INDIANAPOLIS - The thought of moving beyond Bob Knight, his mentor, to join Adolph Rupp on the second rung with four NCAA titles, behind John Wooden's unsurpassable record of 10, is not something that moves Mike Krzyzewski.
Duke's coach is nine years removed from his last title, and what mattered most to him entering last night's championship game against upstart Butler was to achieve something for the first time with this Blue Devils team. History, Krzyzewski pointed out, is not nearly as important as being in the moment with senior leaders Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas and key juniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
"It's all about doing the thing you're doing right now,'' Krzyzewski said.
Rather than focusing on his personal achievements or building his own resume, Krzyzewski said he learned to find his satisfaction in a different way - through his players. So while 33-year-old Butler coach Brad Stevens was sharing his maiden voyage to the final with his team, Duke's 63-year-old coach was seeking that same youthful enthusiasm by trying to view the experience through his players' eyes.
"You know, I love my guys,'' Krzyzewski said. "To see how happy they are, to watch them and listen to them as they're answering your questions, I'm very proud of them. This is a good place to be at this time in my life - an old guy hanging with some 22-year-old guys who are pretty good guys.''
Catching Rupp or passing Knight is something Krzyzewski can wait to think about whenever he decides to retire.
"We should be playing only for these guys,'' Krzyzewski said of his players. "That has been my focus pretty much my whole career, but it's taken on a whole other level to just do it for this year with these guys and make the most of it.''
Responding to a published report Monday that incoming Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is planning to offer him at least $12 million per season to move to the NBA, Krzyzewski denied any interest, even for that kind of money. On Sunday he acknowledged seriously considering an opportunity with the Lakers in 2004 because of the chance to coach Kobe Bryant.
"I guess, because I did not accept it, it really speaks to how much I love Duke and college basketball, but especially Duke,'' Krzyzewski said. "Duke has been committed to me when I wasn't with Knight and Rupp and those guys.''
He was referring to his first three years at the school, when the Blue Devils went 38-47 starting with the 1980-81 season. After winning national titles in 1991 and '92, Krzyzewski suffered back problems that caused him to take a leave of absence during the 1994-95 season, and he went only 18-13 in 1995-96.
During that period, he admitted he considered getting out of coaching, but his supporters at Duke remained committed to him while he "rebuilt the brand.'' He made changes in the program, explaining that he became less of a micromanager and learned how to allow his assistants to take more control over their jobs.
In the process, that put Krzyzewski's focus back where it belonged, on the players who make Duke basketball what it is. That's why he doesn't want to talk about making history as a coach or a program because it's about this group of players.
"I want to be like them,'' Krzyzewski said. "They shouldn't want to be like Mike; Mike should want to be like them. I've really enjoyed that. It's just a better way to coach right now at this time in my career.''