A Tribute to One of College Basketball’s Finest

Published 10 months ago -

By: Kyle Sorgi, Sports Editor

Men’s college basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski made a home at Duke University for 42 years and, in that time, became one of NCAA’s greatest head coaches of all time in a career defined by remarkable consistency, character, and class. His final season with the Blue Devils ended with a record-breaking 13th trip to the Final Four (passed former UCLA head coach John Wooden, who went to 12 Final Fours), though this is just one of the several records and other accolades accrued by the winningest coach in Division I history. Here are some of Krzyzewski’s career coaching statistics:

  • Career record: 1,202-368 (0.766) – most wins in Division I (next closest: Jim Boeheim – 1,099)
  • NCAA Tournament appearances: 36 – most in Division I
  • Most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances: 24 – longest streak in Division I
  • NCAA Tournament record: 101-31 (0.765) – most tournament wins in Division I
  • Final Four appearances: 13 – most in Division I
  • National Championships: 5 – second-most in Division I (John Wooden: 10)
  • Weeks with team ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll: 127 – most in Division I
  • Home record with Duke: 572-75 (0.884) – most wins in Duke history (all other coaches combined: 358 wins)
  • Team USA Olympic record (head coach or assistant): 139-7 (0.952)
  • Olympic Medals as coach of U.S. Men’s National Team: 8 – most by a coach
  • Players coached at Duke: 208
  • NBA Draft picks: 68 (First Round picks: 42)
  • Naismith College Coach of the Year Awards: 3 – tied for most in Division I
  • 2001 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee
  • 2006 College Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee
  • 2011 Duke University Hall of Fame Inductee

While widely known as a Blue Devil, most people don’t know or forget that Duke was not Coach K’s only stop as a head coach. He began his career at Army West Point, his alma mater, in 1975 and accumulated a 73-59 record in five seasons. The Black Knights have never played in March Madness, but Krzyzewski was responsible for their most recent appearance in the NIT Tournament in 1978. With two losing seasons at West Point, Krzyzewski’s future could have gone in a different direction, as he is still grateful that Duke gave him an opportunity forty-two years ago. Army has never compared to Duke in basketball, so it could have been easy to overlook Coach K (especially after going 9-17 in his final season at Army). In spite of this, Duke gave him the only chance he needed to prove himself and saw their program become a college basketball juggernaut and elite “blue-blood.”

In 1981, his first season with the Blue Devils, Coach K returned to the NIT tournament. Then, after sub-.500 seasons in 1982 and 1983, Duke has since recorded fewer than ten losses in all but four seasons. Eight of those seasons ended with a number-one ranking in the AP poll, while an additional 22 seasons saw Duke finish top-ten in the AP poll. Expectations quickly grew in Durham, North Carolina, and Duke almost never disappointed with Krzyzewski at the helm. In fact, Duke has been so dominant under Coach K, that only ten schools have a winning record against him—and only six of those schools played more than one game against him.

The only team that gave Coach K’s Blue Devils consistent “fits” was their archrival, North Carolina. This is, by far, the most intense and historic rivalry in college basketball between schools separated by only seven miles. North Carolina has won 143 out of 258 games against Duke all-time, but Krzyzewski himself is 50-48 against the Tar Heels. This season, Duke won the first matchup in Chapel Hill, but UNC spoiled the party after taking down Duke in Coach K’s last home game in March and last career game in April in the Final Four. (UNC later lost to Kansas, 72-69, in the National Championship).

Anyone not named North Carolina felt the unrelenting domination of Coach K-led Duke teams; however, some of those coaches that lost to Krzyzewski can actually thank him for where their coaching careers went. During his time at Army and Duke, 14 former assistant coaches under Krzyzewski became NCAA or NBA coaches- some of whom include Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker, Arizona State head coach (and Duke alum that played for Coach K) Bobby Hurley, and UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins. Krzyzewski’s coaching tree produced several branches of basketball success beyond him and, on top of that, the groundwork for several relationships built on the respect and integrity that he and others have for college basketball.

Good coaches win games, but great coaches also demonstrate worthy virtues and serve as role models to their young players beyond the hardwood—after all, the “student” always comes first in “student-athlete.” Coach K is not the only coach to exhibit these traits, but the combination of success on the court and character off the court is what puts him in uncharted territory. Duke has not always been universally loved as a basketball program (certain people have their stories and experiences), but many current and former players, coaches, and fans commend and respect the contributions that Krzyzewski brought to NCAA and the sport of college basketball. There never has been (and never will be) another coach like Mike Krzyzewski. In that spirit, to a truly one-of-a-kind coach, let me finish this column by saying: Thank you, Coach K!

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