Mike Krzyzewski has his players’ backs.
The legendary Duke coach was speaking to reporters Tuesday after the Blue Devils’ 90-69 rout of Indiana when he couldn’t help but address his team’s upset loss to Gonzaga last week.
In particular, Coach K wanted to send a message to Duke fans critical of his players following that loss.
“Let’s get real about this whole thing,” he said. “Let’s not get spoiled. We’ve got four 19-year-old kids there trying to bust their ass to learn how to play and have a lot of pressure on them. Let them grow.”
The freshmen Krzyzewski referred to — R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Tre Jones and Cam Reddish — are all potential NBA draft lottery picks. They led the Blue Devils to a 5-0 record and No. 1 national ranking going into the Maui Invitational title game against Gonzaga, which was ranked No. 3 and also 5-0 at the time.
Duke trailed by 16 in the second half but were only down by two in the final seconds. The Blue Devils got the final shot, but Brandon Clarke blocked Barrett’s drive on the game’s final play for an 89-87 Gonzaga win.
On Tuesday night, Krzyzewski said fans that are criticizing Barrett’s decision-making during the final sequence in Maui need to back off.
“Duke fans, just cut it out, man,” he said. “These kids aren’t perfect. My kid wasn’t playing hero ball, he was playing winner’s ball. If you don’t like following him, then don’t follow us. I’ll go to war with my guys.… We lose, I’ll lose with them.”