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Coach K says his struggles dealing with his brother’s death reason for Duke slump

Jan 14, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

krzyzewski Getty Images

Virginia came so close to pulling off a miraculous comeback against Duke on Monday night, but on this night in Cameron, the miracle was on Duke’s side.

Rasheed Sulaimon had a three bounce off the back of the rim, above the back board and in with 20 seconds left, giving Duke the lead for good.

That said, Duke’s issues were readily evident once again, but in the press conference after the game, Mike Krzyzewski took the blame for that.

“We haven’t been at our best since the start of conference, and I haven’t been at my best since Christmas. That’s my responsibility,” Coach K told reporters after the game. His brother passed away on December 26th. “We were there tonight, and we were collectively together tonight for the first time in a couple of weeks. It was my responsibility that we weren’t as much as we should have. But today we were.”

“I got knocked back right after Christmas. And I’ve been knocked back for a couple of weeks. It’s on me, not on my team. So what we have been doing, to me, doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. It’s on me. What we will be doing, that will be on all of us. Today is on all of us. Win or lose. We’re all in today. That’s the way it is.”

This was something that Jay Bilas alluded to on ESPN’s broadcast as well, that the death of his brother had really rocked Coach K. It’s a new angle, one I hadn’t heard mentioned until today. Coach K isn’t the kind of guy that is going to use his brother’s passing as a way to excuse poor play from his team, so it will be interesting to see how Duke progresses as their head coach continues to work his way through the grieving process.