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Duke Basketball: "The Way We Were" as Krzyzewski Chased Down Knight's Record

Russ WhelessCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2016

Duke Basketball: "The Way We Were" as Krzyzewski Chased Down Knight's Record

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    When the film The Way We Were, starring Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford, debuted in 1973, Mike Krzyzewski was the head coach of the U.S. Military Prep School in Virginia. The following year, he would debut as a college coach, serving as an assistant to his college coach, the "General" Bob Knight.

    After a year under Knight's continued tutelage at Indiana, Krzyzewski, with his mentor's help and blessing, landed his first college head coaching job at the West Point Military Academy, where the pair had first linked up as player and coach. Since being recruited by Knight out of the Chicago Catholic School Prep Leagues to play at Army, the lives and careers of Krzyzewski and Knight have been incredibly intertwined.

    When Bob Knight ended his 44-year head coaching career after the 2007-2008 season, he retired with 902 career victories—the most wins by any men's basketball coach in NCAA history. He surpassed former legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith in 2007 to attain that distinction.

    Knight's former player and assistant, Mike Krzyzewski, ended the 2010-2011 season with 899 victories, just three shy of tying his mentor and four wins short of passing him for career-win record.

    Incredibly, Coack "K," as he has come to be known, ran up this total in just 37 years as a head coach. Barring a personal or professional calamity of epic proportions, Krzyzewski will master the master sometime early in the upcoming campaign.

    Let's take a look at the milestone victories that marked Krzyzewski's path to the brink of being the winningest coach of all time. 

    Where were we, where were you at these landmarks in Coach K's career?

The Alpha: The Initial Victory at West Point

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    On November 28th, 1975, Mike Krzyzweski officially launched his coaching career in his first head coaching job at his alma mater, Army, where he had played for former Army head coach, Bob Knight. Krzyzewski served as an Indiana assistant during the 1974-75 season. Knight, of course, played a major role in helping Krzyzewski to secure the job at West Point.

    In his first game as a head coach, K led the Black Knights of Army to a 56-29 home victory over Lehigh.

    This maiden victory set in motion the coaching juggernaut that will soon make Krzyzewski the winningest men's basketball coach in NCAA history.

    At Indiana, Bob Knight's Hoosiers went 32-0 and won the national championship, while Krzyzewski's first Army squad went 11-14.

    On this day, Silver Convention's "Fly, Robin, Fly" was the most played song on the radio. Wasn't a big Silver Convention fan.

    Jack Nicholson was getting crazy reviews for his role in the nation's top film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Great, great flick.

    The "accidental" President Gerald Ford nominated Justice John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court on this date.

    I was finishing up fall semester at Georgia, while packing to transfer to Auburn. How 'bout you?

Overall Career Victory No. 100

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    The 1981-1982 Blue Devils, Krzyzewski's second Duke squad, finished 10-17, 4-11 in the ACC. Knight's Hoosiers were 19-10, losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

    On February 24th, 1982, in their 10th and final win of the season, Duke defeated the Clemson Tigers 73-72 in triple-overtime at Cameron Indoor Stadium to secure Krzyzweski's 100th career victory. What was not secure, in the minds of many Duke fans, was whether this Krzyzewski guy should continue at the helm of the Blue Devils. 

    Vince Taylor led the Blue Devils with 35 points, while Chip Engelland and forward Todd Anderson scored 16 and 11.

    Clemson was coached by Bill C. Foster, not to be confused with Krzyzewski's predecessor, Bill Foster.

    "Centerfold" by the J Geils band was the nation's No. 1 tune.

    At the theatre, Charles Bronson's Death Wish II was what people were going to see. Loved it, Bang, bang. Pity the fool who crossed Bronson.

    President Ronald Reagan, having completed his first year in office, announced his Caribbean Basin Initiative to provide economic and military aid in the region to help stave off regional communist movements—a western hemisphere Truman doctrine of sorts.

    I was in my third year of teaching and coaching and had adopted the Blue Devils as my team four years earlier before Krzyzewski had arrived...And you?

