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Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Krzyzewski’s motivation leads Blue Devils

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— Duke University point guard Chris Duhon's basketball biography includes one trip to the Final Four.

But Duhon said he was preparing to play in his seventh Final Four -- his second one this season alone.

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"This was our first Final Four," Duhon said after the Blue Devils emerged from their first-round NCAA Tournament bracket at Salt Lake City with victories against Colorado State and Central Michigan. "So now we're in our second Final Four, and we're just concentrating on winning that.

"I think that's a great motivation for us, to stay focused on what's in front of us instead of looking ahead."

That motivational ploy is employed by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Krzyzewski is the second-winningest coach in the history of the NCAA Tournament in part because he is a master motivator, though Krzyzewski said he was more like the master of ceremonies.

"(Former N.C. State coach Jim) Valvano would tell me, 'Coaches are a little bit like comedians,'" Krzyzewski said. "You keep giving lines and lines, and if the audience doesn't take one, you better have another one ready right away -- otherwise, you lose your audience,' If you keep coming up with (bad ones), they're laughing at you for the wrong reasons -- let's put it that way.

"You've got to work the room all the time -- you've got to work that team all the time."

Krzyzewski's myriad of motivational methods could fill a library. He spends part of the offseason delivering motivational speeches; Central Michigan coach Jay Smith said he owned some of Krzyzewski's motivational tapes.

Since the postseason began, a half-dozen of Krzyzewski's motivational approaches have been discussed by the team -- and those mentions only scratch the surface.

In addition to the Final Four approach to each weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Duhon talked during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament about not getting any respect, getting an extra ounce of motivation by pointing to "people" who said Duke was too young to win the tournament.

Before Duke's NCAA Tournament opener against Colorado State, Krzyzewski had assistant coach Johnny Dawkins talk to the team about the Blue Devils' close call against 16th-seeded Mississippi Valley State to open the 1986 tournament. And Saturday before Duke's second-round game against Central Michigan, Krzyzewski had his assistants fill the extra time during Arizona's double-overtime game by talking about the Chippewas.

"I love what I do, and I'm not a slave to a plan," Krzyzewski said. "It's not like you bring out the lesson plan or the motivational speech that you gave last year's team because it's all new, all the time, and it's based on feedback that your staff and your kids have given you."

Krzyzewski isn't afraid to take chances with his methods.

After Florida State stunned Duke last season, Krzyzewski had nearly everything removed from the locker room -- including the players' chairs. For several days, the Blue Devils sat on the floor during team meetings.

This season, following a loss, Krzyzewski had pictures removed from the walls, but he had them returned the same day. The two moves, though similar, produced decidedly different results.

"That was one of the things that put extra, added, self-imposed pressure on us," Duke senior Casey Sanders said of last year's locker-room renovation. "I think we got the point, but we really didn't get the point in the right way -- which was take care of something that's ours. I think we took it as, 'OK, we've got to do something so this doesn't happen again.'

"It was more of a healing thing and bonding thing than it was a destructive thing."

Different teams respond to different things, and Krzyzewski seems to have figured out what his latest team needs. After the Blue Devils won the ACC tournament, Krzyzewski said his young team was getting its act together.

And now, in Duke's second Final Four of the season, motivation shouldn't be a problem.

"We do stuff like that behind the scenes every week to try to get them together, and I thought (at the ACC tournament) the kids really took ownership of the team," Krzyzewski said "Leadership doesn't always happen, but when it happens, it's a beautiful thing."

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