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Three's the Charm
Alexander Wolff
April 09, 2001
Clutch three-point shooting was key as coach Mike Krzyzewski completed his own trifecta, leading Duke to its third NCAA title in 11 years)
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April 09, 2001

Three's The Charm

Clutch three-point shooting was key as coach Mike Krzyzewski completed his own trifecta, leading Duke to its third NCAA title in 11 years)

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He and Mickie now live in a secluded, custom-built home nestled on 12 acres just outside of the Duke Forest. It's only five minutes from campus but is preceded—much like a Jason Williams layup—by a long, twisting drive. "I didn't get broken down because of the pressures of the job," Krzyzewski has said of his absence six years ago, which, in West Point fashion, he regards as a commander's abandonment of his men. "I got broken down because of being stupid."

Stupid about time management and setting priorities. Now he makes time for walking the family Labs, Cameron and Defense, and puttering around the pool, and he often begins staff meetings with a comment about the way the deer treat his azaleas. "I like to plant pansies because they'll last during the winter," he said on Sunday, words that Krzyzewski's college coach, Knight, has probably never uttered.

If anything could break Krzyzewski's newfound equanimity, it was the prospect of a fourth frenzied meeting with Maryland, Duke's opponent in last Saturday's semifinal. In their first game against the Terps, the Blue Devils had made up 10 points in the final 54 seconds of regulation and won in overtime. Duke's Senior Night debacle served as the centerpiece of Maryland's own late-season resurrection. Then, at the start of their ACC tournament semifinal in Atlanta, the Terps took a 10-0 lead before the Blue Devils won in the dying seconds on a tip-in by James. "No tricks, no special effects," said Duhon, previewing a Final Four Game 4. "The strongest will survive."

Sure enough, Duke seized a 95-84 victory with strength, both physical and mental. Boozer out-muscled the Terps' Lonny Baxter on the blocks, scoring nine of his 19 points over the final five minutes while helping limit Baxter to 10 for the game. The Blue Devils refused to let a 22-point deficit late in the first half undo them, even though Duke hadn't trailed by such a margin since Krzyzewski was laid up, and no team in Final Four history is believed to have climbed out of so deep a hole.

To bring the Blue Devils back, Krzyzewski momentarily lost his Zen calm. He called his first desperation timeout of the season, only nine seconds before a TV timeout scheduled at the 12-minute mark. At the time, Duke trailed 23-10, and when Steve Blake bottomed out a three-pointer barely five minutes later, Maryland's lead would crest at 39-17 "You can't play any worse," Krzyzewski told his players. "What are you worried about? That you're gonna lose by 40? We're already losing by 20, so will you just play?"

About this time, back in Durham, Joey Savarino saw his Poppy on TV. "We were down, and they had a shot of me on the bench, and you could tell I was upset," Krzyzewski said on Sunday. "When he saw that, Joey went to the TV and kissed the TV set," Perhaps it was Krzyzewski family voodoo. In any case, the game turned into a Blue Devils highlight reel that could have been spliced together from the three previous encounters with Maryland: a large Terrapins lead evaporating; Williams slaloming to the basket with abandon; a tip-in from James giving Duke its first chance to consolidate a lead; Battier contributing whatever the moment called for, whether a three-pointer or a putback, a blocked shot or a charge taken.

Several times as the Blue Devils played defense, the Duke captain twirled his finger in the air to alert his teammates to a play Maryland was about to run for Baxter. It isn't enough for Battier to have a hand in everything his own team does. He must do the same with an opponent, too.

When Monday's title game was over, Battier spoke of two guardian angels who had worked the Metrodome on his behalf. One must have done double duty looking after Williams, who stood at the center of a brief stretch midway through the first half on which the championship turned. Arizona, an 80-61 victor over Michigan State in Saturday's other semifinal, couldn't have known it had just lost its last lead when Boozer arced a lefthanded hook shot over the Wildcats' 7'1" center, Loren Woods. Seconds later Williams, who had already picked up his second foul, tried to beat Arizona guard Jason Gardner to a loose ball. Williams lost that sprint and, trying to stop his momentum, wound up crablike over the crouching Gardner. For a moment the two looked like partygoers in a game of Twister.

If Gardner had simply stood up, Williams would have drawn his third foul and the course of the game most certainly would have changed to Duke's detriment. But the officials restrained themselves, as they did most of the night, particularly when the Duke point guard seemed to initiate contact at either end of the floor. "You have the obligation to write the truth!" one indignant Arizona fan yelled from the Metrodome mezzanine to the press workroom below, where reporters were filing their stories. " Williams fouled out twice! We wuz robbed!"

In the end, though, an old Krzyzewskiism, left over from those radio-up, windows-down days, told the tale: "Put a plant in a jar, and it'll grow to take the shape of the jar. Keep it outside a jar, and who knows what it'll grow to be?"

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