves instruction. Methodical; needs to develop a habit of doing things at a quicker pace; sometimes too laid-back for his own good. Sometimes gets bogged down in the process. Has not yet learned to function at full capacity; he wants to, but hasn't developed a habit for doing that. Has tremendous potential that must be developed.
Sophomore, 6' 1", 181 lbs.
Starter on soccer team. Always dreamed of being a Duke basketball player; works hard to make his dream a reality; living his dream. My nephew; Mickie's sister's son; not on the team because he's my nephew; on the team because he works his rear off. Teammates like him; works hard to pump them up; comic relief for the team.
Sophomore, 5' 10", 170 lbs.
Has a smile that fills his face and lights up a room. Very likeable. Quiet around me; but around his teammates, he's animated. Comic relief for the guys. Sometimes physically can't compete because he gets asthma-type attacks. Can pressure the ball very well.
Senior, 6' 3", 185 lbs.
Was a manager on our team his freshman year; never gave up on his dream to be a Duke basketball player. Does anything asked of him; his maturity helps our guys. Unbelievably dependable. Tough. Sure.
Junior, 6' 10", 247 lbs.
Battles knee problems; on a physical roller coaster, but is there every day. Never able to give 100 percent physically; always there 100 percent mentally. Mild-mannered and gentle off the court. Dependable. Tough. Very team-oriented; very supportive of his teammates. Offers no excuses. Quiet; secure; mature.
Freshman, 6' 1", 186 lbs.
A reluctant superstar; has the "waiting-in-line" syndrome; Grant Hill and Shane Battier had it also; not a bad trait. On defense, he's like a bird flying free; reluctant, offensively. Amazingly talented. Will work like crazy. Shows great concern for his teammates; even though he could be a star, he wants their respect, love, and friendship. When he looks into your eyes, he's almost angelic.
Sophomore, 6' 9", 204 lbs.
Can do everything well. Wants to win and doesn't care who gets the credit for it. Is willing to step forward. Thinks of things in more depth than most. I want him to say more. Still growing physically; his body has changed and he's still learning how to deal with it; once his mind catches up to his body, he'll be one great player. Has a wit that challenges me and I like that.
Sophomore, 6' 10", 221 lbs.
A real believer. Solid player. Continually learning that he is good. Solid sixth or seventh man on our team. Great knowledge of the game; very intuitive; smart. Self-motivated; low-maintenance. Very well-liked by his teammates; able to help others improve. Big heart; unselfish.
Senior, 6' 6", 200 lbs.
Quiet leader. At his best when he becomes a warrior. Confident. Great work ethic. Wants to be a part of something bigger than himself. 100 percent committed. At times, almost too team-oriented; a little bit too unselfish; that strength can also be a weakness. Sometimes he thinks too much and forgets his natural instincts; needs to think less in the heat of a game. A meat-and-potatoes player. Will defend until he dies. No one would do more for his teammates.
Freshman, 6' 5", 220 lbs.
Wide receiver on the football team; very, very fast. Has great balance; has a lower, sturdy center of gravity. Doesn't complain; does whatever is good for the team. Very smart. Tough. Likeable. Fearless. Physical.
Junior, 6' 5", 206 lbs.
Transfer from Rutgers where he was the marquee player; ineligible to play this year. Only the second transfer since I've been at Duke; a star; our best all-around athlete. Tough as nails; no excuses. Very intelligent. Dedicated. Aggressive. Patient. Wants to win. Outstanding defender. Loves to compete.
Sophomore, 6' 11", 218 lbs.
Didn't start playing basketball until he was 14. A great person. Accepts any role you put him in. Wants to get better; still learning; has the largest growth curve for the game; as he learns more, his eyes open up. Used to have excuses; not any more. Needs for us to tell him we need him. He's learned to like who he is and that he can be good being himself. Can really run the floor and block shots.
Senior, 6' 4", 194 lbs.
