The Blue Devils are a Final Four caliber team, and they beat the fiery Eagles, 72-61, in front of a crowd of 8,606, including at least half Duke fans. A program with such a tradition travels well and the ACC is filled with these benchmark programs, which almost makes it unfair to compete from BC because they don’t have that tradition.
Grant would like to see Conte Forum filled not only for games against Duke and North Carolina, but also for Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Pitt. But that’s not likely in a market that mostly ignores the Eagles, unless they’re relevant or a national power comes to town.
“It gives us a good picture of what it should look like as we continue to try to build a program,” Grant said. “Hopefully we get to a point where it’s still like this, and everyone’s cheering for us.”
In this case, the Blue Devils arrived in Boston early Friday morning, were unable to practice in Conte due to Friday’s BC hockey game against UConn, but were greeted by the usual packed house that hosts them on the road.
Krzyzewski was honored before the game when BC announced it was contributing to the Emily Krzyzewski Center (Mike’s mother) — what Krzyzewski said was greatly appreciated.
It was in the next two hours that Krzyzewski was really comfortable. He said he didn’t want a farewell tour, but that’s exactly what’s happening around the Atlantic Coast Conference, which pays tribute to one of the all-time great coaches who led a clean, elite program for four decades.
“I was received as I expected to be received every [ACC venue], let me put it this way,” Krzyzewski said wryly of visiting rival schools for the last time. “Overall, people have been very respectful. Look, I didn’t stay this year to do a farewell tour. I stayed because I wanted to coach for another year. When a school takes time and says, “We recognize that you’ve been good enough for the ACC and for basketball,” it means a lot.
Still, the ultimate goal is to come out on top. Krzyzewski has won five national titles and reached 12 Final Fours. But he hasn’t won a title since beating Wisconsin in 2015, although Tatum, Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Luke Kennard have gone through the program.
So his goal now is to beat BC, win the ACC, claim a No. 1 seed, stay healthy and be fully ready for a long tournament.
Krzyzewski’s latest edition is a robust club with a group of physical and talented players but no real superstars.
This year’s blue chipper is a Seattle man named Banchero, who is sure to be a top 5 NBA draft pick in June and will enter the league physically ready to play and with a skill set that makes him a potential cornerstone.
Krzyzewski doesn’t appear to be as vocal or lively off the bench as in previous years. He allows his aides, including in-waiting coach Jon Scheyer, to lead a team that is a Final Four favorite, and before every ACC road game, Krzyzewski receives recognition from one of gaming pioneers.
But he can’t enjoy the adulation right now. It serves as more of a distraction, more of an obstacle.
“I’m right in the next moment,” he said. “Maybe it’s a stupid analogy; I said if I was a car, I wouldn’t have a rear view mirror. To keep going and keep hungry, you can’t look back. You cannot look back, negatively or positively. You need to keep your eyes on your lane right now. I’ve been very good at times, and I’ve learned not to be good at it.
That’s not to say he doesn’t appreciate kudos from opposing schools, his former players showing up at ACC road games, or rival former coaches posing for photos. But focusing on that takes its focus away from its current players, some of whom were in grade school the last time Duke won a championship.
“When you’ve been coaching for 47 years, there’s a lot of things you’ve failed at,” he said. “When you fail, failure is part of learning a new boundary. That’s why a lot of parents don’t allow their kids to have Cs. You won’t get better unless you tell you the truth. When you lose and you don’t do well, you should tell yourself the truth and move on. And when you win, move on. Learn from both and improve. That’s what which I tried to do.
“When this is over, I will look back. There is no doubt that I will look back. We have to look back, with Duke and [Team] UNITED STATES. I was the luckiest guy ever as a coach, 47 at West Point and Duke, 11 in the States; you can’t get any luckier than that.
“And I will come back to it, but not now. Not when [BC is] go 8-0 to take a 16-point lead.