Coach K’s Fire Still Breathes in Duke

Al Dannity | Fri. Jan 18 2013, 02:01 pm

It was only a hug but Al Dannity was inspired by Mike Krzyzewski’s embrace of Mason Plumlee last night. This Duke team is hungry to make up for a disappointing trip to the Big Dance last season.

Let’s go back. It was an unforgettable day in March Madness. Two number 2 seeds dropped on the same day. Missouri was a shock, technically speaking a bigger one, but Duke…why this is College Basketball royalty. Lehigh went out and shocked the world, spreading happiness to all the haters. Let’s face it, there are few things more fun to most neutral fans than Duke losing. Yet it’s an unusual relationship. In order for Duke losing to matter, they need to still be Duke. The Blue Devils have to be that force in College Hoops. That’s why four times out of five, when Duke lose on the road, fans storm the floor.

So let’s go back again to that day in March. Coach K has done it all and has a hot line-up yet they come out flat for the Big Dance. Did he still have that fire for Duke Basketball? There was no question he still craved success but with his second Olympic title with Team USA in the summer, were wins in the Cameron Indoor Arena enough to satisfy a man who has done everything? Thank you Mason Plumlee for removing any doubt that yes, every Duke win still means a whole lot to Coach K.

Just look at that hug. This is a man in his 60s leaping up and hugging his star big-man. Bro-mance at its finest over just one dunk. That’s the attitude Coach K needs to have in order to still be relevant after decades at the top. It’s easy for a coach climbing the ladder to stoke the fires within. To last in this game, you need the type of attitude that ensures it never goes out.

The season is long and there’s a lot still to play for but it’s easy enough to say Duke will hold either a 1 or 2 seed in NCAA Tournament this year. The ACC isn’t that deep and the Blue Devils are loaded. That win over Georgia Tech was Duke’s first game since losing for the first time this season. Coach K knows some of his better teams have entered March with good records but blown up early. 2013 simply can’t be a repeat of last year. This time the Blue Devils are heading to the Dance with fire in their eyes. It’s going to be a fun ride watching them get there.

EDIT: This column erroneously attributed Lehigh’s famous upset of Duke to Loyola. Our apologies to all fans of the Mountain Hawks.