Four-year walk-on; exceptional leadership ability. As well-liked and respected as anybody on the team. When he talks, people listen. Other members of the team want to be around him. Has charisma. Good shooter; intelligent player; understands our culture as well as anyone on the team.
Freshman, 6' 6", 203 lbs.
Team-oriented. Unselfish. Great attitude. Very homesick for his family and friends in New York; it impacts his studies. Never lets that be a distraction to the team. A good person.
Sophomore, 6' 2", 196 lbs.
Incredible talent. Capable of tremendous belief; has a huge heart. If he hasn't done well in a game, he might come up to me and apologize for not playing well before I can say anything to him. At this stage in his life, he believes in me more than he believes in himself sometimes. Not completely sure of himself yet. Loves to play. Wants the ball in tough situations; has great courage. Unselfish. Incredible will to win.
The Assistant Coaches
Associate head coach, fourth year at Duke
Played for me from 1983–1986. Duke's all-time leading scorer. Consensus All-America and National Player of the Year (1986); retired jersey (Number 24) hangs in the rafters at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Nine-year veteran of the National Basketball Association. In charge of year-round player development program (skill development, individual lifting, conditioning). Mentor and friend to all the players and coaches. Quiet. Loves kids. Caring and kind. Passionate. Brings maturity and experience to the staff. Assessment of players is always right on the mark. If you want to have an assessment of a fine wine, you go to a wine connoisseur in France. If you want an assessment of a fine basketball athlete, you go to Coach Johnny Dawkins.
Steve Wojciechowski (Wojo)
Assistant coach, second year at Duke
Replaced Quin Snyder last year. Played for me from 1995–1998. Former captain of the Duke basketball team; NABC National Defensive Player of the Year. All-America Honorable Mention (1998). Former teammate of Shane Battier, Nate James, and J.D. Simpson. Former teammate of Coach Chris Collins. Works with the big men. Splits scouting and recruiting duties with Coach Collins. Chris Duhon was his first recruit. Great passion. Great heart. Amazing work ethic. Last name tougher to spell than Krzyzewski.
Assistant coach, first year at Duke
Replaced David Henderson this year. Played for me from 1993–1996. Former co-captain of Duke basketball team. Former teammate of Wojo. Former assistant coach at Seton Hall University with Tommy Amaker. Former assistant coach with WNBA's Detroit Shock. Works with the guards and perimeter players. Splits scouting and recruiting duties with Wojo. Grew up around basketball. Father is a coach in the NBA. Great insights into all areas of basketball. Passionate. Gutsy. Great heart. A real winner.
Jeff La Mere
Director of basketball operations, sixth year at Duke
Former student manager at Duke from 1993–1995. Former assistant coach at the University of Delaware. Coordinator of all basketball-related activities, including scouting, videotaping, and assisting coaches in day-to-day operations. Very intelligent; reliable; has good insights about people and the game.
Administrative assistant, second year at Duke
Former student manager with Indiana Hoosiers basketball team. Former administrative assistant for the Mississippi basketball staff. In charge of academic coordination for all the players. Helps them with time management. Reminds them of papers due and exams coming up; stays on top of their progress. Provides me with a weekly written update. Thorough. Efficient. Dedicated.
Andre Buckner called me from Dallas one summer day and he didn't beat around the bush. "Coach, I'm getting a tattoo," he said.
"Where are you going to get it, Andre—on your forehead or where?"
"On my arm," he responded with a laugh.
"Is it in good taste?"
"Yeah, I think it is."
"Well, it's your right to do that. I'd advise you to think about it for a moment. Make sure it's something you want there forever— and that it's in good taste."
Twenty years ago, I wouldn't have handled Andre's call that way. I would have made it an issue. Back then, I was wired tight, and there was no way anybody on my team was going to get a tattoo. But with time, I've become more accepting, more understanding. And it's a good thing, too, because a number of the guys on our team have chosen to get tattoos.
