“I called my wife after watching you,” Krzyzewski told Martinez on Thursday’s episode of “Basketball & Beyond with Coach K” on SiriusXM Radio, “and said, ‘This team is kicking the stuffing out of us. They got something. They got something.’ You guys just beat the hell out of the Cubs that weekend. I became a huge fan of your team. Actually, I was recruiting up in D.C. in September, and I’m staying in one of the hotels, and people say, ‘We’re going to get eliminated.’ I said, ‘You’re not going to get eliminated. Your guys are good. Your guys are really good.’”
Krzyzewski was right. The Nationals did all of the eliminating en route to their first World Series title, which was Martinez’s second in four years. He was the bench coach for Maddon’s Cubs when they broke Chicago’s 108-year World Series championship drought in 2016.
“You’re the resurrection guy,” Krzyzewski said. “You’re the guy that people who haven’t won in over eight to 10 decades get to manage their team.”
“What we did in ‘16 was phenomenal, but what we did here, the way we did it, this is something that I’ll never forget no matter how many championships we win,” Martinez said. “This was special.”
Krzyzewski asked Martinez how the Nationals were able to rally from a 19-31 start that had many people calling for his job.
“What I always believed when we were going bad was we had the starting pitching,” Martinez said. “Our starting pitching was good. I said, ‘If we can get the rest of our guys healthy and our starting pitchers stay healthy, we have a shot. We just gotta believe in us.’ I made it all about us, the guys that were down in the clubhouse. Don’t listen to the noise outside of the clubhouse, let’s just focus on each other and play for the guy next to you. If you start playing for the guys next to you and forget about what you do, I said we’ll make this fun and exciting and be right where we want to be in the end. The boys bought in. My motto every day was to go 1-0 every day. Don’t think about anything else.”
Martinez also pointed to his team’s chemistry as a key to the second-half turnaround, which ultimately proved Krzyzewski prophetic.
“This organization, they pride themselves on winning,” Martinez said. “That’s what we want to do. We do our due diligence when we sign free agents, when we do trades [for] guys that are quality people, not just on the field but off the field. To me, it matters. The culture, the chemistry matters a lot.”
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