"We're looking forward to another tough week. We have North Carolina away. It will be our fifth road game in the conference in the first eight and then we play Clemson at home on Sunday. You have to get ready for a two-game week and then start all over again each week and that's what we try to do all season long."
When you first took the Duke job, Duke was a program with good tradition that was a little bit down with a huge national power that was your rival just 10 minutes away. Could you talk about, with respect to the rivalry with North Carolina, what you did? Did you just concentrate on what you had to do? Did you make the rivalry a focal point?
"We've never made the rivalry a focal point because I followed the advice that Vic Bubas gave me when I got the job. He said treat every game in the ACC equally. That's the only way that you're going to be able to develop a program; because if you just look at one game or two games as being bigger than others, it's going to hurt the game before and after and the record will still show. You don't get one and a half games for winning the rivalry game or two games. You get one victory or one loss, and that's the way that I have approached it. Now, because the two teams have been so good and there is such tension, we recognize that it's a big game, but you know, hey we had a big game Saturday at Georgia Tech. Every game is a big game and this is the next one. We respect North Carolina this year as we have always respected them. They have a sensational program that was built by one of the best coaches ever, Dean (Smith)."
Talk about what was ingrained in you as a point guard at Army that you expect of your own point guards now?
"What the team is doing is of ultimate importance on each play and that you have to be a 'next play' player, not for just your play, but the team's play. I think that by learning that from Coach (Bobby) Knight, being his point guard for three years, it has really helped me become a real good coach because I got that type of experience as a player. A point guard is usually the one who is asked to do that where as I might ask Shelden Williams 'remember next play.' Well, he's not thinking what Daniel Ewing is doing and J.J. Redick and so you have more of a global approach to it rather than a local approach.
That's basically what I've asked my point guards to do over the years. Therefore, they can't get caught up in any one aspect of the game -- their shooting or if they've turned it over or if someone is just beating them. They have to get onto what's good for the team for the very next play. (Tommy) Amaker was the best that I've ever had in that. He was the best 'next play' guy, and I've always used him as an example for every other kid who has played here."
It sounds like you really believe that Chris Duhon has really embraced that.
"Chris has been magnificent and there is no way we would be where we're at right now without Chris Duhon. His leadership shows up everywhere, and he's playing outstanding basketball in addition to it. His leadership has been as good as I could have ever expected from a senior leader."
Can you talk a little bit about what Roy Williams' return to North Carolina means to the rivalry or is it bigger than any cast of characters?
"First of all, Roy is a good friend and a great coach. Obviously, Roy being in the league and at Carolina is good for everybody. Over the years, it doesn't matter who is coaching or who is playing. When these two schools play basketball, the attention perks up everywhere. Again, as one of those schools and one of those coaches, you have to make sure that it is kept in perspective because the season goes on. This is not a championship game. It's a big game and then we have another one right after so you have to keep it in perspective."
When you look at the numbers in the NCAA Tournament, the ACC clearly has the best record all the way through. What are some of the other intangibles that you've noticed through the years that separate this league from the rest of the country?
"First of all, the fact that our willingness of our coaches to play a national schedule. It's what has made our league a national league with national prominence, and how well we've done with those schedules. As a result of that, we have branded our league on a national base, not just a regional base. The league is really good because of its constant flux of outstanding players. These players come from everywhere, and they wouldn't come from everywhere unless we've created that national image. As we go forward, in what we do with expansion and scheduling and the number of games, we have to always look at that aspect of it because that's been something that other people have tried to copy. We're ahead of everyone and we'll constantly stay ahead of everyone if we maintain that stand so it's been great. We've all benefited. Every school, every coach who coaches here, has benefited from that branding."
You mentioned that it doesn't matter who is coaching or who is playing when Duke and North Carolina meet, everyone does perk up. When you bring a number one ranking into the mix, what does that do to the intensity of this rivalry?
"Nothing. It's going to be intense whether we're ranked or not. They have played against us when we've been number one, and we've played against them when they've been number one and in between. For me, it doesn't bring anything because both of these programs have been number one a lot. Somebody can certainly have a different perspective on it, but for me, it doesn't mean that much."
Does being number one become old hat at this point?
"It's not a matter of old hat. It's a matter of keeping things in perspective. Being good never gets old hat. If by being good, you are number one then that's fine, but your focus is on being good - not on being number one. You want to be number one in April in the tournament even though you may not be ranked number one at that time. It's winning the tournament that's the ultimate focus."
So being number one is no more worthy a burden than being undefeated?
"People have different burdens. All I can say is that we've been number one. I think I've coached over 160 games when my team has been ranked number one. We can't make a bigger to do about it than about other games because we know eventually we won't be ranked number one whether it is the next game, next season, or whatever. To give it its due but not to focus our attention on that, I think it's a healthy perspective. At least it has been healthy for us."
In the past, has it been harder for you to get the team focused on the game after the Carolina game? Or is it just that one's done let's move onto the next one?
"Well, we have to do that. Look, we just had a big game against Georgia Tech. Many of you probably didn't watch it; it may not have received the national attention. Our game against North Carolina is not going to be any more intense. It may be as intense and so we have to get on to the next thing all the time. Every place we play in, there is a lot of attention or whatever in that particular place. When Duke and North Carolina play, that place gets more national attention, but from our perspective it's the same. It's because we have such a good league and you respect everybody in your league. Some other leagues that's not the case, but in our league you better pay attention to everybody you play."