Mike Krzyzewski, better known as Coach K, goes down as one of the greatest college basketball’s best coaches. After 47 seasons as a Head Coach at Duke, Coach K will hang up the whistle after the 2022 NCAA tournament. It is time to reflect on the coaching career of the great Krzyzewski.
The Story Behind a Legend
It all started during Coach K’s playing days. He played high school basketball in Chicago, Illinois, where he was born and raised, and grabbed two scoring titles in Chicago’s Catholic League. Krzyzewski then went on to play collegiate basketball for Army where he averaged 6.2 points per game in his three-season college career from 1966-69.
After his playing career, the career of possibly the greatest college basketball coach of all time started. Coach K began his coaching career by coaching service teams and the U.S. Military Academy Prep School for five seasons. He then secured his biggest coaching gig to date, an assistant position under Bob Knight, at Indiana.
Krzyzewski actually played under Knight during his time at Army. Once Coach K’s first year at Indiana came to an end, he already locked up a Head Coaching position. From 1975-80, he was the Head Coach at his alma mater, Army. Coach K compiled a 73-59 record during five seasons at Army, but the best was yet to come. Duke then made its best decision in program history hiring the up-and-coming 34-year-old Krzyzewski. The rest is history.
Building the Best Resume of All Time
After 42 years at Duke, the accolades are endless. He has a career winning percentage of .766 with nearly 1,200 career wins. With Duke, Coach K has five national titles (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, and 2015), 12 regular-season ACC championships, 15 ACC Tournament championships, and 12 Final Four appearances.
He has also set many records as a coach in college basketball. Coach K holds the record for most career wins, and that number continues to grow. In addition, Krzyzewski has the most ACC wins in league history, further demonstrating his absolute domination of the conference. He has the most NCAA Tournament wins at 97, which should increase in this year’s March Madness.
As a coach, Krzyzewski holds the records for most weeks in the AP Poll, most weeks in the AP Poll as a Top 10 team, and most weeks in the AP Poll holding the No. 1 spot. When it comes to NBA Draft picks, he holds the record for 28 former players becoming NBA lottery picks. Former players have discussed what Coach K did for them throughout the years. During the 2018-19 season, Zion Williamson discussed in a postgame interview how Coach K’s belief in him was meaningful by stating, “Coach K tells me I’m a basketball player and I believe in him.”
— Maria Taylor (@MariaTaylor) January 20, 2019
His most impressive achievement above all else has been completely reshaping Duke’s program. Duke was not a well-known program or a powerhouse before Coach K’s tenure. The Blue Devils appeared in eight NCAA Tournaments before Krzyzewski took over. Duke experienced a handful of successful seasons in program history with its peak being national title losses in 1964 and 1978. Since 1980-81 — which was Coach K’s first season at Duke — the Blue Devils have reached astronomical heights.
The Devils have appeared in 35 NCAA Tournaments and 12 Final Fours under Krzyzewski. Duke is considered a “Blue Blood program” with other powerhouse schools like Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, and North Carolina. Coach K is to Duke what John Wooden was to UCLA, or what Adolph Rupp was to Kentucky. Coach K has cemented his name into the rich history of college basketball.
Will Coach K Go Out with a Bang?
As mentioned, Krzyzewski has reeled in five national titles. Heading into his last March Madness, will Coach K go out with a bang?
In recent seasons, it has been a strange stretch for Duke. Believe it or not, the Blue Devils have not appeared in an NCAA Tournament since 2018-19. March Madness was of course canceled in 2020, and Duke had a bad down year last season missing out on an NCAA Tournament berth. This season, Duke will surely be a part of the chaos of March Madness. Coach K has not taken Duke to a Final Four since their 2015 national championship and the Blue Devils have lost in the Elite Eight in their past two tournament showings.
It feels only right for the greatest college basketball coach of all time to end his storied career with yet another national championship, but is it possible? This season, Coach K has one of his most talented teams in the last 10 years. The 2021-22 Duke Blue Devils is the best team Krzyzewski has coached since his stacked squad with the likes of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish in the 2018-19 season.
The Devils have NBA prospects littered across this season’s roster. Paolo Banchero, the 6-10 freshman forward, is projected as a top-five pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and is a matchup nightmare. Plus, Duke has two ultra-athletic freshman guards with Trevor Keels and A.J. Griffin. Then consider they have a clear leader with the junior wing Wendell Moore Jr., and they have one of the nation’s best frontcourts with the combination of Banchero, Mark Williams, and Theo John.
Clearly, Coach K’s final team has as good a chance as nearly any team to win March Madness. Krzyzewski reiterated Duke’s national title odds this season by stating during the offseason, “We need to make this place special again. It’s every game we’re going to try to make it a moment.” Seeing Coach K cut down the nets one last time would be the perfect ending of a legendary career.