Following a devastating 81–77 loss to UNC in the Final Four, Mike Krzyzewski spoke with CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson about his final game as Duke’s head coach.
Coach K began the interview by commending the shot making of UNC guard Caleb Love, who nailed a huge three to put the Tar Heels up four with 28 seconds to go. He also made a pair of free throws to secure the deciding four-point margin.
After lamenting Duke’s 12-of-20 effort from the free-throw line as one of the catalysts for the loss, Krzyzewski praised the Tar Heels for their accomplishment.
“Congratulations to them. I thought both teams played their hearts out and it’s an emotional win and it’s an emotional loss and that’s the way a game like this should be,” he told Wolfson.
Coach K was then asked to describe the emotions he felt as he walked off the court for the final time. The 75-year-old announced prior to the season that the 2021-22 campaign would be his last, setting in motion a legendary farewell tour which culminated Saturday night at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
“Just for my players, I’ll deal with me later,” he responded. “For me, my entire time coaching, I always wanted at the end of the year, whatever the last game is, where you’re either crying for joy or you’re crying for sorrow and if you are, then that means you put everything into it. And I have a bunch of kids who are crying and I’m proud of ’em. They’ve been a joy to coach and they’ve played winning basketball, and they did tonight, too, but so did the other team.”
As the conversation continued, it became evident that Krzyzewski was doing his best to contain his emotion as he spoke about the pride he had for his team and their successful season together. From winning 32 regular season games to earning both regular season and West Regional championship honors, Coach K emphasized the love and respect he has for the last group of players he will ever coach.
The interview concluded with Coach K discussing the message he has for his players in the aftermath of the heartbreaking defeat. Some will point to Trevor Keels’s missed free throw with 10 seconds to go and Duke down 79-77 as a backbreaker, but Krzyzewski made sure his last message to the freshman and the team was a reminder that no game is won or lost on one single play.
“They’re really down, you know? And, especially the younger players, they’ll look at a free throw and say, ‘I lost the game,’ one play does not win or lose the game. Don’t beat yourself up,” he said. “We had our opportunities, they made one more opportunity than us … They’ve all done really good things to get us this far but I love the fact that they feel that bad. We just have to take care of ’em.”
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