A shot at history for Wisconsin’s Ryan and Duke’s Krzyzewski
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan has spent three decades working to get to this point, leading the Badgers into the NCAA championship game with a shot at personal history on the line.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has a chance at college basketball history.
Their teams meet Monday night, with Ryan going for his first Division I championship — and the program’s first since winning its only other one in 1941 — and Krzyzewski trying to become only the second men’s coach to win five NCAA titles along with UCLA’s John Wooden.
They both know success, with a combined 1,757 career wins and four national titles each to their credit — though Ryan’s were in the Division III ranks. But both veteran coaches tried to divert attention toward their players Sunday rather than focus on their own role in what will be the final game of the 2014-15 season.
“I know I’m one of the really good coaches. I know we’re one of the really good programs,” Krzyzewski said. “Monday night is about them. They shouldn’t think of anything else. It has nothing to do with Duke historically or me.”
Both the Blue Devils (34-4) and the Badgers (36-3) are No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament and have been among the favorites to get here all season. And the winner — either the 68-year-old Krzyzewski or 67-year-old Ryan — will become the second-oldest ever to win the title behind former Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun (68 years, 10 months, 22 days) in 2011.
Ryan, in the Final Four with the Badgers for the second straight year, would be the oldest first-time winner in Division I history.
Ryan won four national titles at Wisconsin-Platteville in the 1990s, quite a change from the weekend’s spectacle at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Training table meal was hot dogs,” he said of winning his first title in 1991. “The morning of the game, I had a cream doughnut and a diet pop. Now we have the best, French toast, pancakes, eggs, omelets. We have people cooking omelets. ... All the fruit you could possibly think about eating.
“I think there was a stringer, one stringer, from the Madison paper that actually showed up and covered the game. So you ask me what it was like. It wasn’t like this.”
While Ryan said the focus is “watching these guys grow and their experiences together,” junior Sam Dekker said the players would like to reward Ryan in a career that includes 740 wins.
“To win it for him would be huge,” Dekker said. “He deserves as much credit as any coach in the nation for what we’ve done here. And then to be a part of the team that would win it for him, potentially win it for him, would be something I would never forget.”
As for Krzyzewski, he already stands as the winningest coach in men’s Division I history with 1,017 wins and tied Wooden this year with a record 12 Final Fours. In his 35th season at Duke, he won titles in 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010 — the ’91 and ’10 crowns both came in Indianapolis — and is tied with late Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp for second behind Woodmen’s record total of 10 championships.
This is Krzyzewski’s ninth NCAA title game, the first coming in 1986.
“It’s not just the title game, it’s what you learn about coaching,” Krzyzewski said of lessons from those experiences. “You’re constantly learning about the game. I’m a better coach now than I was in ’86 or in ‘91 or ’92. Just to be in the moment. ... I think the Final Four is a different animal like when you come in, just so you are not happy to be here, you know, that you’re in this moment.”
Senior Quinn Cook said part of the moment is taking advantage of the opportunity, both for the players and their Hall of Fame coach.
“We obviously know what Coach has done and what this could do for Coach,” Cook said. “But Coach has stressed all year that this is about this team. ... He’s made his season about us, our moment. So obviously we want to get No. 5 for him, but we want to get No. 1 for ourselves as well. That’s what he wants. He wants his first one with this group.”
AP Sports Writer Genaro C. Armas contributed to this report.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap