Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski says 'exhaustion' led to early exit

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski opened his postgame news conference Saturday by joking that he'd made it to the finish of this one.

Five days earlier, in Duke's narrow win over Wake Forest, Krzyzewski went to the locker room at halftime and never returned to the court. On Saturday, he attributed the early departure to "exhaustion."

"That's why I'm retiring," he joked after Saturday's 88-70 win over Florida State. "It was basically exhaustion. Nothing else. I feel great."

Krzyzewski noted Duke's recent stretch of five games in 11 days and said he hadn't adjusted his habits during that run, which wore him down.

"We get back to more of a normal schedule now, so I think I'll be good. I'm trying to be good."

Duke was awfully good Saturday, too. Unlike Tuesday's Krzyzewski-less second half in which the Blue Devils blew a 19-point lead and narrowly hung on to beat the Demon Deacons, a battered Seminoles team offered no such drama. Duke had six players in double figures, grabbed 15 offensive boards and finished with 25 assists while shooting 52% for the game.

In the penultimate home game of Krzyzewski's career, the Duke crowd was riotous from the opening tip.

"I noticed it during warm-ups," Blue Devils senior forward Joey Baker said. "You can't really explain it, but you can feel it, and we felt it right away. I'm interested to see what next week will feel like against North Carolina."

Krzyzewski has worked to keep his impending retirement a secondary story throughout this season, but Saturday's win left just one last milestone on the court that bears his name. Duke has three road dates upcoming, starting with a trip to Virginia on Wednesday, before the Duke crowd officially says farewell to the legendary coach on March 5.

Krzyzewski attempted to keep his emotions in check when asked about what awaits him the next time he takes to the court here, but he couldn't resist getting nostalgic.

"There's plenty of time for that," he said. "I know it'll be emotional, the last game here. Some of these games have been a little bit emotional in one way or another. Even today, with all the crowd, you want to savor that feeling because you're only going to be able to walk out on that court one more time and have that feeling.

"But it makes me understand how lucky I've been to do it hundreds of times. ... How lucky have I been to have a moment like that to savor? But I've had those moments hundreds of times. It's been a blessing to be the coach here. Lucky guy. I've been a very, very lucky guy."