Coaches Mike Kryzyzewki (Coach K.) and Johnny Dawkins of Duke and UCF gave a master class in winning graciously last night. They epitomized being appreciative, bona fide, and confident in their press conference after their NCAA March Madness match up.
At the post-game press conference, the first words out of Coach K’s mouth were
“Obviously Johnny’s team was magnificent. I mean they were so well prepared. That’s as high a level of any team we’ve played against all year. They were men. Aubrey wasn’t outstanding. He was magnificent…Congratulations to Johnny and his group. They certainly were deserving of winning.”
The first words out of Johnny Dawkins’ mouth were:
“It was a great basketball game. I thought both teams rose to the occasion and played their best basketball on the stage where it counts the most. Hats go off to them for their ability to continue to keep fighting and competing. I was very impressed with the way Duke – and especially their freshmen – were able to withstand some of the shots we were making. And it says a lot about their will. It says a lot about their overall mental toughness.”
For those of you that don’t know, who won? Both. Who lost? Neither. At the end of the game, Duke had more points on the scoreboard. It could have gone either way. As Duke’s Zion Williamson put it, “The basketball gods – they had our back tonight.”
To be fair, Coach K. and Dawkins do not have a normally competitive relationship. Johnny Dawkins was the first star player Coach K. persuaded to join Duke in 1982, probably saving Coach K.’s job and unquestionably jump-starting Duke’s run. He was then an assistant coach for Coach K. at Duke for ten years. His son, who scored 32 points in this game for UCF, literally grew up with Duke basketball.
As Coach K. said, “I love Johnny Dawkins. The moments and times we’ve spent together building a program…the connections…We’re family.”
That mutual appreciation flows through to their players as well. When Duke’s RJ Barrett was asked if he was surprised at how well UCF’s Aubrey Dawkins had played, he said of Aubrey,
“He really grew up with Duke. He played his butt off.”
And when Duke’s Zion Williamson was asked about UCF’s 7’ 6” Taco Fell, he said, “He played great. Hats off to him. He played an amazing game.”
To be clear, no one ever suggested they didn’t want to win. From the Duke side: “Obviously we’re happy we won.” And “The will to win of Zion and RJ – is, you can’t measure it. It’s just there….What they did right at the end of that game in willingness to win was absolutely sensational.” From the UCF side: “Heartbreak.”
Again Coach K. puts this well, “It’s not as much coaching as allowing your players to make you look good. And if they don’t do it, you have their backs and our players know that.”
Both coaches have confidence in their players. That confidence got both teams to this point in time and will carry both teams forward.
With just about two minutes left in the game, Coach K. pulled his team together and told them they were made for these two minutes. As Williamson put it,
“I consider him the greatest coach of all time. When he looks at you and tells you you are made for this moment, it’s the most confidence you can be given. When I went to the basket, I knew it was going in.”
UCF’s B.J. Taylor put it this way “Coach drew up the play. We executed it. We got the shot we wanted. That’s the shot I shoot. I’ve been shooting that shot ever since I’ve been playing for coach.”
The ABCs of winning (and losing) graciously
A – Be appreciative of all involved
B – Be bona fide, genuine, authentic. No false modesty. Own your ambitions.
C – Be confident and instill confidence in others.