Thoughts from Chicago—that's right, Chicago

Following the thrilling end to the Duke-Butler game, Andy Moore, Ian Soileau and I—The Chronicle's representatives in Indianapolis for the Final Four—made a hellish trip to Chicago's O'Hare airport for a flight back to Durham. I bet Pat Forde and Andy Katz got to sleep in giant beds at the Marriot in downtown Indy.

Anyway, below were a few memories from the postgame celebration that didn't make it into the paper today:

  • During CBS's lame-but-enjoyable "One Shining Moment" video, one image briefly showed former Dukie Taylor King, who now plays for Villanova. At that moment, Nolan Smith turned to his teammates and cracked up laughing.
  • Watching Brian Zoubek, after talking to about a dozen reporters, slowly bend over and loosen the laces on his massive sneakers before chatting with me about what it means to be a Duke senior and an NCAA champion at the same time. Only the senior class—the students who have been in Durham and grown with Zoubek, Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas since they all arrived at Duke together in the late summer of 2006—can really relate to the progression that trio has been through, and the players value that connection very deeply.
  • After the final buzzer, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski stayed near the Butler bench and spoke with Bulldogs head coach Brad Stevens and saluted several Butler players for what seemed like an eternity while his players celebrated. And on his way back to his team, the first person he met with a giant hug was Director of Athletics Kevin White, who in only two years on the job has seemingly built a great friendship with Krzyzewski.
  • Speaking with University President Richard Brodhead about his first basketball championship at Duke. Brodhead was positively delighted, and he even ended our conversation by saying that "in this case, it had been a pleasure to meet a gentleman of the press," something reporters aren't used to hearing. From anyone.
  • While the first of the Duke players cut down the nets, the NCAA championship trophy ended up in the hands of Matt Plizga, a member of the Duke Sports Information team. He held the trophy with extreme care for a minute before Andre Dawkins—a Duke freshman and an actual basketball player, more importantly—snatched it out of his hands.
  • In general, it was just a rewarding experience to see the players and coaches acting like little kids because of how giddy they were. Seeing associate head coach Chris Collins skip across the court with a half-cocked championship cap on his head stands out, as does Chris Carrawell and Nate James posing for pictures together with their kids with confetti all over the court
  • And finally, it was jarring to walk onto the Lucas Oil Stadium court a couple of hours after gametime to see the entire basketball portion of the stadium dismantled. The baskets had been removed, press row had disappeared, and the only people in the stadium were a small army of custodians, whose job it was to tear down all the "Final Four" signage in the arena. Because if the end of basketball season signifies anything, it's that football season is just around the corner


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