Duke Basketball: The Legacy of Coach Mike Krzyzewski

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Duke Basketball: The Legacy of Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With a win against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Coach Mike Krzyzewski will surpass mentor and lifelong friend Bob Knight in the Division I men’s career wins list with 903 victories. Coach K’s list of accomplishments is astounding:

4 national championships (2nd all time) and 8 championship game appearances

11 final four appearances (most all time)

77 tournament wins (most all time)

99 tournament games coached (most all time)

13 ACC tournament championships

12 ACC regular season championships

3 Naismith Coach of the Year awards

5 ACC coach of the year awards,

and was the first coach to win national championships in three consecutive decades (1991, ’92, ’01, and ’10). With him as head coach, Duke has played more games ranked than it has unranked. Another impressive statistic is the four offers he turned down to coach in the NBA. The numbers speak for themselves, but what might not stand out to everyone is the way in which Mike Krzyzewski achieved this greatness. You will rarely see a smile on this man's face during a game, but he has had much to smile about in his illustrious career as head coach of the Blue Devils. He has outlasted criticism, administrations, temptation, illness, envy, and has built a legacy at Duke University that will last forever. Krzyzewski’s teams have perfectly exemplified the traditions and play style that make us all love college basketball.

Mike Krzyzewski has always valued hard work. His father was an elevator operator, and his mother a cleaning woman. He was captain of the basketball team at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1974. Throughout his life he has had a deep understanding of hard work, commitment and loyalty, and carried that into the Duke Basketball program when he was hired in March of 1980 without even asking what his starting salary would be.

Under his guidance, Duke players have always been tough, team-oriented, fundamentally sound, unselfish, aggressive, intense, competitive, and committed to playing hard. The thrill of his coaching has not been what his teams have done, but how they have done it. His ability to adapt to the ever-changing atmosphere of college basketball, yet maintain his coaching ethic and leadership ideals has made him an elite coach in all of sports. He truly defies this modern era of coaching, recruiting players who are committed to education and playing basketball the way it is meant to be played. He will be remembered for his intelligence and persuasiveness, his charm and insight, his consistency and his integrity. Duke basketball would not be Duke basketball without him.

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