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Coach K, Duke Players Talk ACC Championship

C6sHh3VWcAQ_k9DNew York, New York

Duke - 75, Notre Dame - 69

THE MODERATOR: To my left is Coach Krzyzewski, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones, and Amile Jefferson.

Q. Congratulations on your win. Coach, you've compiled more wins this week and over the season than both of our New York teams (laughter). Can you just take us through the week and how you were able to do it?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, well, thank you. I don't know exactly. I was mentioning to a few people that my team has taken me on this journey this week that you could not plan.

First of all, the high caliber of teams that you had to beat in order to achieve this. And the deficits that you had to overcome in each of the last three games, and even against Clemson it was one point, and Luke made a move on the baseline, lit the shot fake, and made a bucket that put us up 71-68. So they're all close games.

They stayed fresh. You know, they're really a good group, and they've been through so much with injuries and me being out, just so much. So they're close, and I think that closeness paid off for us.

Q. Fellas, did you all have to make a conscious effort at all to stay focused.
AMILE JEFFERSON: Definitely. It was a tight game both ways. They made a really good push in the second half. I thought they speeded the game up in the second half, and it kind of knocked us back.

But all our guys stayed poised. No one was ever like rattled. That's sometimes when you see when things like that happen. You see guys splinter. But after the time-out, we huddled, and we were strong. That's why I was really proud of my guys because everyone was strong today.

THE MODERATOR: Matt, did you have any further thoughts on that?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: He's not the talker of the group. He only hit the biggest shot of the game. He's just up there with his chest out.

Q. Coach, congratulations. I think you mentioned outside you didn't call a play in the last ten minutes. Can you elaborate on that, or was it a unilateral decision? What went into that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don't even know what that means. It meant that I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and I just let these guys do -- what we call as motion. Basically, we thought that they would assert themselves more. They own motion more than if we run a play.

I know they were really tired, and so by taking ownership and attacking like that, they made it work. We've done that in each of the last three games but not as long as today. I know they looked over, just motion. Motion. Come on, Coach. Come up with a really good play. Motion, motion. And it worked.

But I believe in these guys, and they can make plays. You know, we have guys who can make plays. They're not selfish, and they can make plays for one another.

Q. This is for both Coach and Matt. Kind of what you were just talking about. If you were scripting a play -- Matt's threes have not been falling for a couple of games. If you were scripting a play, you probably wouldn't -- one of us wouldn't run it for him. Would you talk about him coming through? And then, Matt, I'd like you to talk about that shot.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: First of all, Matt's coming through the whole game. He and Amile defensively turned the game around. So, again, you take ownership, and if it's your house, your game, it's the rhythm of the game, all of a sudden it's your shot, you're going to hit that shot. We have confidence in any of our players doing that. We tell them.

We actually were yelling at a few of our players -- I yell at Luke and Jayson all the time for passing up shots. It was just a rhythm shot, and it was beautiful. It was the shot of the game. It was the shot of the game.

Q. The 6 seed has won this tournament five times. The 5th seed in 64 years has never won until tonight. As one who loves the history of the tournament, I'm sure you're also aware that no team has ever won four straight nights to win the tournament. Can you put into words what these guys have accomplished coming from behind three straight games against three of the best teams in the country?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, it's difficult, Bob, and I can see why no one's done it before because I didn't think we were going to do that as that game evolved in the second half. Because they're really good. Mike does such a great job with his team. And Colson, you have one of the best players in the country.

It's a journey that's kind of hard to describe, and like I was trying to tell the guys, the kids in the locker room, I said, you know, we've won a lot of these. We've won, this is our 14th, but this one's so different. I can't say, well, it was like this one or like that -- no, it was not like anything.

It's not like a Final Four or the NCAA Tournament because you don't play four teams in a row like this. So it's like this -- how cool is it for me, for these kids to take me on a journey that at 70 I've never been on? Whether it's Olympics -- I've been on a lot of good journeys, but this was such a good one. Thank you. I thank my guys for doing it.

Q. This is for both Matt and Amile. Everybody talks about freshmen and all these one-and-done guys, but you two seniors, when Notre Dame took the lead, Amile, you kind of, it looked like, willed this team to kind of get back. Then, Matt, you hit the big shot. Can you guys discuss the importance of that experience and being a senior and in a situation like this, especially when fatigue kicks in?
MATT JONES: Kind of like what Coach said. It was just the rhythm of the game. The last couple of days, the freshmen and Luke and Grayson have done their part, and Amile as well. So in this game, it kind of just went down to everything we've been through, as both players and people.

I mean, we just put our hearts out there on the line, and that's what everybody's been doing, and it usually pays off. (Phone ringing.)

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's my wife. No, she's right there. It's actually my AD. Sorry, Matt.

MATT JONES: No, you're fine.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Isn't it nice that I have an iPhone, though, that can do that? Sorry, did I interrupt you?

Q. Especially when fatigue kicks in in a situation like that, kind of willing your team to win this thing.
MATT JONES: I'm sorry. One other thing, just me and Amile, everything we've been through, we told each other we weren't going back to the dorm without it. So that was the big motivation for us at least, and we just made that message known to all the other guys that, hey, like they're not going to accept us back there if we don't get it, and we're not going to accept ourselves back there if we don't get it as well. So that was kind of the motivation throughout that ball game.

AMILE JEFFERSON: I think Matt just hit it on the head with what he said. All day we've been talking about not going back to the dorm without this championship. It took me long enough to finally get one. I had to come back another year. I just wanted to win.

During time-outs, the looks on guys' faces were the looks of champions, even when we were losing. So it made me and Matt's job easy to lead guys who want to be led, to lead guys who are fighters, and to have players like Jayson Tatum and Luke Kennard, who are just dynamic scorers and always tough players. It makes our job easy.

So today was just a time for me and Matt to be able to lead these guys, and I thought, especially Matt, we did a great job of it.

Q. Guys, congrats on the championship, and Coach as well, congrats to you. My question is for you, Coach. Pardon me, this is a little bit different. After an eventful season, whether it's on the court or dealing with the media or even you, Coach, with your back. Can you shed some light on how you've seen the guys grow, whether it's any of the guys up here, Jayson or Grayson. Also, if you've grown at all this year, can you shed some light on that as well.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's a book answer you're looking for. Of course I've seen them grow. That's the purpose of coaching is to give them an opportunity to have them impact on one another, to have a staff impact on them, to have competition impact on them, and trying to move them along and see how they develop as a group.

For me, I grow every year because I want to. I think, for me, this game, no one's got the proven solution for this game. You've got to keep learning, and you've got to be a lifelong learner. It's not about strategy too. You have to be a lifelong learner about people. These guys let me in well. So I get to know them, and it's one of the things that keeps me young, and they do me a favor. They laugh at some of my jokes. We have a good time growing together.

Q. My question is for Coach K and for Matt. Over the tournament, Matt's had 11 points, but you've kept him in a significant amount of the game. That says a lot about the confidence you have in him and the leadership he provides on the team even without scoring. So talk about the confidence you have in Matt. And, Matt, how do you stay in the game and do other things besides scoring to still lead this team to a win?
MATT JONES: First and foremost, I came to Duke to be a part of something that's bigger than myself. Like Amile said, we have so many dynamic scorers around myself, why try to fit in and be something I don't have to be? So I just try to find other areas that I can help this team out.

Obviously, me and Amile's voice is something that can really help this team. So just try to focus on that. And the time comes where I do need to make a shot or make another play that's outside of defense or talking, then it just kind of happens.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, and in sport or in anything, there are valuable things that people do to help you win that everyone sees, and there are valuable things that only people who want to look deeper into it see. He does valuable things for us or else we wouldn't be sitting here right now. And he wouldn't be my captain, and he wouldn't have been a part of so many wins and a National Championship and now an ACC Championship.

Q. Mike, have you ever had a team go into an NCAA Tournament that has evolved so quickly at the end, a team that's so in flux late in the season? '01 maybe?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You know, when you use those words -- I know you're being positive about them, but kind of like there was something wrong with us. They were in flux. What? No, we were hurt -- a back operation, and they had bad feet. It wasn't about attitude. It was about -- you know, the garage burned down. Things happened to our family, and we never let that stop us.

We haven't paid any attention to standings or seeds for this tournament or rankings. We just haven't -- we haven't talked at all about that because so much has happened. We just said let's talk about us and let's get better.

It's worked. Even for this tournament, we said, let's just win one game, and okay, we won it. Let's win one game. And today was the championship game. And hopefully, we can take that same attitude into the next tournament.

No, it's been a different year for me than any that I've coached and a remarkable year. Because they've all -- we've really -- we were always together, and all that stuff made us more together. Maybe if it didn't happen, maybe we wouldn't have been as together, you know? Like that's how I look at it. Okay, everyone's healthy and whatever, maybe we do have dissension then. Maybe we don't have. Maybe, maybe.

So instead of dealing with maybes, let's just do what's going on with us, and that's what we've tried to do. I think with my experience and age and whatever, my ego's not attached to whether we win 20 games or 30 games or whatever. I'm going to be all right.

Q. Coach, and maybe even for the seniors, Jayson down the stretch made a lot of really big plays -- a block, a pass, a couple of shots. Was there any one in particular that stood out to you as particularly key, particularly unselfish? Any one that stood out?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I said that, and Luke would agree with me. I think there should have been co-MVPs. I think these two guys were -- you couldn't split a hair on them. So I'm bringing his plays up. You can bring Luke's plays up. They were remarkable.

I thought when he went full court, and I said what are you doing? Yes, you did it. Like how the hell did you do that? All these -- no, no, yes, yes, how, wow, that was good.

And it gave -- I thought it gave everyone energy, like somebody on our team could move that fast right now. I thought that was a great play, the block and everything, but that's like oh. It was terrific. It was so darn good.

Q. Luke, what does it mean to you to be named the MVP of this tournament?
LUKE KENNARD: You know, it was great. Through this all, I've just been so emotional. I'm just so happy. Just to be -- like Matt said, we came to Duke to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and just to be able to put my heart on the court with guys like this, it means so much to me. And I'm just so blessed to have that opportunity.

I've done as much as I could to help our team win, to bring success to our team, to this program, and I'm blessed to be able to share that with these guys. We're happy right now, and we're looking forward to our next step this season.

Q. Mike, you have 13 wins against the RPI top 50. That's two more than any other team in college basketball. Obviously, the backdrop of this season with the injuries, you being out during the back surgery, you're going to be hotly debated tomorrow as to whether or not you should be a 1 seed. Perhaps you should be a 2 and get sent back up here to New York. Villanova will probably be the 1 in that region.
Do you think you deserve a 1? Do you care if you get a 1? You have so much experience in this tournament. I want to know whether a 1 matters to you personally.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You know, whatever they decide really. We've had a heck of a year, and we're at our best in the last month, once we got everyone together. And how that compares to everyone, the committee will do a good job. We'll go wherever they want, and we're okay with whatever seed.

We haven't paid any attention to that. So even your question, I haven't -- I didn't know those things. I'm trying to figure out how to stop Bonzie Colson. So we'll just let it happen, and I think that's the best way of doing it.

Q. Coach, after such a tough emotional championship, do you ever worry about a letdown in the NCAA Tournament?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, I worry about that after -- you know, like I told these guys, when we beat Carolina during the regular season, 40 hours later, we have to play Clemson, and we didn't play well. We were able to win by two points. You know, we talk about part of becoming a really good team is beating human nature, where you want to stay in the last thing. So we've had to beat human nature like crazy here because you beat Louisville in that game, whoa, now we play Carolina, whoa. Human nature saying, come on, man, let's watch the highlights of those two, and now you've got to play Notre Dame.

I think the experience of doing it this week will help us, and I think also we have spring break this week. We need to get a day and a half, two days of just get rest, get rest. And we'll find out tomorrow night where we're going.

Hopefully -- the only thing I would say in reference to the tournament is I would like if it was a Friday, Sunday, but they're not going to listen to me. They'll probably make a new rule and have us play in Dayton or something.

Q. Question for Amile. Every rally has to have a starting point. Yesterday was Luke's four-point play. The Notre Dame guys felt like the basket that you made after the resounding dunk that V.J. Beachem had got you started. Then you had another big basket after that. You always rebound. You always defend. You don't always score. What was your mindset about really taking it hard to the basket to try to get your team back in the game -- to get your team even in the scoreboard? Not that you were out of the game.
AMILE JEFFERSON: For me, it's about always trying to make a play on the offensive end or the defensive end. Whether it's the screen, offensive rebound, tipping a ball, just making a play. At that point, I thought the play was -- I had my back to the basket, and I was really close to score the ball. I'm confident in my abilities, so I'm glad it went in.

But I thought there were so many plays that turned the game around and sparked the game made by a bunch of our guys. Jayson made terrific plays down the stretch. Luke, this whole tournament, has been making unbelievable plays. And then that shot by Matt was the biggest shot of the tournament.

So I'm just really proud to be on this team with this group of guys at this time where we're becoming pure. So really proud of my group.

Q. Mike, four games in four days, is there some point where you just see the adrenaline taking over for these guys and the potential -- the limited time between games and the possibility to overthink things isn't really there because you've got to come here and play.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: One thing is we adjust how much we give them in a scouting report. It becomes less because there's less time. We're at the end of the season, so they're accustomed to that.

And time-outs -- one of the things I try to remind them in the second half when there's time-outs is that, look, this is why -- this is tough. Winning championships is not easy. So whatever you need to do to be tough, it's not about being motivated now. They are motivated. They're tired. The other team is really good. How are we going to be tough right now?

And they figured that out. And they figured it out for four straight days. Hopefully, they can figure it out some more.

Thank you to all the people here at Barclays who made this so good. The tournament was great up here, as it has been in all locations.