Some people say that kids today have changed for the worse. But I bet adults were saying that when I was a kid. The group I hung out with were all good kids. We just did some things that were strange to adults. Well, the kids on my team are good kids, too. They just have a different culture. And as their coach and leader, I feel I need to get into their culture and figure out how to teach the principles of honesty, truthfulness, collective responsibility, and trust. It doesn't mean I have to dress like them, or get a tattoo, or have a body part pierced, or love hip-hop music. But it does mean I have to understand that they are allowed to do that. In general, I just don't let these things become obstacles to our having a high-quality relationship. They're good kids. If they want to wear earrings and have tattoos, that's all right—it's their culture.
* * * * *
In preparing for the upcoming season, I met frequently with my staff, and together we came up with some basic strategies.
First, conditioning was going to be a key for us. We had just moved into a new building—and our new weight, training, and locker rooms now lent themselves to year-round strength and conditioning. So we created a new program (called Individual Player Development) and put Johnny Dawkins in charge of it. I knew Johnny would be great at it, because he had to take great care of his body when he was a professional athlete in the NBA. He would now coordinate closely with William Stephens, our strength and conditioning coach, to see that all the players never got away from good conditioning.
Second, we decided to install a more up-tempo playing style and a system that would incorporate more depth. Last year, we weren't deep with players coming off the bench. This year we would be. We'd also be extremely fast. "I want this team to think fast," I told the staff. "So let's speed up practice this year. Let's create a fast tempo—even in how we go from drill to drill. Let's get the guys accustomed to never slowing down."
Third, we planned to take advantage of this team's shooting ability. Shots from beyond the three-point arc were going to be big for us this year. Our guys have the three key ingredients you need to be successful at it: confidence, intelligence, and unselfishness. So we decided to let our players trust their talent as much as we did. And we were going to hold to our maxim: Shooters do not stop shooting, at Duke.
"I don't think I ever heard 'Don't shoot' in my years here. What Coach K will get on you for is not shooting when you're open."
There were also some intangible things that we were determined to emphasize. We would show more video of past championship moments and great Duke teams. I wanted the kids to envision themselves hitting the big shot and celebrating a championship. I also wanted the team to have a primary focus on communication with each other. If you're a true team, you can go on the court and hear both the talk of the players and the squeaking of the shoes. If you hear just the squeaking of the shoes, something's wrong.
We vowed that we would learn from our mistakes and losses this season. Not too many negative things are going to happen to us twice. Paradoxically, we also plan to forget. We'll have to put things behind us quickly. Next Play is going to be a key phrase this year. THE FIST will also be big this year. We'll constantly reinforce the five points of THE FIST: communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring, and pride.
And we're going to talk to Jason Williams and Carlos Boozer about the NBA. I want them to know that it's okay to talk about going pro. We'll put together plans for them so we don't have them thinking things like, I have to score a certain amount so that I can make it to the NBA early. Besides, we should always have plans for our players and be involved in their decisions. We don't want to be providing input only at the eleventh hour. Talent alone does not require time. But the development of talent, the development of leadership, and the development of communication can only be developed through time and effort.
And finally, we're going to emphasize that basic fundamental of Duke basketball—defense. This year, we'll have more depth so we'll be able to keep a fresh unit on the court playing defense all the time. Half-court pressure, three-quarter-court pressure, full-court pressure, and forced turnovers result in fewer points for our opponents and more high-percentage shots for us. I've already got an appropriate quote picked out, and I'm going to put it on all the lockers before the first team meeting: "In all the research you do as a coach, studying other coaches in championship-type situations, you find that all those teams combine talent with great defense. You've got to stop other teams to win."
WE WILL PLAY GREAT DEFENSE. WE WILL STOP OTHER TEAMS.
* * * * *
The school year officially started on August 28, and our first team meeting was a week later, on September 5. Everybody was at that meeting—players, coaches, managers, staff—everybody. I wanted us all to be on the same page from the very beginning. "This is going to be a championship season," I said right off the bat. "So we'd best be champions before the season starts. Academics is key. Take care of your business off
- On Sale
- Nov 1, 2001
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Grand Central Publishing