Final Four 2010: It's not so easy to tell Coach K and Dean Smith apart

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg talks about this years NCAA basketball tournament and the proposal to expand the contest to 96 teams.
By John Feinstein
Saturday, April 3, 2010


In March 1993, Duke and North Carolina played each other in Chapel Hill in a game with all sorts of national ramifications. Duke was the defending national champion. North Carolina was ranked No. 1 in the country.

Early in the game the two coaches, Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith, both clearly uptight, were up on every whistle. After several minutes, lead referee Lenny Wirtz had seen and heard enough. He called Krzyzewski and Smith to the scorer's table.

"I know it's a big game," he said. "I know you're both a little hyper. But you have to calm down and let us work the game."

Smith nodded. Krzyzewski did not. "Lenny, there's 21,000 people in here who are all against me," he said. "You three guys are the only ones I can talk to."

Wirtz laughed. Smith did not. "Lenny, don't let him do that," he said. "He's trying to get you on his side."

Krzyzewski glared at Smith, who glared back. Krzyzewski stalked back to his bench and said to his assistant coaches, "If I ever start to act like him, don't ask a single question, just get a gun and shoot me."

Time to round up the guns.

That's not to say that Krzyzewski has morphed into his former arch rival, but as he has become older, more successful and more famous, it is clear that he has come to see the world through a prism far more similar to Smith than he might ever have imagined.

Consider some anecdotal evidence: Smith was famous for shining the spotlight on his seniors -- no matter who they were. In 1975, a North Carolina team led by Phil Ford, Walter Davis and Mitch Kupchak, won the ACC tournament. Smith's opening comment after the championship game was as follows: "Clearly the leadership we got from our seniors was the key to our winning this tournament."

Those senior leaders were Brad Hoffman, Ed Stahl and walk-on Mickey Bell.

Last Sunday, junior Nolan Smith was voted the MVP of the South Region after scoring 29 points in Duke's win over Baylor in the final. Duke's best player in the first three games of the tournament was Kyle Singler, another junior. The three Duke players in the Final Four interview room Friday for the practice day at Lucas Oil Stadium? Seniors Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas.

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