Responding to a Loss: How Coach K Brought Duke Back, Part One


Duke traveled to Raleigh last Wednesday and was soundly defeated by NC State. The Blue Devils lost 88-66 in a game where players and coaches agreed Duke wasn't ready to play.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game, "We were not competitive tonight," and "Our team obviously felt tonight they didn’t need a win."

Coach K and the staff had two days to figure out how to respond to the loss and get Duke ready to play its next game, against a Virginia Tech team that led the Blue Devils by double digits in their December matchup.

“We were angry,” Krzyzewski said. “I was angry at them. But in order to change, you have to be angry at yourself.”

Krzyzewski needed to show the team what went wrong, in order to get them angry at themselves. "These kids need to see," he said. "If you just tell them, they never have the depth that their visual will give them, along with what you say."

So Krzyzewski showed them tape.

"The game's not over until you get feedback," he said. "After State, we got in late and had a short meeting. Then we came back the next day and we had feedback. I showed a lot. I showed tape, but what I did is: each of my assistants took different aspects of it. So they heard it from different voices. But they have to see."

It wasn't just clips of turnovers, defensive lapses and ill-advised shots. No one was safe from scrutiny.

"We showed bench shots," Krzyzewski said. "Where they were comatose. You know, they were. But if you told them that, not that they wouldn’t believe you, but they wouldn’t believe you to the depth. It's not a matter of busting their chops. It’s a matter of being honest with them."

Duke's bench, looking lifeless in the background against NC State
Tre Jones dribbles in front of a Duke bench that Coach K called "comatose"

Message received.

"They took responsibility right away," Krzyzewski said.

Now, the team needed to do something at practice to change things.

In part 2, we look at the two days of practice leading up to Virginia Tech.