College basketball | Midwest Regional

Indianapolis to host historic coaching rematch in NCAA tournament

2013-03-30T18:00:00Z 2013-04-01T19:16:09Z Indianapolis to host historic coaching rematch in NCAA tournamentCourtney Linehan, (219) 933-3367

INDIANAPOLIS | Louisville forward Chane Behanan flipped on the television in his Indianapolis hotel room Saturday morning to see his coach — albeit with fewer wrinkles and less salt and pepper in his hair — standing on a sideline surrounded by Kentucky blue. He watched again and again the file footage of Rick Pitino scrambling desperately to bring a team scarred by a recruiting scandal and still on probation to the Final Four, only to have Duke star Christian Laettner make one of the most storied shots in college basketball and propel the Blue Devils to a 104-103 overtime win.

That game, and that shot, played out 21 years ago. As Behanan said, "I wasn't even thought of when that game was going on." Yet Duke's and Louisville's wins Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium set up one of the most prolific coaching rematches the NCAA tournament could see.

"It's one of those moments in time that helped define our sport," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "When I've talked to Rick about it, we realize we were the lucky guys. We were lucky to be there."

It was March 28, 1992, when Krzyzewski and Pitino faced off as Duke and Kentucky played in Philadelphia for the East Regional final. Krzyzewski already had more than a decade under his belt in Durham, N.C., and was the reigning National Coach of the Year, having won the NCAA championship in 1991.

Krzyzewski stood on top of the world, and that Elite Eight matchup was the only obstacle between him and a meeting with mentor Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers in the Final Four.

The game unfolded like a national championship precursor, and was tied 93-93 at the end of regulation. It remained unnervingly close throughout overtime, and with 2.1 seconds left, Indiana native Sean Woods made an off-balanced bank shot under heavy pressure — a terrible choice, by any coach's call — to give Kentucky a 103-102 lead, but also give Duke the possession.

Pitino can still dissect every detail of those final 2.1 seconds as Grant Hill threw a long inbounds pass from the baseline to Laettner, poised on the opposite foul line, who in a one-dribble pivot put the ball through the net and the Blue Devils in the Final Four.

"I said, 'Whatever you do, don't foul him. He hasn't missed a shot,'" Pitino said Saturday. "I shouldn't have done that. That was the mistake I made. I should have said, 'Whatever you do, bat down the ball. I don't care what the contact is, but go for the basketball.' Instead you saw my guys freeze a little bit."

Pitino's memories are those of a losing coach. He still blames himself, although everyone from Knight to Krzyzewski have said they probably would have set up their teams the way Pitino did on the final play.

He likens it to the Axe commercial where no one is watching Valparaiso's Bryce Drew make his team's game winner in 1998, because there's an astronaut on the sidelines.

Pitino still feels like that astronaut.

Krzyzewski saw it from a slightly different angle. He looks at the events that unfolded because of that game: Defeating Indiana in the Final Four. Winning a second consecutive NCAA title. But he remembers watching not his own players' elation that night, but the devastation of Pitino's seniors who fell one point, one play short of proving to everyone who had written them off that Kentucky basketball still meant something.

"They had started in the dirt, and all of a sudden they were in the highest moment and they were knocked back," Krzyzewski said.

"Right in front of me (Kentucky senior) Richie Farmer collapsed. I see our guys jump, and I see him fall, and I was really more taken by Richie. I understood by looking at him — I could never understand completely, because it didn't happen to me — but just how tough that was."

Tonight Krzyzewski and Pitino will sit on opposite sidelines for just the third time since that game 21 years ago. It will be their first postseason meeting, and it will once again determine which team advances to the Final Four.

Duke won the last meeting, in a nonconference tournament in the Bahamas last November, but that was a five-point game, and both teams have key players who did not play the first time around.

Either team could be headed to the Final Four; Duke won it all in 2010 while Louisville was in the Final Four last season.

Fifteen of the 29 players on Duke and Louisville's rosters were not yet born when Laettner hit that historic shot. Some, like Behanan, a sophomore, only know it from what they have seen on television. They're all hoping they never know how those Kentucky seniors felt when the shot fell through the net and Farmer collapsed on the court.

"Coach, he's much older now, much wiser," Behanan said, "so we know we're going to do things a little differently now."

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