John Clay

Even with ailing back, Coach K is a motivational genius (maybe)

Duke’s Jayson Tatum (0) celebrates after a basket during the second half of the Blue Devils’ 84-74 win over Notre Dame on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, in South Bend, Ind.
Duke’s Jayson Tatum (0) celebrates after a basket during the second half of the Blue Devils’ 84-74 win over Notre Dame on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. Associated Press

Random notes:

▪ At the time, Mike Krzyzewski’s house party trick on his Duke Blue Devils seemed like one of those antiquated throwback punishments that would have little effect on today’s players.

Maybe we were wrong. Duke had lost three of its last four games, including an 84-82 loss at home to North Carolina State, when the players were issued a summons. Recovering from back surgery, Coach K held a team meeting to tell players they were barred from using the locker room or wearing Duke gear until they proved they were worthy of being Blue Devils.

The result: Duke pulled out an 85-83 win at Wake Forest on Saturday thanks to Luke Kennard’s late three-pointer. Two days later, the Blue Devils followed that up with an 84-74 win at Notre Dame.

Don’t look now, but maybe Duke is starting to put its talented pieces together.

▪ In the same vein, watch out for Arizona, which has now won 14 straight games.

▪ Splitting its 10 games with the Big 12 in the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge was definitely a step forward for the SEC. And that was without Kentucky beating Kansas, or South Carolina, arguably the league’s second-best team, even playing in the event.

▪ It’s past time the NFL shut down the Pro Bowl. ESPN reports only 7.45 million viewers watched last Sunday, the fewest since 2007.

▪ Three preps for the Kentucky Derby are scheduled for Saturday. There’s the Withers at Aqueduct, which leads into the Gotham on March 4. There’s the Holy Bull at Gulfstream, which will feature Derby favorite Classic Empire and leads into the Fountain of Youth on March 4. And there’s the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, which leads into the San Felipe on March 11.

▪ Smart move by Mark Stoops promoting Matt House from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator, replacing the departed D.J. Eliot. House has DC experience at Pittsburgh and Florida International. And with several key players — many of them sophomores last season — returning for 2017, better to keep continuity than bring in a new approach from outside the ranks.

▪ You have to love Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle, who after his team beat Cleveland said, “We’re a (bad) team, but we’re an underrated (bad) team. That’s about as accurately as I can put it.”

▪ Paris High School winning the All “A” Classic last weekend took me back to the days of Big Bill Gaines, who led the Greyhounds to an upset of No. 1-ranked Clark County in the 10th Region finals in 1970.

▪ Brush with greatness (sort of): When returning from my non-trip to Las Vegas, I found a table at O’Hare Airport in Chicago to write my Monday column. Having finished, I packed up and headed for the gate. There right in front of me was none other than John Lynch, headed to his gate after doing his Fox analyst work for that afternoon’s Bears-Packers game. Now Lynch has been named general manager of the 49ers.

▪ My Super Bowl pick: Rooting for the Falcons, picking the Patriots.

▪ Did you see where during media day interviews Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan lost his backpack which was carrying his game plan for Sunday? Luckily, longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Art Spander realized he had taken the backpack by mistake and returned it. Reminded me of when a UK basketball player left a scouting report of an opponent in a hotel lobby when playing for Rick Pitino. They can laugh about it now.

▪ RIP, Bill Mooney, the award-winning Thoroughbred writer, historian and all-around nice guy who passed away last weekend after a long battle with cancer.

Kentucky Derby prep race schedule

Date

Race

Track

Points

Winner

9/17/16

Iroquois

Churchill Downs

10

Not This Time

10/1/16

FrontRunner

Belmont Park

10

Gormley

10/8/16

Champagne

Belmont Park

10

Practical Joke

10/8/16

Breeders' Futurity

Keeneland

10

Classic Empire

11/5/16

Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Santa Anita Park

20

Classic Empire

11/19/16

Delta Downs Jackpot

Delta Downs

10

Gunnevera

11/26/16

Remsen

Aqueduct

10

Mo Town

11/26/16

Kentucky Jockey Club

Churchill Downs

10

McCraken

11/26/16

Cattleya Sho*

Tokyo Racecourse

40

Mont Saint Legame

12/10/16

Los Alamitos Futurity

Los Alamitos

10

Mastery

1/2/17

Jerome

Aqueduct

10

El Areeb

1/7/17

Sham

Santa Anita Park

10

Gormley

1/16/17

Smarty Jones

Oaklawn Park

10

Uncontested

1/21/17

Lecomte

Fair Grounds

10

Guest Suite

2/4/17

Withers

Aqueduct

10

2/4/17

Holy Bull

Gulfstream Park

10

2/4/17

Robert B. Lewis

Santa Anita Park

10

2/11/17

Sam F. Davis

Tampa Bay Downs

10

2/18/17

El Camino Real Derby

Golden Gate Fields

10

2/19/17

Hyacinth*

Tokyo Racecourse

50

2/20/17

Southwest

Oaklawn Park

10

2/25/17

Risen Star

Fair Grounds

50

3/4/17

Fountain of Youth

Gulfstream Park

50

3/4/17

Gotham

Aqueduct

50

3/11/17

Tampa Bay Derby

Tampa Bay Downs

50

3/11/17

San Felipe

Santa Anita Park

50

3/18/17

Rebel

Oaklawn Park

50

3/25/17

UAE Derby

Meydan Racecourse

100

3/25/17

Spiral

Turfway Park

50

3/25/17

Sunland Derby

Sunland Park

50

4/1/17

Florida Derby

Gulfstream Park

100

4/1/17

Louisiana Derby

Fair Grounds

100

4/8/17

Wood Memorial

Aqueduct

100

4/8/17

Blue Grass

Keeneland

100

4/8/17

Santa Anita Derby

Santa Anita Park

100

4/15/17

Arkansas Derby

Oaklawn Park

100

4/15/17

Lexington

Keeneland

10

* Japan Road to Kentucky Derby

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