Overall Career Victory No. 200

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    On Saturday, December 13, 1986, the unranked Duke Blue Devils traveled to the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey to take on the 18th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, coached by Wimp Sanders.

    Shooting guard Phil Henderson and point guard Tommy Amaker scored 15 points each, while power forward Danny Ferry chipped in 13 to lead Duke to a 76-67 upset of the Tide.

    The 1986-1987 Blue Devils went on to a 24-9 record before Krzyzweski and crew were eliminated in the NCAA tournament by K's mentor Bob Knight and his third-ranked Indiana Hoosiers in the NCAA tournament. Knight went on to win the national championship again that year.

    Sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 was Bruce Hornsby and the Range's, "The Way It Is."

    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the top box office hit, but it was about to be replaced by Eddie Murphy's The Golden Child.

    Star of television's top show, The Cosby Show, Felicia Rashad gave birth to a daughter, while Secretary of State George Schultz rejected the nomination of Pat Buchanan as Ambassador to NATO.

    Had my first taste of head coaching when my mentor had a heart attack early in the season. What were you up to then?

Overall Career Victory No. 300

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    The 1989-90 Duke team ended its season with the embarrassing, crushing defeat at the hands of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas Runnin' Rebels, coached by the inimitable, towel-chewing Jerry "Tark" Tarkanian, in the national championship game.

    After dropping the ACC tournament championship final to Bobby Cremins and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the Blue Devils headed to the Omni in Atlanta to play the Richmond Spiders in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils shellacked the Arachnids 81- 46 on March 16. 1990.

    Post Alaa Abdelnaaby led the Devils with 22 points, while shooting guard Phil Henderson added 19.

    The Devils finished 29-9, 9-5 in the ACC, and of course, runnerup in the NCAA tournament. Down year for Coach Knight, 18-11, and tossed in the first round of the NCAA.

    Baby sister Janet Jackson had the No. 1 hit in the land, "Escapade." I'm not remembering that one.

    Alec Baldwin starred in The Hunt for Red October which riveted the nation's movie-going public. Riveting. Loved Sean Connery as the Russian sub captain more than I like Baldwin.

    George H. W. Bush's puzzling choice as vice-president, Dan Quayle, who spelled potato with an "e" on the end of it, gave Fidel Castro the cold shoulder while attending the inauguration of the newly-elected Brazilian president.

    Mentor retiring and moving to the big whistle. Toot, toot. Remember what you were doing?

Overall Career Victory No. 400

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    During Grant Hill's senior campaign, Krzyzweski led the Blue Devils on the road just before Christmas on December 22, 1993, to the nation's heartland to take on Dr. Tom Davis's Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

    The Devils were led on that day by the play of post Cherokee Parks, who had 18 points. Kenny Blakeney and current Blue Devils assistant Chris Collins added 17 each. Senior captain Hill rounded out the scoring leaders with 15, as the Devils bested the Hawkeyes that evening 79-76 to give Coach K his 400th career win.

    Duke was 28-6 that season, finishing 14-2 in the ACC but losing the tournament final to Virginia. The Devils were eventually beaten by Arkansas in the Final Four, 76-72. I remember watching snippets of their ouster on a television in a country club bar at a function that I was dragged to during the Final Four. I vowed never allowed such an injustice to occur again.

    "The General" was 21-9 and made it to the Sweet 16.

    The nation's music lovers were loving Mariah Carey's "Hero." I didn't like it. I apologize.

    Julia Roberts and Denzel Roberts were raking in the dough from the ticket sales to see The Pelican Brief.

    Sadly, a jury award permanently brought to an end Domino's "delivery in 30 minutes or less" pledge. It was writing a check that they...just couldn't cash. Now it gets here, well, whenever it gets here.

Overall Career Victory No. 500

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    February 28, 1998, and Cameron Indoor Stadium provided the setting for another titanic matchup in the storied rivalry between feuding next door neighbors, Duke and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The top-ranked Blue Devils were hosting the third-ranked Tar Heels to determine the regular season ACC championship.

