Coach K shoots for energized 6th man

When the men?s basketball team practices in Cameron, head coach Mike Krzyzewski locks the doors. But Coach K invites students to watch practice, eat pizza and watch game films with the legendary coach as part of 6th Man Night.


Few people in the world have the opportunity to attend a Duke men’s basketball practice, but tonight the entire student body will have that chance—if the “sixth man” chooses to accept it.

The team’s normally closed practice session will be open to undergraduate and graduate students for 6th Man Night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. After a team scrimmage that begins at 5 p.m., students will watch videos personally chosen by head coach Mike Krzyzewski and will enjoy free pizza and soda with the rest of the team. Krzyzewski said he initiated the event to bring his entire team together before the season starts.

“There are five players on the court,” External Relations Director Debbie Krzyzewski Savarino said of her father’s philosophy. “Well, in his mind Duke has an advantage, because we have a sixth man on the court, and it’s the students.

“It’s not a show. It’s his practice with the students. He wants to talk to his team and tell them the ins and outs of the season. He wants everyone on the same page before the season starts, and to be as excited as he is. He is so happy with this year’s team, he just loves them, and he’s just ready for everybody to embrace them.”

Duke students participated in A.M. Mayhem in 2003, a night in October when students attended the team’s first practice of the season. Duke only holds a Midnight Madness event every few years and will host 6th Man Night tonight in part because the season-opening celebration did not occur.

“One of the things that Coach says all the time is that in order to be successful and for a program like Duke Basketball to be successful, each individual needs to understand that they’re a part of something that’s greater than themselves,” said Basketball Intern Max Perkins, who was a manager for the team prior to his graduation. “And this program is bigger than any one of us. It’s bigger than Coach—it’s Duke Basketball, and he wants to make sure that everybody’s on the same train.”

The Athletic Department also hopes 6th Man Night will boost undergraduate attendance numbers from last year. Low turnouts for several games last season led the department to transfer 100 undergraduate seats to graduate students for the Feb. 11 game against Virginia.

In recent years, the line monitors have worked to inform undergraduates that they do not have to tent or wait in a long walk-up line in order to attend most games.

But despite the efforts, many students have expressed lukewarm interest in tonight’s event.

“I know what it is,” sophomore Colleen Lynch said of 6th Man Night. “I just probably won’t go. I have a lot of work to do, and I’m waiting for the real season to start.”

Krzyzewski goes to East Campus annually to speak with freshmen, who usually enter their first Duke Basketball season with great enthusiasm. Freshmen will make up a large portion of 6th Man Night’s attendees.

“I think I’d consider going to it,” freshman Samantha Morris said. “I know how amazing Duke Basketball is, and I wonder what kind of preparation it takes for them to be as good as they are.”

ACC officials will run the full-fledged scrimmage, and Krzyzewski will also share his coaching strategies with the students throughout the game.

“There’s not going to be anything between the students and the court where the team is scrimmaging,” Perkins said. “They’re truly a part of it, there are no barriers this night. Students are going to get a great opportunity to learn what goes on inside of his head when he sees the game of basketball just by watching a practice.”

The upcoming season marks Duke Basketball’s 100th year and Krzyzewski’s 25th at the University.

“I don’t think that any other school in the country could claim that their current head coach has been their head coach for a quarter of the existence of their program,” Savarino said. “I would doubt that any other school in the country could say that... and he’s still got a lot of fire in him, he’s all ready.”

Doors for 6th Man Night open at 4:30 p.m. at the student entrance and students are required to show their Duke Cards for admission.

The team’s regular season begins at home against Tennessee-Martin at 7 p.m. Saturday.


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