Ringing in a Championship

The members of Duke’s 2015 NCAA title team made their way to Washington, D.C. in early September, where they met President Barack Obama and received their national championship rings. 

“They were given the (national championship rings) in D.C. the night before we went to the White House,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “We had a private dinner in the National Archives that the Chair of our Board of Trustees, David Rubenstein, set up. A beautiful setting. And we kind of surprised the guys with their rings and their watches.”

Blue Devil seniors Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson were proudly wearing their new rings at the ACC Operation Basketball event in Charlotte in late October. For Jefferson, who rarely wears jewelry, it was only the third time he had worn it publicly.

“I wore it when we got it in D.C. (to meet President Obama), and I wore it to one of our team functions,” Jefferson told ACCSports.com. “I’m not normally a jewelry kind of guy. And this usually just stays in the box. It’s a keepsake. I want to have it for forever. I treasure it so much. I try to do my best to keep it in tip-top shape.”

Jefferson, in fact, is concerned enough about the appearance and longevity of the ring that he’s got a box to go over the box that holds it.

“They gave us a nice box that it goes in. And I keep it in that. And then that box goes in a box,” he said to laughs. 

With so many rings to choose from — from five NCAA championship rings, to numerous others from Olympic and other international teams he’s coached — how does Coach K pick which ring he wears from day to day? 

“I don’t have a rotation,” he said. “A lot of times I don’t wear a ring. I don’t know. I’m 68. I actually have more than five, because I have Olympic rings and World Championship rings. I wear those too. 

During his conversation with ACCSports.com, Krzyzewski was wearing a smaller version of the large ring given to the Blue Devil players. 

“This is a smaller version,” he said. “We have a bigger version, too. I like wearing this one better, and displaying the other. The players have the big one.” 

For Plumlee, who has been sworn in as an Army officer following the conclusion of his final year at Duke, it was especially exciting to meet the Commander in Chief and visit the White House, as is tradition for American professional and collegiate championship teams. 

“The trip to Washington, D.C. was really cool — to get to take the whole team with us, not just last year’s team,” said Plumlee. “My favorite part of the D.C. trip was meeting President Obama, hands-down. He’s an extremely charismatic guy. It was an unbelievable honor to meet him. And I didn’t think I’d be overly excited, or too giddy. But the 30 seconds before he entered the room was probably the most nervous 30 seconds of my life.”

Was it even more nerve wracking than playing in the Final Four?  

“There’s some nerves there as well, but I’d put those in different categories,” he replied.