    Trailing 65-47 in the second half, the Blue Devils launched one of their greatest comebacks to nip the Heels 77-75. The charge was led by Roshown McLeod, who had 23 points on the night, sharpshooter Trajan Langdon with 17 and freshman Elton Brand, who bulled in 16 points only a couple of months after what most believed to be a season-ending broken foot. The huge win provided Coach Krzyzewski with his 500th career win.

    The Blue Devils dropped the ACC tournament championship to the Carolina a week late and were eventually eliminated from the NCAA tournament by Kentucky, 86-84.

    People were swooning to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." You know, from Titanic.

    Adam Sandler's The Wedding Singer was the top draw at the movies.

    The White House was still in the throes of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and "Slick Willie" was still denying having had "sexual relations with that woman."

    Leaving my second head coaching job to relocate home and help to take care of ailing parents.

    What was happening with you?

Overall Career Victory No. 600

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    On March 11, 2001, the Blue Devils once again found themselves facing their arch-nemesis, the North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament Championship game. Once again, it was a matchup between two highly-ranked teams. The Devils entered the game as the nation's third-ranked team while Carolina was ranked sixth. Duke had just defeated the Tar Heels the previous week by fourteen.

    Led by Mike Dunleavy's 24 and Shane Battier's 20, Duke handed Krzyzewski another ACC tournament title and his 600th career victory at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

    Coach Knight had gotten the boot at Indiana the previous year for reportedly accosting a rude student. He was taking the year off.

    "Stutter" by Joe Featuring Mystikal topped the Billboard charts on that day. Missed this one too.

    Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, starring in The Mexican, was No. 1 in the nation's theaters. Watched it for a minute once. Glad I didn't pay to see it.

    As George W. Bush is putting finishing touches on his cabinet and pledging to work with the Senate on a tax plan, on the other side of the world, the Taliban was defiantly announcing that it was moving ahead with the destruction of remaining statues of Buddha in Afghanistan. Little did we know that their paths would soon intertwine.

    Back to coaching again. Rebuilding from scratch. How were you? 

Overall Career Victory No. 700

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    On December 12, 2004, the ninth-ranked Duke Blue Devils and Cameron Indoor Stadium too on Rocket fire—from the visiting Toledo rockets, that is.

    Post Shelden Williams dominated Toledo inside with 18 points. Shooting star JJ Redick poured 18 before the starters headed to the bench. The Rockets put up a fight in the first half before being blown up in the second. An 82-54 route of the Oklahomans gave "K" his 700th career "W."

    The Blue Devils finished 27-6. Despite their 11-5 conference mark, they defeated the insects from Georgia Tech, 69-64, to win the ACC Tournament championship. 

    They eventually bowed to No. 15 Michigan State in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Coach Knigh's new team, the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, was 22-11 and made the Sweet 16, too.

    The No. 1 song was Snoop Dogg's (featuring Pharell), "Drop It Like Its Hot." Y-e-e-e-uh.

    Ocean's 12 was the top box office draw.

    Former NYPD Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik admits to having hired an illegal alien and withdraws from being nominated by recently re-elected President George Bush to head the Department of Homeland Security.

    Great year—moved to the island. Hope yours was too!

Overall Career Victory No. 800

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    On March 1, 2008, the Duke Blue Devils took the short bus ride down the road to neighboring Raleigh to take on the Wolfpack of North Carolina State in the RBC Center. 

    Trailing Sidney Lowe's team at half and throughout most of the second half, the Devils fought back to nip State 87-86. Senior captain DeMarcus Nelson and guard Jon Scheyer led the Devils with 19 each, and Greg Paulus added 15 to help secure Krzyzewski's 800th career win.

    The Devils finished 28-6. Though 13-3 in the conference, Duke lost in the ACC semis to Clemson and was ousted in the second round of the NCAA tournament by Bob Huggins' West Virginia squad, 73-67.

    Coach Knight decided to retire in February after a 12-8 start and turned the Red Raider reins over to his son, Pat. He, of course, finished his career with 902 wins.

    "Low" by Flo Rida (featuring T-Pain) topped the Billboard charts. "Shawty had those Apple Bottom jeans, jeans...boots with..."...Oh, but I digress.

