Coach K's former players stay by mentor's side as assistants Print
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Friday, 15 February 2008 09:45
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 DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -Johnny Dawkins did everything Mike Krzyzewski asked as an All-America player at Duke. But after years of taking direction, Dawkins felt odd speaking his mind as a new assistant coach when asked by his mentor for advice.
The answer came in a gift from Krzyzewski, a book entitled ``Act Like an Owner.'' The message was simple: This is not my program. It's ours.
Dawkins keeps the book on a shelf in his campus office. For him and fellow Duke players-turned-assistants Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins, it's a reminder they are just as responsible for the program's continued success as the coach they first met as teenage recruits.
``That sense of ownership doesn't allow you to hesitate when it comes to something he wants to know or get done, because you realize it's ours,'' Dawkins said. ``He's always coached us that way. He's mentored us that way.
``It's not him or Duke. It's all of us.''
Their experience becomes a ready-made resource for current players adjusting to the demands of college academics and athletics.
That is particularly valuable at a high-profile program like Duke, where Krzyzewski has won three national championships and reached 10 Final Fours. Steeped in that tradition, Dawkins, Wojciechowski and Collins are fiercely loyal lieutenants and trusted confidants to one of college basketball's marquee coaches.
He has involved them in his role as coach of the USA Basketball Senior National Team, a squad packed with NBA all-stars. Dawkins is the team's player personnel director, while Wojciechowski and Collins helped during training camps in Las Vegas each of the past two years.
``They know Duke. They know me,'' Krzyzewski said. ``And they know our system even though you change it a little bit. That's a huge advantage.''
All three replaced a former Duke player-turned-assistant. Dawkins joined the staff for the 1997-98 season to replace current Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who left Durham for Seton Hall. Wojciechowski arrived in 1999-2000 to replace former Missouri coach Quin Snyder, while Collins arrived the following year to replace former Delaware coach David Henderson.
Coast Conference school. Eight of the league's 12 schools have changed head coaches during that time, and North Carolina coach Roy Williams figures such continuity can only help a program that is ranked No. 2 nationally.
``It's going through and referencing to mistakes in the past and everybody knowing exactly what the guy is talking about,'' Williams said. ``The kids have greater trust the longer a person's been around.''
Dawkins was the floor leader of Krzyzewski's first Final Four team in 1986. Wojciechowski, a point guard better known as ``Wojo,'' helped the Blue Devils reach the NCAA tournament's round of eight in Dawkins' first season as an assistant. Collins played both guard positions and was a member of the team that lost to Arkansas in the 1994 NCAA championship game.
``You want your guys to understand what's been before them,'' Collins said.
``The one thing that helps is (in) any situation our guys are going through, there's a good chance one of the three of us has been through the exact same thing: struggling with confidence, how to keep it going when things are going well, how to keep away from distractions.''
That's particularly true for point guard Greg Paulus.
``I'm talking to one of them all the time,'' he said. ``They'll say, 'Can I give you a little bit of advice on what coach is saying?'
ay something and I wouldn't really understand it. Then we'd have a meeting a little bit later and coach Dawkins or Wojo or coach Collins would say, 'Hey, this is what we're looking for.'''
As for the next step in their careers, all three talk about one day becoming a head coach. But they don't sound eager to leave Krzyzewski's side or the program they call home.
``We love the situation we're in,'' Wojciechowski said. ``To be coaching at our alma mater, to be coaching the quality of kids we get to coach and to be working for the best coach in the country, it doesn't get much better.
``We're part of the same family, so it's not a co-worker relationship. It's in our blood.''
 

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