And if they didn't know enough about their place in the sport, they would be coldly reminded on Friday morning, when The Indianapolis Star published a story headlined DESPISING DUKE, purporting to detail a rampant dislike of the Blue Devils' program over its success and perceived smugness. The article included a picture of Krzyzewski that had been doctored in blue ink—with a bull's-eye in the middle of his forehead, among other defacements—as if it had been attacked by Duke-hating graffiti artists. In a press conference that day, Krzyzewski called the photo "juvenile," and the paper apologized for publishing it.
Later Krzyzewski said, "It was stupid, and it's because we live in a weird world, but I'd rather have it go on me than on Scheyer. I grew up Polish in Chicago. My father had to change his name to Kross, instead of Krzyzewski, so he could get work. People want to take a free shot, I understand that it comes with the territory."
But even if the name on the uniform—and all that goes with it—was the same, this team was very different from the three previous Blue Devils champions. The coach had been reborn, and the players were not good enough to win alone, so they had learned to win together.
KRZYZEWSKI SAT ON A FOLDING CHAIR IN A SMALL locker room at Lucas Oil Stadium a few minutes before midnight following Duke's 78-57 semifinal victory over West Virginia on April 3, his suit jacket removed but his tie still knotted. As a measure of his place in life, the next day—Easter Sunday—his seven grandchildren, ages four months to 10 years, would be conducting an egg hunt in his hotel suite. "This team could not have achieved what they have because of one individual playing good," he said. "Or even two individuals. It's so great to have a five-guy team. And it's such a good feeling for me to be in their moment."
It is a moment that actually began long before Indianapolis and far from Durham, N.C. In late October 2005 Krzyzewski was named coach of the U.S. Olympic team that would seek to restore the nation's basketball pride in Beijing. He was 58 and four years removed from his last NCAA title. "I was totally against him taking that job," says Mickie. "I thought it was too much. But I was wrong. It's turned out to be one of the best things he's ever done. It rejuvenated him."
That latter-day Dream Team (the Redeem Team, as it was called) included Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony and emphatically returned the gold medal to the U.S. It also gave Krzyzewski a learning experience that he couldn't have found elsewhere.
"Every player on that team is really smart," Krzyzewski said in Indianapolis before the Final Four semifinals. "Every coach [assistants Jim Boeheim, Mike D'Antoni and Nate McMillan] is really smart. I learned so much, like how not to have complicated game plans or how to strategize certain situations. I learned to listen. I listen more to my own players now. And where else would I go to get that at this point in my career? A clinic? If there's a clinic, I'm probably giving the clinic."
The world that Krzyzewski returned to at Duke in the fall of 2008 was more challenging than the one he left behind in Beijing. In the previous spring the Blue Devils had been taken out in the second round by tough, overachieving West Virginia. Late in that game Mountaineers guard Joe Mazzulla mocked a Duke tradition when he slapped the floor while playing defense.
A year later the Blue Devils again fell ignominiously, in the Sweet 16, as Villanova scored 51 points in the second half of a 77-54 rout. While 'Nova players didn't woof, the result was embarrassment enough. "I'll never forget those games," Zoubek says. "If you play your heart out, you have no regrets. But against West Virginia we just got outfought, and against Villanova we fell apart."
Duke had not been to a Final Four in five years, the longest drought in Krzyzewski's tenure. Worse, they had become a finesse team (read: soft), but three things happened over the 2009 off-season to propel them in another direction: Dynamic 6' 4" junior guard Gerald Henderson left for the NBA, sophomore guard Elliott Williams transferred to Memphis, and Zoubek got healthy after two years of either missing games or lacking strength and conditioning because of foot injuries.