Grant Hill, Bill Raftery Reflect on the Bittersweetness of Coach K's Last Dance
By Kyle Koster
Basketball gods have conspired to provide an all-time matchup in a Final Four full of bluebloods. Mike Krzyzewski, who saw his farewell party at Cameron Indoor spoiled by the loathed Tar Heels, gets another crack at North Carolina as he continues to dance toward retirement Saturday night in New Orleans.
CBS and Turner, who couldn't have scripted a more perfect scenario for intrigue and ratings, held a conference call for reporters today featuring Grant Hill and Bill Raftery. The two analysts will join Jim Nantz and Tracy Wolfson on the call as TBS airs its first Final Four since 2018. And if you think there was great interest in Coach K and the ready-for-Hollywood storylines that trail him everywhere he goes, well, you'd be one hundred percent correct.
Duke fatigue is a real and serious condition to be discussed with trusted medical professionals. But even those who claim they can't bear any more Blue Devils in their life should admit that, on some level deep down in their consciousness, they're going to miss the winningest coach to ever don a quarter-zip when he's gone.
Raftery and Hill both spoke about the complicated emotions they carry watching the final chapters courtside, which likely mirror those of the public. Not that many would ever be honest about.
"For me it's pretty personal," Raftery reflected. "I got to know and respect Mike when he was at Army and became friends and knew the kids when they were young. To follow him and to see him grow and establish this iconic stature. Knowing that he still possesses the same humility that he did back in those days. He's been great for basketball from my seat.
"And having said that, we go to each game rooting for 10 kids on the floor and try to eliminate the personalities of the coaches however big an influence they might be. For me it's a thrill and a sadness as well to see someone who could be a spokesman for basketball decide to pack it in but hopefully he'll maintain a big influence and continue to have people lean upon him in terms of what he thinks can better the game."
Hill, forever tied to Duke and his former skipper, added: "As a broadcaster you fall in love with all these teams and all these coaches. You spend a significant amount of time researching and getting to know through spending time with them at practice and you want to see everyone do well.
"On a personal note obviously the relationship and experiences I've had with Coach K having played for him, it is bittersweet in a lot of ways. It's great that he's on this incredible run and his team's grown up right before our eyes here on this particular stage. To go into the Final Four and play against the ultimate rival in the ultimate rivalry, it's fitting in a way. It's fitting that we get this treat as basketball fans, as broadcasters. It's bittersweet because it's tough to see him go as someone who has been such an important figure in basketball in general across the world. It's an incredible run and journey he's had."
There are either 40 or 80 minutes remaining to watch a legend operate. Whether you're loving or loathing it, savoring it remains a good option.