    Nicholas Cage's Ghost Rider was the top box office draw.

    Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had just launched her "red phone in the White house ringing at 3 AM" campaign commercial directed at future POTUS Barak Obama's lack of readiness to lead in a crisis.

    Got out coaching the previous year. No more missing the Blue Devils and more family time for me. Oh, but wait, I did miss that debacle with West Virginia. At Disney World with my peeps, getting updates on the highlights from a friend. Weren't many.

    Where were you when "Huggy Bear" made us blue?

Overall Career Victory No. 900

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    The 2011 NCAA Tournament found the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils trying to repeat. In the second round, the Blue Devils, number 1 seed in the West, found themselves facing a rejuvenated old rival in the Fab Five-less Mchigan Wolverines.

    On March 20th, Duke took on the scrappy Penisulares at the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte. In a hard-fought contest, the Blue Devils eked out a 73-71 victory to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and to give Coach K his 900th career win. Duke was led by Nolan Smith's 24 points.

    Coach Knight was retired and doing some curmudgeonly commentary on television.

    Lady Gaga was rocking "Born This Way" to the top of the charts on this day.

    Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper, leaped over The Lincoln Lawyer at the movies.

    In the news, the American Day of Rage really didn't rage all that much, at least not like the Arab Spring.

    Me? I was setting myself up for a big letdown against the following Thursday, but only a couple of months or so away from retiring. 

    And you?

The Omega?: Where Will No. 901, 902, and 903 Occur? What Then?

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    As Duke fans are more than painfully aware, the Blue Devils ran into "one of those games" against the Arizona Wildcats in last year's NCAA tournament. The manhandling by 'Zona ended Duke's season and left Coach "K" sitting at 900 career wins.

    After the Blue Devils take on Belmont and Presbyterian in consecutive nights on the second weekend of November, Mike Krzyzewski will have victories 901 and 902—not to be disrespectful to those two programs, but that is the stark reality of their scheduling decisions. What happens next is anybody's guess.

    On Tuesday, November 15th, Duke will take on Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans at Madison Square Garden in the State Farm Champions Classic in New York. Duke has already been ranked sixth in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. While receiving votes, Michigan State was not ranked in the initial poll.

    Following a November 18th game at Cameron with always scrappy Davidson, the Blue Devils will travel to Hawaii to play in the Maui Classic. They take on Tennessee in their opening game. Beside the Devils and the Volunteers, the very strong Maui field also includes Georgetown, Kansas (13th), Memphis (ninth), Michigan (18th), UCLA (20th), and host, Chaminade.

    After returning from Hawaii and the Thanksgiving holidays, the Blue Devils promptly wade into the ACC/Big Ten Challenge taking on third-ranked Ohio State in Columbus.

    While anything is possible, Mike Krzyzewski will likely win his 903rd career game in Madison Square Garden, sometimes known Cameron Indoor Stadium North. While it is a shame that the victory will not come in Durham, a fitting setting for Krzyzewski to assume the title of winningest men's basketball coach in annals of NCAA history from his mentor and friend, Bob Knight, it certainly isn't worth getting beaten by Sparty to make that happen. Regardless of where the big win comes, no one will be happier for Krzyzewski than his friend Bob Knight.

    What then? Well, keeping in mind that Krzyzewski has never been the sort to be distracted by the hoopla surrounding his own success, he will probably continue to shape and mold his young team into hopefully a contender by the time that the madness begins in March.

    And then? It is hard to imagine Krzyzewski not hanging around to notch career win No. 1000 in the not too distant future. Another four or five seasons beyond the current one seems entirely plausible. Besides. What else would he do? Go lead the USA to a gold medal in the Olympics? Oh, yeah. Already done that.

    By the way, Adele's (Girlfriend can sing) "Someone Like You" is the chart topper, and Paranormal Activity 3 is tops at the cinema. I do not like scary movies.

    Me? I'm retired and writing this.

    And regarding whatever else there might be going on in the nation today? Well, you can be certain that somehow, some way George W. Bush to blame.

    What's up with you?

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