“We usually have a staff meeting after he tapes his radio show,” Capel said. “He has on all sorts of guests, someone in business, a GM or coach from another sport, baseball managers and then he’ll come into our meeting with three pages of notes he’s taken. Sometimes he even plays an excerpt for our team, something he thinks we could apply.”
And that’s really the essence of what makes Krzyzewski, after all these years, so fascinating.
“The only thing he hasn’t won is an NBA championship, and that’s only because he never coached in the NBA, but he has a constant desire to learn and improve,” Capel said. “He craves it.”
The great ones, of course, are always like that – constantly tinkering and never satisfied. It’s more genetic trait than learned skill, this chronic need for self-improvement, but it is also one that can be dulled by success. Complacency has felled more than its share of exceptional people, but if Krzyzewski has a pile of laurels in his office, he has yet to rest on them.
Instead, last summer, when Capel spent his own time involved with USA Basketball, he watched Krzyzewski pull players aside and pick their brains, asking, for example, how slight-of-stature Stephen Curry was able to get his shot off unimpeded. Krzyzewski peppered Tom Thibodeau with so many questions about his defense that, Capel said, by the time Duke’s season started, the Blue Devils were using not only some of the same schemes, but also the same terminology.
“He’s taken what he’s seen in terms of best practices and observes how they train and what they do,” Capel said. “They help him, but in turn they fill this constant need of wanting to learn.”
“He very easily could say, ‘This is our way. This is the way we do things,’ and who would argue?” Capel said. “But his willingness to change is probably his greatest strength.”