basketball-men-d1 flag | April 3, 2022

Read the full transcript from Coach K's final postgame press conference

Hear from Coach K after North Carolina ends his career at the Final Four

North Carolina - 81, Duke - 77

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Duke.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: First of all, congratulations to North Carolina. Hubert and his staff and those kids have done a heck of a job. And tonight was a battle. I mean, it was a game that the winner was going to be joyous and the loser was going to be in agony. And that's the type of game we expected.

We would have liked to have been on the other side of it, but I'm proud of what my guys have done. And they've been an amazing group for me. The youngest team I've coached. And we had our chances tonight. And they made a couple more plays than we did. But our guys played their hearts out. But I'm proud of them. I love my team. And my staff loves them. And they've been just a joy for me to coach.

Q. What were your emotions when you were walking off the court for the last time?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's not about me, especially right now. As a coach, I'm just concerned about these guys. I mean, they're already crying on the court. And I mean that's the only thing you can think about.

And then going into the locker room, I've said my entire career -- or when I knew what the hell I was doing -- that I wanted my seasons to end where my team was either crying tears of joy or tears of sorrow because then you knew that they gave everything.

And I had a locker room filled with guys who were crying. And it's a beautiful sight. It's not the sight that I would want. I'd want the other. But it's a sight that I really respect and makes me understand just how good this group was.

And that's what I'm concerned -- I don't want any of these guys to leave and say, I should have made that one free throw; I should have made that one -- we win and we lose together. And we've won 32 games and two championships together. And that's what I want them to realize. 

RECAP: North Carolina defeats Duke, hands Coach K loss in last game at Final Four

Q. You might be one of the few people who might have seen or remember Houston-UCLA in '68. You've been on the tournament stage, 100 tournament games. Can you put this game into perspective since it had never been played until tonight?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think it reached a level that you would expect. Those kids from both teams played their hearts out. I mean, the crowd was standing most of the game, I think. It was a heck of a game. And so it met up to that. It was disjointed, which games like that can be, but I think it met up to that level.

And I'm proud of my guys. We had our chances in the last minutes. You have a one-point lead, if you can get a stop. But they're good. They put a lot of pressure on you offensively.

Q. Can you just reflect on your career?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I'm not thinking about my career right now.

Q. Could you talk about what it's meant to you to make this magical run with these guys?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: For these guys, they've been a joy. We made our announcement it would be our last year -- I told my wife, Mickie, look, we're going for it. And I'm going to put everything into it. And I got a group, they're young, but I think they've got a chance.

And I was right about that. I was right about that. So every day -- we had a few bumps in the road, but they won 32 games. And they turned it around in March where they've been beautiful young men to coach. I could not ask for more.

Q. You talked about the tears for them, but you're obviously dry-eyed right now. You have your perspective obviously that they don't have. What is your perspective on all that, and how do you keep your emotions in check right now?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think when you have three daughters, 10 grandchildren and you've been through quite a bit, you're used to taking care of the emotions of the people you love and that you're responsible for. And that's where I'm at. And I'm sure at some time I'll deal with this in my own way.

But for right now we need to deal with our family. We've developed a family. And in the last three ball games before this one, these guys made unbelievable plays right after one another to put us in this position. But tonight we still made some plays but not enough -- but not enough.

Q. Coach, you always talk about the next play, on to the next play. Is there another message or certain message that you would give the players, with your exit, and the fact what happened tonight?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: At some time. Let's deal with tonight and the season. And obviously, we're concerned about all their futures and making sure that we give them good guidance and advice and support in how we move forward.

And they know that I'll always be with them. So they know that. And we'll be able to move on as a program. But my relationships with them will always be there. Look, these guys are really good. They weren't good, they were really good. And they've been a joy. They've been a joy.

Q. When the sting of tonight eventually eases up a little bit, do you think your lasting memory of this final tournament will be what your kids gave you in those final five minutes against Michigan State?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Or throughout the tournament, I think. You don't define a season with one game or one minute of a game. You define a season by what's happened throughout the whole season. It's been a heck of a year for us. And how these guys turned it around after we didn't play well in our last four regular seasons, including the tournament, was really one of the best things that have happened for me as a coach in the last five, six years.

For a young group to really flip the switch like that and play that level of basketball -- and at times we played that way tonight that, part of the reason that we were not able to play was that we were playing against a really good team that they also did that.

And I'll be fine. I've been blessed to be in the arena. And when you're in the arena, you're either going to come out feeling great or you're going to feel agony, but you always will feel great about being in the arena.

And I'm sure that that's the thing when I'll look back that I'll miss. I won't be in the arena anymore. But, damn, I was in the arena for a long time. And these kids made my last time in the arena an amazing one.

Q. I know you said you're trying to manage the emotions. One emotion that seems to be coming out for you now is empathy. Could you talk about using that empathy to lift these guys up. They're clearly hurting. We just heard Wendell --

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, we are, privately. It's tough to hug them in front of you. But maybe not, you might think I'm showing off or it doesn't mean that much.

But, no, we've had -- and we will. Like, you take care of the people you love. And you take care of the people who have been committed to you and have believed in you. And they check every box. So we're going to help them get past this and then move on because these are all really young guys. They have amazing futures ahead of them -- amazing futures ahead of them. And we want to be a part of that. We want to help them with that.

Q. You talked about being in the arena. Can you talk about whether it's this team or other teams, talk about the joy you had in bringing them to achieve what they could achieve. Talk about what that meant to you.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, if I was in the arena alone, I would always come out with agony. So whenever I've gone into the arena, I've brought these guys or a U.S. team, or whatever.

So as a coach, you are allowed to go into that arena with amazing competitors. People who want to achieve at the highest level. And if you can teach them to achieve together at that highest level, then you come out of there in good shape.

So that's the beauty of being a coach and having the opportunities that I've had. And coaching them has been an amazing opportunity for me. Are you kidding me? We had two years of COVID. Last year 13-11. And I believe in these guys. And I should. And they came through. They did not win tonight, but they came through in an unbelievable fashion.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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