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SportsColumnistsGreg Logan

Mike Krzyzewski learns from John Calipari's one-and-done success

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski directs his team

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski directs his team during the first half of the NCAA men's Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday, April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

INDIANAPOLIS - The uniforms were blue and white, and three of the starters were freshmen, including two likely NBA lottery picks. But that wasn't Kentucky coach John Calipari's "one-and-doners" facing a veteran Wisconsin team for the NCAA national championship Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

That was Duke, the paragon of virtue in college basketball, the place where "student-athlete" is a term that doesn't provoke snickers. And it was Mike Krzyzewski, transforming himself into "Coach Konvert" and placing his faith in a bunch of 19-year-olds to produce his fifth national title.

Who would have thought such a thing was possible?

It was just five years earlier that Krzyzewski won his fourth national title with a traditional senior-laden team against Butler on this same court.

But Monday night, the only Duke senior on the court was point guard Quinn Cook, and while it may have been up to Cook to set the tone, freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and even freshman Grayson Allen -- with a stellar 16-point contribution off the bench -- gave Krzyzewski his fifth NCAA title with a 68-63 comeback victory over Wisconsin.

"I don't think a lot of people thought Duke was going to be changing this way, but I'm not surprised with the guys we have being able to step up the way they have and being able to lead," said Allen, who had 10 points in the 17-6 second-half run that wiped out a nine-point Wisconsin lead. "Coach K talks about our maturity, and I think we really have matured as young players.''

Allen said before the game that Duke has fed off the aggressiveness of Okafor and Winslow all season, but when they were in foul trouble in the second half, Coach K called on Allen, the best driver on the team, to go to the basket.

"We got on Grayson's back," Krzyzewski said.

It was Kentucky's Calipari who pioneered the "one-and-done" model for building a program, and he took plenty of criticism for it. He always explained it as taking maximum advantage of the NBA rule requiring players to wait until they are 19 before they can declare for the draft.

Many decried the practice. But this season, "Coach Konvert" played the one-and-done game as well as Calipari.

Asked Monday at the announcement of his Hall of Fame election if he takes a certain sense of satisfaction that the sainted Krzyzewski essentially was forced to alter his program to compete, Calipari resisted the urge to say, "I told you so."

He noted that Duke might have multiple freshmen enter the draft after one year but said, "No, I don't take any satisfaction. I think Mike Krzyzewski is, if not the best coach ever, one of the best coaches. What he has done from decade to decade to decade, he's changed. He's done what he's had to do."

When he arrived in Indy at his first Final Four since his 2010 championship, having lost twice in the Round of 64 in the interim, Krzyzewski frankly admitted he had seen the light.

Describing his former approach, he said, "There were maybe eight to 12 kids we didn't recruit each year because we felt they would go right to the NBA [when it was allowed to draft high school players]. Most of them did, some didn't.

"When one-and done became in effect, we still didn't recruit those kids. And then we started to recruit them because we said, 'Maybe some of them or one of them could fit the profile for Duke.' So if we can find kids that fit our profile, we'll deal with the consequences of whether they're here for one, two, three or four years."

The consequences of Krzyzewski's decision to get in step with the times certainly were evident Monday night. As an elated Krzyzewski said of the accomplishment, "The ability to adapt is key in everything. It's not like you're making a sacrifice. It's like, 'What does this group need from me?' "

"Coach Konvert" showed his kids the path, and they took him back to the top.

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