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Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey told stories at Operation Basketball of his joy ride with the Blue Angels.
Krzyzewski foresees a league that is second to none
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (theACC.com) – Mike Krzyzewski has seen a lot in his nearly 35 years as Duke’s head basketball coach, as he reminded those in attendance Wednesday for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 53rd annual “Operation Basketball” preseason event.
Krzyzewski was seating himself at the podium to address a group of writers and broadcasters when he spotted two long-time friends – former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins and former Wake Forest coach Dave Odom – among the audience.
“We were in the league in the ’80s when it was the best, and there was a brotherhood in the league, and it was really genuine,” Krzyzewski said. “That spirit and that camaraderie and that excellence have only been enhanced as the league continues.”
It continues into this season with four teams ranked among the nation’s Top 10 of the USA TODAY/Coaches’ Preseason Poll. It continues with four Hall of Fame coaches and a collective group of 15 coaches that owns 6,427 wins, nine national titles, 302 NCAA tournament victories, 80 Sweet 16 appearances, 30 trips to the Final Four and 18 national title games.
“We're now at a time where it has a chance to really go back to the level, really being the best, because it was the best in the ’80s,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s been one of the best since then, but there’s a chance to be the best. When you add Syracuse and Notre Dame and Pitt and Louisville and these teams, you've added the best of the Big East to the ACC.”
ACC basketball hasn’t exactly been down, for the past decade and a half, as the league’s five national titles since 2001 attest. But Krzyzewski envisions a league unrivaled from top to bottom, one of consistently competitive games, and of battle-tested teams come March.
“I think it's time to really get this league at another level,” he said. “I think it'll bring out the best in all of us. I think more teams obviously will make the NCAA Tournament. I think that more of us will be hardened, toughened by the fact of going through that that way.
“I know during the ’80s and early ’90s, when you got to the tournament, you had played a hellacious schedule against great teams, and I think it helped. I know it helped me at Duke in the development of my teams.”
MORE RIVALRIES BORN
Syracuse’s first go-around as an ACC member produced a pair of epic games versus Duke. Krzyzewski says to expect more of the same – and not just in head-to-head matchups between the Orange and Blue Devils.
“I think that one of the great things of expansion is that you bring storied programs like Syracuse, Louisville and these teams in – and we have storied programs, a number of them, in our conference,” he said. “When you put them together, something new and good can happen. In the case of Duke and Syracuse, they weren't two great games. They were two great events. And so our conference is just producing games. These games, they end up being events.
“For years, people have talked about Duke and Carolina as being an event. I think our conference is not one‑dimensional right now. It can have a number of them, and I think that's great for the game.”
Duke and Syracuse set a high event standard with last season’ two heart-stopping finishes that left even college basketball’s two all-time winningest Division I coaches – Krzyzewski and the Orange’s Jim Boeheim – awed at what transpired.
“Jim and I have talked about it,” Krzyzewski said. “We're lucky that we're a part of that right now, to be a part of two events like that. Those two days were great for college basketball and great for the ACC.”
Krzyzewski also noted that the second meeting in Durham was a great thing for the Coaches Versus Cancer charity.
“Jim auctioned that coat he threw off (in the game’s closing moments) for, I think, $14,000,” Krzyzewski said. “So I think we're going to take turns on who throws a coat and try to auction it off each year.”
BLUE ANGELS, WHITE KNUCKLES
With the start of a new season two weeks away, ACC basketball coaches have turned their full attention to the task at hand.
Some recounted stories of how they spent part of their offseasons during Wednesday’s proceedings. For sheer excitement – if not outright terror – none could top Notre Dame’s Mike Brey.
Brey took a joy ride with the Blue Angels – the United States Navy Squadron whose flight demonstrations are legendary.
“Well, I didn't pass out or throw up,” Brey said when asked to describe his experience.
Brey took part in the show at Pensacola, Florida, at the insistence of one of his former walk-on players, who is now a Blue Angel pilot.
“He got me at a weak moment,” Brey said. “The week before, I was definitely trying to get out of it. I thought maybe the Ebola scare would be a reason. I was looking for anything.”
Brey’s 45-minute flight as a passenger left little to imagination.
“We pulled 7Gs one time,” he said. “I got close to passing out. We went the speed of sound. We were flying upside down. There's a great video on it, and I got through it, but it was an amazing experience.”
And, as Brey jets about the country on future recruiting trips, he is finding the Blue Angel’s might have been well worth it.
“I used to get a little nervous with turbulence on a commercial jet,” Brey said. “That's nothing now. I'll sleep right through it after that.”