Interviews

Published on January 8th, 2020 | by Percy Crawford

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Exclusive With Illinois State’s Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, Chris Duhon

The teachings of legendary coach, Mike Kryzewski sticks with former Duke standout and NBA vet, Chris Duhon today!

Chris Duhon is living proof that, if you’re talented, they will find you. Coming out of Salmen High School in the small town of Slidell, Louisiana, Duhon was not only named the best player in the country, he was also scouted by the most prominent college basketball program in the world, The Duke Blue Devils. After an amazing 4-year run at Duke which included several records, awards and a National Title, he went on to have a successful NBA career from 2004-2013. In 2014 he joined, Dan D’Antoni as an assistant coach at the Marshall University. In 2018, Duhon joined the Illinois State Redbirds coaching staff where he currently resides as the assistant coach.

During our recent conversation, Duhon talks about his time as a player, transitioning into coaching and much more!

 Chris, good speaking with you, my man. You come from a small town, Slidell, Louisiana. Yet, you were the #1 basketball player in the country coming out of high school, you were also named, Mr. Basketball for the state of Louisiana. Did you feel a lot of pressure coming out of high school or was it motivation to put the city and the state on the map?

Chris Duhon: I think a little bit of both. Obviously, Louisiana is more of a football state. So, being able to excel in basketball at that level, at that time, you kind of felt the pressure because it’s something that’s not normal. Like you said, I just wanted to put the state and the city on the map, and it just kind of motivated me to represent us as best as possible.

With all the accolades and being chosen to the McDonald’s All-American game, you chose to continue your career at the University of Duke. Was that a difficult decision?

Chris Duhon: No, it was definitely a hard decision. Growing up in Louisiana, LSU was always the school that you kind of always wanted to go to. And growing up at the time, I thought that was the only place I would be able to go. But things kind of worked out, and I had the opportunity to pick from numerous schools. It was definitely a tough situation. Just trying to figure out a place that was good for me both on and off the court. At the end of the day, I thought Duke gave me the best of both worlds.

You played for arguably the greatest coach in collegiate basketball history, Coach K. What did you learn from him both from a basketball standpoint and in life?

Chris Duhon: You just learned how to be a man. I think that’s the main impact. Everything he did and that he taught us was about taking responsibility, and going out and working hard for what you want. And that’s something that you can apply to sports and in life. He and I still talk to this day. He’s always calling to checkout and make sure that I’m doing okay. So, it was a great opportunity to learn from him and watch how he goes about his day to day life, and that’s something that I try to install into my life today.

You had a very successful career at Duke. You won a National Title, you are Duke’s all-time leader in steals, second winningest player in Duke and ACC history, first in minutes played at Duke and second in assist. To look back and see everything that you accomplished at Duke, in the NBA and even where you are today, had to make you feel proud.

Chris Duhon: It’s an honor and it’s pretty special. To be able to have that opportunity and the success that I had, it doesn’t just come from you. I had a lot of support from family and friends and getting it at Duke from my teammates and my coaching staff. That whole Duke community. Just understanding that it was a lot of people that helped me get to that place and a lot of people helped me with the success that I was able to have.

You were one of the rare 4-year players/starters. Do you have any regrets about that? At times, do you wish you would have come out early?

Chris Duhon: No, no regrets at all. I think I had the opportunity to go a few times in my career, but I also thought being in college for 4-years helped me to be able to play at a high level once I got to the next level. I just think it came with maturity and understanding the game; becoming a man. Learning how to become a man and prioritizing the things in your life that are more important. Those 4-years were really-really great for me, and I don’t regret making that decision.

Was there ever a moment or opportunity where you thought about bypassing college and going straight from high school to the pros because that was a big thing back then?

Chris Duhon: No! Because at that time little guys didn’t go straight from high school (laughing), it was mainly the centers and 6’7-6’8 wings that really had that opportunity. I didn’t really get any of those whispers during that time. Obviously, that’s different than the times we are in today, but during that time, that really wasn’t a thought.

You were drafted by the Chicago Bulls. You played for the Bulls, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers, where there any times that were better than others or did you enjoy all those cities equally?

Chris Duhon: I enjoyed all the cities. Different teams, different coaches, different circumstances as far as a part of my career. But you enjoy the whole process. The NBA is just a process. You enjoy the process and the ability to continue to learn and meet new people, play with different teammates and play for different coaches. I enjoyed every bit of it.

Is there a special player or players that sticks out in your mind that kind of guided you along the way?

Chris Duhon: Man… there was a few, man. My rookie year, Antonio Davis was still there. I think it was like his 17-year, him and Adrian Griffin who is now an assistant coach for the [Toronto] Raptors. Those two were kind of my vets coming in. They were just always constantly telling me how to be a professional and treat it as a business. And those guys kind of helped me. Obviously, I met more guys along the way like, Quentin Richardson and Al Harrington. The list goes on and on. But those two [Antonio and Adrian] were the most influential from the beginning of my career.

June of 2018, you were brought on as the assistant coach at Illinois State. How did that opportunity come to fruition for you?

Chris Duhon: This thing is about networking, man. One of the assistant coaches that I knew, the opportunity came up. I went and interviewed and was able to get the job. It was a real good experience for me. I coached at Marshall for a couple of years before. Dan D’Antoni was my assistant coach in New York and L.A. So, I knew him and kind of knew his system. It was good for me to be able to learn from somebody else. Someone who taught the game a little bit differently and I’m able to learn more aspects of the game as well.

You were a pretty mellow player. Never too high or too low. Is that your coaching temperament as well? Do you feel you are more hard nose or a player’s coach?

Chris Duhon: I think I’m… especially with my age, I don’t think I’m that old yet. But I try to be more of a player’s coach, but at the same time, you still gotta hold them accountable. So, the difficulty is to make sure you still have the authority of being the coach, and also being able to let them feel comfortable if they need to come to you with things that doesn’t have to be basketball related. You gotta try and create that balance of being able to do both.

Speaking of things unrelated to basketball, one of the things that is prevalent in today’s society is social media. Do you guys monitor your players social media post or is that something you guys just trust in them to do the right thing?

Chris Duhon: A little bit of both. We talk to them about it. We have meetings about it. We show them the consequences of negative social media posts and things like that. We try to encourage them to think before they post and things like that. but at the same time, they’re kids, you gotta let them have their freedom. If they do make mistakes, make sure that they feel comfortable to be able to come to you and then we’ll work through them.

It seems like your squad has it figured out at home, the struggles this season has come on the road. 6-1 at home, but still searching for that first win away from home. What are the keys to correcting the road woes?

Chris Duhon: The thing is, sometimes you have to find a routine that you do on the road. Obviously, it’s different. You’re not sleeping in your own bed; your schedule is a little bit different. But winning on the road is about toughness. You gotta know you’re going in the building and everything can go wrong, from how the game is officiated to the crowd being against you. Again, you’re not in a familiar setting. So, we have to continue to develop toughness; a mental toughness. Get to the point where we understand and trust the gameplan and then go out and execute it.

I’m sure it’s something you guys will get corrected. I appreciate the time, keep making us proud and best of luck to the team, my man.

Chris Duhon: I appreciate it, man. Anytime!



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