A legend stops by and wins, of course
College basketball royalty is on hand Friday night at Moda Center.
Mike Krzyzewski and Duke basketball are like Princess Kate and Prince William when they come upon the scene, any time and anywhere.
This occasion is the PK80 Invitational, celebrating Phil Knight's 80th birthday.
Krzyzewski, college basketball's winningest coach of all time, recently won his 1,000th game at the Duke helm. Under his tutelage, the Blue Devils have claimed five NCAA championships.
With Duke accepting the invitation to join 15 teams for a three-day affair in Portland, it becomes more than Nike's invitational-only party. It's an event — a happening.
Your trusty scribe is courtside, chronicling the action as the nation's top-ranked team faces 4-0 Texas in a second-round game.
Moda Center is pretty much a sea of Devil blue. There are a couple hundred Texas supporters in the section behind the Longhorns' bench, but much of the rest of the crowd announced at 13,746 is on Duke's side.
The Devils travel well, but many of those in attendance are probably Duke fans from Oregon and up and down the West Coast who rarely get to see their team play in person.
Hall-Of-Famer David Robinson — whose son, Justin is a sophomore forward at Duke — is seated in the third row behind the Duke bench. Sitting a little further back is former Trail Blazers forward Gary Trent, whose son, Gary Trent Jr., is a starting guard for the Blue Devils.
At 2:28 p.m., seven minutes before game time, the Duke players take the court, drawing a standing ovation from many of the partisans. Three minutes later, Coach K walks out with his assistants, among them ex-Blazer guard Nolan Smith. As soon as Krzyzewski gets to the Duke bench, Texas coach Shaka Smart comes over for a handshake and a few brief words.
Smart, in his third season at Texas, is renowned in his own right. In 2011, Smart coached Cinderella-team Virginia Commonwealth into the Final Four. In his first season at Texas in 2015-16, the Longhorns won 20 games and made the NCAA Tournament. They stumbled to 11-22 and a last-place finish in the Big 12 last season, but with the nation's No. 2 recruit — 6-11 center Mohamed Bamba of Harlem, New York — a 6-9 Tulane transfer Dylan Osetkowski, Texas could be headed back to the Big Dance this season.
Duke boasts eight freshmen, including four starters, featuring the nation's No. 1 recruit — 6-11 center Marvin Bagley III. The only veteran is senior guard Grayson Allen, the team's No. 2 scorer and floor leader and the young man known in college basketball as a serial tripper. Three times during his sophomore and junior seasons, he intentionally tripped opponents during games, finally drawing a one-game suspension.
Texas fields seven freshmen, including a pair of starters. It's much of what big-time college hoops has become, programs turning over talent to the NBA every year.
Texas takes the initiative from the start, jumping to a 14-7 lead. The Longhorns have three good bigs — starers Bamba and Osetkowski and 6-9 freshman Jericho Sims — along with plenty of quickness and athleticism at guard. They shoot poorly from the outside, though, which will help prove their undoing on this night.
Bagley, a left-hander with plenty of inside moves and range, dunks and completes a three-point play to get Duke to within 14-10. Coach K remains calm, stoic.
Allen gets a quick second foul and is replaced by freshman Alex O'Connell, a 6-6, 170-pound baby-faced stringbean with a punk-rock haircut and mad hops. He feeds Bagley for another dunk, then soars for an offensive board, drawing oohs and ahhs from some fans.
Krzyzewski beckons a referee during free throws by Trent. An official jogs over from the other end and listens politely as Coach K makes a point. When he is through, the ref nods and jogs back to the other end.
Bagley picks up a cheap over-the-back foul going for a rebound, his second, and departs momentarily with nine minutes left. He takes it well. The big kid seems to have a good attitude.
Matt Coleman of Texas drives and scores for a 31-22 lead. It is to be his only basket of the game as he goes 1 for 12 from the field.
Kerwin Roach II — who has NBA jets and springs — drives right by his man and packs one over two Duke bigs to the roar of the crowd for a 43-29 Texas lead.
Trent hits a jumper with 30 seconds left to cut the difference to 43-31. The Blue Devils get the ball back with 3.7 seconds left, and Coach K jumps up and shouts, "Hey! Hey!" A ref comes over. Coach K is animated over something — perhaps the score, and the way things are going for Duke.
At halftime, Duke trails by 12 points, is 1 for 6 from 3-point range and 8 for 15 from the foul line, with seven turnovers. Allen, who played only seven minutes before picking up three fouls, is scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting.
Allen starts the second half by burying a 3 from the corner. Bagley dunks, and Duke fans erupt. The Blue Devils have quickly closed to within 43-36, and Smart wants timeout.
Krzyzewski is working the officials again. "Hey! Hey!" he yells, calling one over for consultation at the end of the timeout. The referee, expressionless, nods his head and wanders back to his position.
With Duke trailing 49-42, Allen brings his teammates together in a huddle as they line up for a free throw.
Shortly thereafter, the 6-4 Roach goes up and flushes another one, part of a 9-0 run that gives Longhorns a 62-46 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
A ref says something to somebody at the end of the Duke bench, probably to admonish him for chirping. Lead assistant coach Jeff Capel jumps up, protesting loudly. Coach K glares. A night earlier, the Devils had trailed through most of the first half in a 99-81 win over Portland State. Chances of a repeat are beginning to look unlikely.
But Duke already is in the bonus shooting free throws, and Texas is in some foul trouble.
It's still 66-52 with nine minutes left when O'Connell makes a great save of a ball going out of bounds and flings it to Allen, who knocks down a 3. The Devils score eight in a row to close to within 66-60. The game is on.
Bagley goes to work with a driving hook and a dunk on a break. Wendell Carter Jr., a 6-10 freshman, dunks and lets out a primal scream. Allen penetrates, dishes to Carter for a layup, and it's 70-66. Carter hits a bank shot, Bagley follows with a jump hook, and it's 70-70 with 2:35 to play.
Allen is called for a charging foul — his fifth — and leaves with two minutes remaining. Krzyzewski doesn't show any emotion. He gathers his players — five freshmen — for some instructions.
Roach drives through an open lane and dunks again for a 72-70 lead with 1:43 left.
Duke freshman guard Trevon Duval misses two at the line, but Texas knocks the rebound out of bounds. Bagley puts up a driving layup, but Bamba smacks it out of bounds with 35.9 seconds left. Trent scores on a layup; all four Duke teammates go to pick him up as he hits the floor. Bamba fouls out on the play. Trent converts the three-point play for a 73-72 advantage with 32.8 seconds to go.
Coleman gets fouled with 18.7 seconds left. He rattles home the first free throw, but misses the second. Duke rebounds. The Blue Devils have no timeouts left. Krzyzewski motions for the ball to go to Bagley at the wing. He pounds the ball a couple of times and launches a 3-pointer, which bounds off the rim. The Devils miss two putbacks — and it's on to overtime.
When Sims gets his fifth foul and departs with 4:25 left, Smart is left with Osetkowski and four guards on the floor. Duke gets the upper hand, but Texas stays around. When the Devils call for time out with 1:27 left, leading 78-77, there is no coaches' huddle. It's Coach K's team. He knows what he wants.
They work it into the post to Bagley, who is guarded by the 6-4 Roach. Bagley turns and converts the layup over his smaller foe. Coleman makes 1 of 2 at the line to narrow Duke's edge to 80-78 with 58 seconds left, but the Longhorns are done scoring for the night.
The Devils win 85-78, and Smart and Krzyzewski spend a few seconds exchanging pleasantries at midcourt. Then Coach K heads to the locker room, another victory in the books.
Duke shoots .446 from the field — not bad — but is 3 for 18 from 3-point range and 22 for 36 (.611) from the line. Bagley has monster numbers with 34 points on 12-for-19 shooting to go with 15 rebounds in 38 minutes. Trent Jr. collects 17 points and eight rebounds while Carter Jr. contributes 14 points and 11 boards. Allen gets all 12 of his points in the second half.
The most glaring stat for the Longhorns is their ineffectiveness from the 3-point line — 4 for 23. Even with that, they took the nation's top-ranked team to overtime.
"We showed how good we can be," Smart says. "We have to understand a game is 40 minutes long — or in this case, 45 minutes.
"Duke was on the offensive the the whole second half. We did a good job taking their first punch of the second half, but as the half wore on, we got a little passive. We got away from our mission.
"Fouls were a big factor. We ended up having to go small in overtime. (The Devils) did a great job taking advantage of that. Their bigs are terrific. Bagley and Carter made a huge difference. They went to Bagley down the stretch, and he was able to make some big plays on the block."
Krzyzewski, 70, doesn't wait for questions when it's his turn to address the media.
"Jiminy Christmas," he says. Then: "Do they still say Jiminy Christmas?"
"That was a great game," he says. "(The Longhorns) are really good. Those were two different halves. They played hard and well the whole time. We played as bad as we've played in the first half. We've been winning games, but not playing well. It caught up to us in one moment tonight."
Krzyzewski says the scene in the Duke locker room at halftime was "very calm."
"We talked about things and how we wanted to progress in the second half," he says.
But the wheels were nearly off the tracks when Texas went up by 16 points with 11 minutes to go.
"Our kids could have gone dead," Krzyzewski says. "Instead, we had Grayson ballhandling up top and (Bagley and Carter) inside. With that trio, there were some magical plays there. It was beautiful — for us. I'd like to say it was something we called. But really, we just started playing.
"Sometimes, if a team has to climb back like we did and doesn't win in regulation, the overtime isn't going to be very good. But it was an unbelievable win for us, and a great learning experience."
It's the youngest team during Krzyzewski's 38 years at Duke by a long shot. The Blue Devils, the coach cautions, are only seven games in.
"It's not like we're a well-oiled machine," he says, his eyes twinkling for a moment. "We're trying to figure out who we are while we're on the road. We want to be on Broadway, but we're off Broadway, trying to figure out who can dance, who can sing."
Krzyzewski is asked to say something about Bagley, who is sitting to his left at the podium.
"I believe ultimately in this kid," Coach K says. "I knew he was going to be good, but coaching him every day, he's a treasure, really.
"He wants to be really good. He comes to work every day. All of his teammates love him. I coached the U.S. (national) team for a long time. He's of that ilk. He has to keep developing. We'll see where it goes."
Twenty minutes later, at the loading dock at Moda Center, Krzyzewski walks with a slight limp as he heads to the team bus with his wife of 48 years, Mickie.
I say hello. We shake hands, and I ask how he feels the tournament is being run.
"Really well," he said. He pauses and adds, "I love Portland."
I ask how his knee was doing.
"Had it replaced 3 1/2 months ago. Getting better all the time."
I ask how his hips are doing.
"Two artificial hips and one artificial knee," he says with a smile. "Not much left to replace."
A head nod, and he boards a bus for the millionth time. It's what he does, and what he has done forever, better than anyone else in history.