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Two legendary coaches add another NCAA victory to their legacies

This year’s March Madness marked the 10th national title for UConn coach Geno Auriemma and the fifth for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Jeffrey Brown talks to Danielle Donehew of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and John Feinstein of The Washington Post about the two coaches’ evolution and legacies.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Finally tonight: A pair of coaching legends add to their Hall of Fame resumes.

    Jeffrey Brown looks at what sets them apart and how they have adapted to a new era.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Last night, it was the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team claiming their third title in a row, and 10th overall for their coach, Geno Auriemma. That matched him with the game’s most famous coach, John Wooden.

    On Monday night, Duke University won its fifth title for coach Mike Krzyzewski. In the men’s game, no other coach has won as many, other than, again, John Wooden.

    And we’re joined now by two who know the game well, Danielle Donehew, executive director of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and a former collegiate player herself, and John Feinstein, author of several books about college basketball and a columnist for The Washington Post. John joins us from Augusta, Georgia, for the Masters golf tournament.

    And let’s start with you, Danielle Donehew.

    Ten championships for coach Geno Auriemma. What has been his secret?

  • DANIELLE DONEHEW, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association:

    I will tell you, Jeff, Geno constantly pursues perfection. And he’s a master at knowing how to motivate his players.

    I think Geno is one of the greatest masterminds, also, in terms of his offensive philosophies, defensive philosophies to really take advantage of the talents and the strengths of his players.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And has he had to change over time?

  • DANIELLE DONEHEW:

    He has. He has.

    I think he’s modeled a lot of his basic principles, his core principles from the teachings of John Wooden. But he’s certainly evolved over time, with other recommendations from other friends and certainly his own concepts that he’s created throughout his coaching career.

    He is one of — he’s very consistent. He’s one of the best teachers of the game that I have seen. He is incredible to watch also in practices. When you see his teams play, it’s almost poetry in motion. They’re great passers, great passers.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Well, John Feinstein, Mike Krzyzewski certainly has had to adjust several times to a change in games, winning in several different eras, right?

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN, The Washington Post:

    Absolutely, Jeff.

    He first coached at West Point in 1976. And a lot of who he is as a coach was shaped by being a cadet there playing for Bob Knight and by coaching there, because when you’re a plebe at West Point, there are three answer you’re allowed when addressing an upperclassman, yes, sir, no, sir, and no excuse, sir.

    And that’s what Krzyzewski has done when he’s failed. He has never blamed anybody but himself. And what happened in the last year is a perfect example. When they — Duke lost in the first round to Mercer last year, he didn’t blame anybody but himself. He went back, he reinvented himself as a coach. He learned how to text with his players.

    That sounds like a small thing, but in today’s era, it’s important. And this year, he even played zone, which is one of the things he hates most in life. But realizing that his young team couldn’t quite grasp his man-to-man defense early in the season, he incorporated zone into what they were doing and allowed them to learn slowly how to play the man-to-man defense that ultimately won them the national title.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    John, you have watched the chronicled the evolution of coaching over a long time now. The pressures, the pressure cooker of being a coach at this level, what’s that like?

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Well, when you are the target, the way Krzyzewski is every year, because he went to his first Final Four in 1986, you have to be able to adapt, as we said, to the game, and you have to understand that you are everybody’s biggest game.

    The three-point shot didn’t exist when Mike Krzyzewski went to his first Final Four. One-and-done didn’t exist until eight years ago. That has changed coaching tremendously, because you have to recruit and then re-recruit. He is going to have a whole new team next year, rather than those three freshman stars coming back for three more years.

    So he’s had to change the way he approaches recruiting, the way he approaches relationship with his players, and the way he approaches the notion that he is everybody’s target on and off the basketball court.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Danielle Donehew, is it the same, those same pressures on the women’s side?

  • DANIELLE DONEHEW:

    I think they’re very complementary, yes.

    Geno constantly is seeing everyone’s best effort every time UConn steps on the floor. And I would just add these coaches in both men and women’s basketball, they also have to hone in on great business skills. They have got to be great coaches on the basketball court, but also great businesspeople.

    It’s a corporate — it’s like a corporation now. You have to be good at marketing and financial management. You have got to be able to recruit. You have got to be able to hire and fire your staff. These coaches are asked to do so many things, and they’re talented in all of these areas.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Well, I was wondering about that, because we have done a number of stories on this program, for good and ill, in this sports world now.

    John, I will start with you on this.

    These coaches can be more important on campus than the presidents. They can wield more power. They are the brand, in a sense, of their college.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Yes. And that’s why Mike Krzyzewski is by far the highest paid employee at Duke University. He makes $6 million a year. Why? Because he’s their chief fund-raiser.

    When the basketball team does well, people give more money to the school. He’s asked to take part in fund-raising activities. It’s a constant part of his job. And he’s under constant pressure because Duke doesn’t have a very good football program, even though it’s gotten a little bit better in the last few years. But Krzyzewski is the guy at Duke.

    Geno Auriemma at least has a very good men’s program that can help him out at UConn.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And, Danielle Donehew, a last word from you on that?

  • DANIELLE DONEHEW:

    I would agree with that.

    And Geno plays a very, very important role on campus and in the community and nationally in terms of elevating our game and being kind of the standard bearer for the women’s game right now. But he does a great deal of fund-raising for UConn and exposing their brand to all markets around the country.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    They won three in a row. Will it continue?

  • DANIELLE DONEHEW:

    That’s up to Geno. I look forward to watching.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    All right, Danielle Donehew and John Feinstein, thank you both very much.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Thanks, Jeff.

  • DANIELLE DONEHEW:

    Thanks. Thanks, Jeff.

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