INDIANAPOLIS – Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski have been teaching young men how to play basketball for decades.
On Thursday, they demonstrated why theyre so good. They stay loose.
Instead of getting tense and out of sorts the day before the Midwest Regionals well-hyped coaching matchup, the pair took turns praising one anothers styles, their loyalty to their schools and their teams penchant for limiting mistakes.
I consider him a great friend. Theres nothing about Tom that I dont think is good. If we lose to them, believe me, Ill hug him and shake his hand, and hell do the same for me. I like that, said Krzyzewski, the NCAA Division I record-holder with 956 career wins.
I think its more the way it used to be in coaching, and probably we both have great teachers in that regard and were brought up a certain way where we understand the game is bigger than anybody.
Even heading into a game that will put one of these coaches within a victory of yet another Final Four trip.
There may not be a more compelling coaching duel in this years tournament.
In 33 seasons at Duke, Krzyzewski has gone to 11 Final Fours, the most among active coaches.
He is one of only three coaches in NCAA history to win at least four national championships. The last time he faced Michigan State, the Blue Devils gave him a 74-69 win that broke Bob Knights career record for wins.
Izzo doesnt mind playing that role.
Im going to be famous someday because it was our game last year at New York that broke the record, and I guess if youve got to be famous, who cares what the reason is, Izzo said, drawing laughter. Yet, I look at it too that if we had to lose to somebody that was doing something special, the class and the way hes done things over time, his staff, his recruiting, weve had to recruit against him a few times and its always fair and up and up. We usually lose, but were trying to make some progress.
Izzo has done a pretty darn good job in his own right. He owns a school-record 439 career wins in 18 seasons at Michigan State and won his only national title in 2000.
Both come into the game focused first on defense, though Duke (29-5) has been slightly more proficient on offense and Michigan State (27-8) slightly more physical. Both have contended with injuries to key players.
Dukes Ryan Kelly missed 13 games this season with a right foot injury but has played well since returning.
Keith Appling wore a brace over his injured right shoulder during the Spartans open workout.
I wouldnt really say that my shoulder is 100 percent, but its close to it, Appling said. Im going to do as much as I possibly can to help my team advance in this tournament.