It's amazing that it has taken the low-key players at St. John's so long to catch up with emotional coach Lou Carnesecca, who is even able to bring out the lighter side of normally staid Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
After Friday's surprisingly easy 91-74 victory over Ohio State, the fourth-seeded Redmen (23-8) enjoyed a rare celebration. It's something Carnesecca wouldn't mind seeing again Sunday after the Midwest Regional championship game against second-seeded Duke (29-7)."I would say that they're probably the most unemotional team I've had in my 40 years of coaching," Carnesecca said Saturday. "But last night was a good feeling. And it's good to see them express that."
Then again, maybe it's not wise to mess with success.
"They reacted to the occasion, but they are still basically an unemotional team," Carnesecca said. "That's good. If I'm on the operating table, I hope that surgeon is very unemotional."
Unemotional never has been used to describe Carnesecca - the arm-waving, quick-witted, sweater-wearing, sideline-roaming 66-year-old who has coached the Redmen for 23 years.
Like any good basketball coach, Carnesecca keeps winning because he consistently recruits great players. His unsuccessful recruiting of Duke point guard Bobby Hurley and his successful wooing of Werdann, one of the top big men on the East Coast three years ago, were subjects that got Krzyzewski going.
Sunday's game will feature teams that have romped through the Midwest Regional, getting balanced scoring, playing strong defense and taking big early leads.
"These are two schools that have had a great history in college basketball," Krzyzewski said. "It's a classic matchup of two teams that play good defense and usually take good shots. The team that values the ball most will probably have the best chance of winning."
And it's a game that will feature two of the most successful coaches ever.
Krzyzewski has coached Duke into the Final Four each of the last three years and four of the last five. Carnesecca never has failed to guide the Redmen into a postseason tournament (17 NCAAs and six NITs).
"Talk about some of the great young coaches in this country and he's right there," Carnesecca said of Krzyzewski. "That's a tremendous record. That goes back to Wooden. We're in that area - continually improving, continually succeeding."