CHARLOTTE — The questions were inevitable at the ACC's annual men's basketball media day. But when Mike Krzyzewski heard a third reporter in a row note his impending retirement, the legendary Duke coach couldn't help but draw a line.
"You all don't need to keep reminding me," Krzyzewski said, eliciting some laughter from those assembled at the downtown Marriott Hotel on Oct. 12. "I'm 74 and I still have a memory, all right? I'm good."
The subject was far from taboo, because there was no getting around it for a coach who has been on Duke's bench since 1980 and has led the Blue Devils to well over 1,000 career wins. He definitely would have liked to move past the questions, though, refusing to call this a "farewell tour," denying on every occasion that he spends much time reflecting on his career.
"My mind is on this season," Krzyzewski said, "and when it's over, I'll know that it's my last."
His last just comes at a time when change is prominent on everyone's mind, in the ACC, throughout college basketball, and throughout college athletics. It was almost unnerving how much there was to talk about.
There was Krzyzewski's impending retirement, as the 46-year coaching veteran will eventually pass the reins to a former player, associate head coach Jon Scheyer. There was also the absence of ex-North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who just called it a career, and the introduction of Hubert Davis as Krzyzewski's next and last coaching foil on Tobacco Road.
Beyond just changes on the sideline, there is the ongoing issue of a year-and-a-half-long, mentally draining pandemic. There is the continued rollout of name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation, which is allowing college athletes to profit off their brands in a way that tests the bounds of "amateurism." There is now a one-time transfer rule in college athletics, which allows players to switch teams without sitting out a year.
It's a lot to take in. So much so, Virginia's Tony Bennett tried adding a lighter item to the list of changes from the last year.
"I've learned Ted Lasso is a really good Netflix show," Bennett quipped.
But in all seriousness, a lot is going on. Some of it good, some potentially bad. They are all seismic shifts the ACC's figureheads are trying to wrap their heads around.
The issue of NIL may be the most complicated. On one hand, all of the ACC's coaches seem to agree it's long overdue. Krzyzewski remembered back to the 1990s when players were trying to earn some money running camps and the NCAA shut it down. If the NCAA acquiesced then, maybe there would have been a more gradual process of integrating autograph sessions and social media marketing campaigns into the collegiate model.
What is most frustrating for Krzyzewski is there was no glidepath. The NIL floodgates just opened, with little NCAA guidance.
"We're in a maze," Krzyzewski said.
Schools, by rule, can't facilitate these NIL deals. No deal can be tied to the athlete's participation in sports. But NIL arrives on the heels of investigations into the involvement of shoe companies in college basketball, directing top prospects to schools in exchange for under-the-table payments.
"Let's be real. Some people have things wired that they've been doing all along that now they can do things that are legal," Bennett said, "and some are a little behind in it."
Syracuse's Jim Boeheim was even more foreboding in his worries. Deals that are "organic," as Boeheim put it, just a company reaching out to an athlete for a promotion, is something he agrees with. But he doesn't think every institution, along with boosters and agents, will stay out of the game.
"It will be staged in the future," Boeheim said. "It already is. But it will be more so I think in the future."
On a more interpersonal level, there are concerns about how disparities in NIL money will affect locker rooms. That elicited some humor from Boeheim, who was sharing the stage with his son, Buddy, and Mali native Bourama Sidibe.
Buddy, now a star of Syracuse's program, is highly marketable.
"Are you jealous that Buddy gets more money than you guys?" Boeheim asked Sidibe.
"I mean, if he makes good money, that's his money, man," Sidibe said, smiling. "I can't get jealous for that. He works for that."
With some humor, coach and player were able to laugh it off. Krzyzewski's exit, while weighty in its own way, received similar treatment.
Notre Dame's Mike Brey, a former Duke assistant, feigned happiness when thinking about a UNC without Williams and a Duke without Krzyzewski. "I couldn't wait to get them out of the league," Brey said. "I've been waiting, man. Get out."
Brey shifted gears, praising the two icons, and saying UNC and Duke probably aren't going anywhere. Some things don't change. But then, Brey returned to some measure of thankfulness.
'It is a power shift," Brey said, "and the rest of us are not complaining at all."