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I don’t know exactly how Coach K was feeling after he finished watching one of the more frustrating seasons in recent Duke history. The year ended with a historic loss to a 15 seed from a conference that until 2005 had not won a single game in the NCAA tournament. Was he thinking about the upcoming Olympics? Was he thinking about how this team needed some impact recruits? Was he wondering like the Warden in The Shawshank Redemption just how the heck Lehigh got the best of him?
Despite what he must have been thinking he addressed the media with nothing but respect for Lehigh. He didn’t blame the loss on Ryan Kelly’s injury. He accurately called C.J. McCollum the “best player on the court.” He gave them all the credit in the world for playing well and deserving the win. There wasn’t a snide remark from Coach K about the officials, his players or the fact that Duke was placed against a team that might have been the best 15 seed in the history of the tournament. There was a grace to the way that he lost that is often overlooked in a sporting world that places a 100% importance on winning.
If it was me at the podium, I would have complained about pretty much everything. I would have needed longer than 20 minutes to calm down about the loss and give any sort of reasonable answers. I would have slammed the refs for the strange intentional foul call on Tyler Thornton (did anyone else see anything on that play?) and the missed charge call on Miles Plumlee. I would have mentioned how dumb the players were for doing things like when Thornton picked up a foul for too aggressively guarding C.J. McCollum with a minute to go or when Mason Plumlee went under a screen on the clutch three by McCollum. I would have sarcastically asked Austin Rivers how a supposed NBA lottery pick could go 5-14 against Lehigh? I would have basically let it all out because at that *time that is how I felt.
*My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were having their first child on Friday night, which meant that I watched the entire Duke game on the hospital’s terrible tv in front of my in-laws. Normally for Duke games I like to watch them by myself because I can get quite animated, and I don’t like people thinking I am crazy for caring so much about a basketball game. For this game I had no choice but to watch in front of people, and of course those people had to watch not only Duke’s meltdown but also my own personal moment of crisis. During the final 3 minutes when there were a couple dumb plays by Duke and a few terrible calls I think I heard my wife tell everyone that “it is ok…this is just how Kevin gets sometimes.” I guess it wasn’t Duke or my finest moment.
There will time to review the faults of this team and what is to come of Duke basketball in the next couple years. I would like to do a complete review of this season, a look back on Duke’s past recruiting classes (hint I’m going to express a little bit of surprise that Josh Hairston received a grade of only 1 point less than Kyrie Irving) and a look back on the players from the 2010 title team. There will be time. Right now I am not in position to be rational, humble or gracious. I’m glad that Coach K has shown the ability to lose with class, but right now I just wish he didn’t have so many opportunities to show that positive personal trait.