Mike Krzyzewski returned to the sideline Saturday for the Duke Blue Devils' 72-64 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers, and the legendary head coach told reporters after the ACC triumph that he was overjoyed to return to work.
"You forget how lucky you are until something gets taken away from you," Krzyzewski said, per ESPN.com's C.L. Brown. "And I've been so damn lucky to be in this conference, to be at this great school, to have kids like this. I'm going to be 70 years old in a week or so, and I still get this? Thank God."
Saturday marked the first time Krzyzewski has coached since undergoing back surgery Jan. 6, but it wasn't uncharted territory for the Blue Devils boss.
Krzyzewski was also away from the program in 1995, when a back injury and the resulting pain and exhaustion forced him to step away from the team.
Thanks to that experience, Krzyzewski knew his team would be able to survive the slip-ups that occurred during his seven-game absence—including losses to the Florida State Seminoles, Louisville Cardinals and North Carolina State Wolfpack.
"For the last 20 years, since my last operation, my assistants, especially the associate coaches, have a huge voice," he said, per the News & Observer's Luke DeCock. "The main thing I wanted to tell all of them, the program's not going to go into the pot here, no matter what happens. We've stood the test of time."
Those woes could have derailed the Blue Devils to a degree, but they've shown resolve over the last week. Dating back to Jan. 28, Duke has rattled off three straight wins over ACC foes Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.
The Blue Devils will attempt to keep that winning streak alive Thursday, when the 12th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels pay a visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium.