Just minutes after placing his feet on American soil, Mike Krzyzewski addressed a throng of media members and adoring fans at RDU International Airport. Coach K is still immersing himself in the Olympic experience and will continue to do so as the media requests are sure to come in from well, everywhere.
That's the life of the legendary college coach who melded together NBA stars into a cohesive unit which of course made all things golden. While the Chinese media gravitated towards players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant making them darlings, Coach K is sure to get lots of love in the coming days.
Coach K was flanked by family, in both blood and Duke Blue brotherhood. As he took to the podium, assistant coaches Steve Wojciechowski, Chris Collins and head of basketball operations Chris Spatola stood at attention behind their captain with the American flag as the backdrop. His wife Mickie, daughters and their children were just to his right.
In typical Krzyzewski style, he first commented about the players. "The players were amazing, both on the court and off. They represented us so very well." He then gave props to Spain for a competitive game. At that point chants of USA, USA, USA, USA could be heard ringing in the corridors of the airport.
He didn't stop with his praise and commended China on being a good host before joking, "If they had elections there which they don't, and Kobe was a write in, Kobe might win." This brought laughter from the crowd and allowed his staff to crack a smile in the background. He continued on Kobe, "Thank goodness he took over at the end of the game."
He then showed graciousness towards his staff, including new Stanford coach Johhny Dawkins saying they worked tirelessly with no recognition. You can bet that the work proved worthy for each and will look fabulous on their resumes. "It's definitely the best basketball experience I've been involved with," said Duke assistant Chris Collins.
Knowing Coach K, he was probably already mapping out recruiting plans on the flight. He was quick to quip with a smile, " It's so good now to just be the Duke Coach," which brought about applause from Iron Duke Members and fans alike. He then said, "It's really good being the Duke coach having won the Olympics."
"You don't realize how proud you are to be an American until you are in those settings and you're representing your country, said Kryzyzewski. He then reflected on the awesome accomplishment of winning the Gold Medal, " During the National Anthem before the Gold Medal game, we are all standing there just mouthing the words and all of a sudden you get emotional. You start crying and say "Boy," I wish my Mom and Dad were here ... and how the heck are you this lucky to be representing the greatest country in the world in this fantastic sport."
Well Coach! Duke fans get a bit emotional too. We wonder how the heck we are so lucky for you to represent the greatest program in the world and be our coach 24/7. Congratulations Coach! You've made us all proud.
Note - The Blue Devil Nation will have the Q & A session with Coach K up tomorrow, so please check back that and Coach Cutcliffe addressing the media for the home opener.[/private]
Who is your biggest fan or the one who encourages you the most during your career?
My Momma! She's my biggest fan. So I have to give a shout out to my Mother. My big brother too. He's kind of like my idol. My brother is nine years older than me and everything he's done in sports, I'd like to follow.
What was it that you liked about Duke when making your collegiate choice?
Duke is somewhere you can be comfortable at. You want to be somewhere where somebody wants you. I wanted to contribute right away and there is a family atmosphere here amongst the coaches.
Some in the media are saying Zack Asack is pushing you in practice. How do you feel about that? Does it make you a better player or do you just try to be the best Thad can be?
I don't like to read the media, but I'm glad he is. That's the type of thing you want. God forbid anything happen, but you would want someone behind you that can lead this team if something was to happen to me. So, it's a good thing, it makes me a better player making me compete everyday. I wouldn't have it no other way.
What do you think of Coach Cutcliffe so far?
Coach Cutcliffe is a great man! A guy that's going to push you to your limit. He wants the best out of you everyday and will not let you settle for less. That's the type of man you want around.
How about Coach Roper the OC?
Coach Roper is a fun guy. He stays on you! He's a good teacher.
I noticed during the opening day with the media that your body looked a little different than last season ...
They brought in Coach Durfey as the strength and conditioning coach. He has a good weight program and works us hard. If you come into our locker room you are there to be in pursuit of excellence, so if you are not ready to work, well ... It took a lot of hard work, plus the challenge that Coach told us he wanted us to drop weight and get to a certain level of body fat.
Do you have a different gel going into this season than last year? What's your general feel?
More mature. Confident in what you can do. This is my third offense in three years, but being a leader you have to adjust. It feels kind of good in that you have a lot of players around you who have that game experience.
Tell me a little bit about being a leader for this season's team ...
I'm not a real vocal leader, but I try to show it through my actions. You do everything to the best of your abilities and let the guys see your working hard and they will follow.
I assume you have a good relationship with Eron Riley. Have you two developed ...
Definitely! Since me and Eron have been connecting with each other ... sometimes the two of us will come out here and throw some balls together trying to get our timing down. Just going to his house and playing games and hanging ... it's a relationship we are all in on here.
What are your goals for the coming season? Any personal goals?
No personal goals, just a team goal. Every time you hear us shout it will be "We are Duke." We're going to take it one game at a time and do whatever it takes to fill up that stadium out there. (interview on practice field)
Tough question here ... In the recent past Duke hasn't fared well at home. You have four consecutive to open the season starting with James Madison. What will you do to turn it around?
People want to see you win. If we go out there and get that first "W," we know they'll want to come back to see you. But they will want to see if we can repeat the success as well. If you give the fans what they want, you definitely are going to get that support. You've got to earn it.
What is Thad's message to Duke fans going into Saturday evening's opener with a tough JMU team?
We hope to see you there. We're going to go out there and give it our all and try to give them a show. Our guys will always come out and give it our best and no matter the results we'll come back hard in our pursuit of excellence. People say that winning isn't everything, but actually it is and we want to get a win.[/private]
The Duke Football team will visit the Durham Rescue Mission on Sunday, July 13 from 1-3 p.m. The visit will include lunch, an autograph/photo session and activities.
Head coach David Cutcliffe and selected student-athletes will be available for interviews during the event. The Durham Rescue Mission is located at the Good Samaritan Inn at 507 East Knox Street (off I-85 at Exit 177).
The Durham Rescue Mission, originally a shelter for men, was founded in 1974 by the Reverend Ernie C. Mills. The Mission expanded in 1993 with shelter for women and children. Currently the Mission houses a men’s campus at 1201 East Main Street while the Good Samaritan Inn located on 507 East Knox Street provides housing for women, children and families. In addition, the Rescued Treasures Thrift Store is at 3220 N.C. Highway 55 South.