Mike Krzyzewski has been around long enough to experience his fair share of gut-wrenching defeats. So after his Duke Blue Devils dealt one out on Sunday, beating ninth-seeded UCF by a matter of inches, Coach K got emotional himself.
In the postgame handshake line, he stopped to console one of the fallen Knights:
The UCF player was Dayon Griffin, a senior. His career was over. And he was devastated.
Griffin lifted his jersey over part of his face while listening to Krzyzewski’s words. Then he hugged the Duke head coach before moving down the line.
UCF’s players were understandably stunned. When B.J. Taylor’s layup rolled off, then Aubrey Dawkins’ put-back did the same, they were in disbelief. Terrell Allen fell backwards to the floor. Taylor struggled to pull himself to his feet on the baseline.
Griffin sunk to the floor as well, his jersey up over his face while prone. As his teammates helped him up, tears were already flowing. In the locker room later, while head coach Johnny Dawkins spoke to his team one final time, sobs were irrepressible all around:
Meanwhile, Coach K was in another type of disbelief. He clearly understood the heartbreak.
Coach K gets emotional postgame
While Duke players celebrated, Coach K turned toward UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins, his former pupil, and threw his hands out with his palms facing up. Then he did it again. And he shook his head.
As he embraced Dawkins, and while Dawkins spoke in his ear, he had an understanding smirk on his face:
Krzyzewski got emotional at his postgame news conference talking about Dawkins, whom he coached in the 1980s, and who coached under him for 10 years in the 1990s and 2000s.
“Look, I love Johnny,” Coach K said, holding off tears. “I’m gonna start crying. That’s what I told him. I love Johnny Dawkins. And the moments, the times that we spent together, building the program, 10 years on our staff, and the connections we’ve had while he was at Stanford and Central Florida. He’s a member of – we’re family.
“I feel bad that they lost. I mean, I’m exhilara ... I’m hap ... It’s like, a ying and a yang here. Because they were deserving of winning. They were so good. And I’m so proud that those kids played at the level of their coach.
Coach K, at various points of the answer, was genuinely lost for words. He also talked about seeing Aubrey Dawkins – who scored 32 points on Sunday, “the best player on the court,” K said – grow up. And about how Johnny Dawkins became a father figure for Nolan Smith – a star on Duke’s 2010 title team, and now a Blue Devil assistant coach.
“It’s a tough moment,” K continued. “It’ll take me a little while to get through it, to be quite frank for you.”
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