It’s a safe bet that Kyrie Irving will be looking for the nearest television as soon as the Nets’ next game ends.
Irving’s alma mater, Duke, will try to extend retiring coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career one more game by beating rival North Carolina in the Final Four on Saturday night. North Carolina spoiled Krzyzewski’s final home game. This will be their first-ever NCAA Tournament meeting.
“Coach’s legacy is not necessarily on the line, but the way they came into Cameron Indoor for the last home game for Coach K left a bad taste,” Irving recalled Thursday, after the Nets lost a 120-119 overtime thriller to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I think there will be a little bit of a redemptive attitude going in. I know the guys are looking forward to that opportunity to really redeem Coach K and also the program, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on them. It’s another game for them to really show who they are and play as a team.”
Irving played 11 games for Duke during an injury-plagued 2010-11 freshman season before turning pro, but he has remained close to Krzyzewski through shared experiences with Team USA. The Nets face the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Duke-UNC is scheduled for an 8:49 p.m. tip-off.
“When he first recruited me when I was 16, 17 years old, I thought the guy was brilliant. But I thought he was a little crazy: The way he approached things and how he got guys to buy in,” Irving said.
“At the time, I was just an egotistical little kid at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth (N.J.). He comes into my house and he makes everybody smile, and I’m like, ‘This guy either has to be crazy or incredibly charming.’ He’s both. That’s what I needed from a competitive coach to really get the best out of me.”
Irving said Krzyzewski’s legacy is defined by his work ethic and the way he has cared for his family, former players and community.
“He’s going to continue to build it,” Irving said. “His years being in this game, he’s impacted so many lives. I’m just grateful I get to be one of those guys. He’s more than just a coach to me and countless others.”