Duke, Coach K figured out how to rule a new world

INDIANAPOLIS -- With his 20-month-old grandson, Caden, perched on his left hip and his wife tucked underneath his right shoulder, Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski stopped amid the dizzying din of a national championship celebration to pose for a family picture.

Seconds earlier he had greeted each grandkid with a hug, eventually scooping up Caden -- wide-eyed with his pacifier in his mouth, a little stuffed monkey dangling off of it -- for the photo.

Then, almost reluctantly, Krzyzewski put Caden down, left him to go catch confetti falling from the ceiling as he went on the stage to join his other family, his Duke family, to watch "One Shining Moment."

Senior Quinn Cook stood to Krzyzewski's right, his arm slung around his coach's shoulder, his eyes welling up as the music reached a crescendo to the end of the highlights of the Blue Devils' 68-63 win against Wisconsin.

This is the new, kinder, gentler Krzyzewski, one softened by a brood of grandkids, a man every bit as fiery and competitive as before yet somehow significantly changed, too.

But the change isn't just in the man, it is every bit in the coach.

Duke won its fifth national championship with four freshmen combining for 60 of the Blue Devils' 68 points and a rookie accounting for every single Duke point in the second half. Tyus Jones finished with 23 points, and Grayson Allen, who had 18 in five combined NCAA tournament games prior, finished with 16.

It is anathema to what Duke had long been, a team built on wily seniors who stuck around and eventually won a championship. The last time the Blue Devils won a title, in 2010, Krzyzewski had mostly avoided one-and-done players. By the end of June he might be saying goodbye to three who remained in Durham, North Carolina, for only one season.

Yet what's maybe even more astounding is that Krzyzewski has not only made the change.

He has loved it.

"They're genuine,'' Krzyzewski told ESPN.com as he walked off the court for the final time this season, stopping to fist-bump security guards and wave to the crowd. "When you have believers, you're happy all the time. My wife would tell you that. When you can be creative instead of trying to figure out attitudes, it's so much easier. I never had to figure it out. When you get kids like I have, it's so easy.''

It is easy, too, when they are wildly talented, slightly brazen and incredibly opportunistic.

This season always seemed destined to end with some freakish freshman doing something fantastic. The odds pointed to a freakish freshman from Kentucky, or at least Jahlil Okafor.

Instead, it was Allen and Jones, the two smallest guys on the floor.

With Justise Winslow and Okafor saddled with fouls and Duke in a nine-point hole, Allen came off the bench to score eight points in a row, completely changing the tenor of the game. A jumping bean that is incredibly gifted athletically, Allen had to find his spot in the rotation.

When the door cracked open against Wisconsin, he barged right in.

Then, Jones did the rest.

Jones is the least heralded of the three-headed Okafor-Winslow-Jones freshman monster, the most on the fence about becoming an NBA pick this year. But he has long been the most vital. He has deftly managed this Duke offense, picking his spots to score when needed.

In the national championship game, he was needed, and he came through, hitting two dagger 3-pointers -- one to put the Blue Devils ahead, the other to put the Badgers to bed.

"It was just, 'believe, just believe,''' he said on the court. "We've done that all year, no matter what adversity we faced. We believed in one another. We believed in Coach. I owe Coach all the credit. Everything we do is a credit to him.''

This game was never going to pass Krzyzewski by. He has been at it for nearly 40 years, rolling with the changes from decade to decade, but the past five years have been nothing shy of a sea change in college hoops.

To win the high-stakes game at the highest level, you have to figure out how to get players who are essentially stopping by to play like they've been around forever. Bo Ryan took a shot at the system after the loss -- "We don't do rent-a-player," he said -- but Krzyzewski had to find a way to invest in guys who are still on borrowed time.

Back in October, he explained his philosophy, saying that he intentionally didn't cast a wide net when he went shopping for special freshmen, preferring instead to focus his time on just a few players he truly wanted.

He hoped that would help cultivate an earlier relationship, since their time together in college would be brief.

"With guys who aren't going to be here long, what we've tried to do is get to know [them] even better before they get to Duke,'' Krzyzewski said.

That's why there's a photo of Krzyzewski in one of Okafor's father's "lookaway" pictures during a recruiting visit. There it is, Chucky not looking at the camera, Krzyzewski with arms crossed alongside him.

He wanted to get knee-deep with the players and their families as best he could in the short window he had, welcoming the borderline outlandish Chucky and the rest of the Okafor clan into the fold.

As his son celebrated on the court, Chucky stood with the other parents, including Debbie Jones, Tyus' mother, hooting and hollering. They alternated between tears and emotional hugs when their boys came off the court, chanting and yelling. That included a Chucky-led "When I say Coach, you say K" chant.

"I love Coach K. I love him,'' Chucky Okafor said. "He made my son into a man. He made them all men.''

Added Debbie Jones: "He's amazing. How can I put it into words what he's done? It's not just as a coach. It's how he manages these guys, how he teaches them.''

And so what might not necessarily be Krzyzewski's ideal way to coach has given way to an idyllic season.

When Krzyzewski went red-faced nuclear during a game against Connecticut, it was stunning because he hadn't done it all season.

But it was just December, 10 games into the season.

"He has so loved coaching this year. He's been so happy,'' his daughter, Lindy Frasher, said. "He usually has that scowl, that red face, and we didn't see any of that this year. He loved this. He loved this team.''

Later, Krzyzewski was asked if this championship was somehow better than all the rest. He nibbled but didn't exactly bite. That, after all, is like asking a grandparent to pick a favorite grandchild.

"When you're already happy and you get happier,'' he said, "it's pretty good. It's pretty damned good.''