Mike Krzyzewski, fondly nicknamed “Coach K,” is one of the best, if not the best, college basketball coaches of all time. He first started his college coaching career back in 1974 as the assistant coach to Bob Knight at Indiana University. He was only there for the ‘74-’75 season before he got his first head coaching job at his alma mater, West Point Academy, in 1975. He then stayed at West Point for five years before becoming the head coach at Duke University. During his time at West Point, he achieved a winning record of 73-59 and a trip to the National Invitational Tournament in 1978. In 2009, he earned an induction into the West Point Hall of Fame for his time as a player at West Point.
After his impressive stint at West Point, Duke hired Coach K in 1980. At the time, Duke had never won a national championship, but that changed once Coach K arrived. However, it is important to point out that Duke didn’t just start winning national titles as soon as Coach K got there. His first couple of seasons were rough, with no recruits in 1981 and a total record of 21-34 the following two seasons. It wasn’t until the 1983-84 season that things started to turn around. During that season, the Blue Devils had a 24-10 record, which began the 11-season streak with at least 20 wins and NCAA tournament bids. He then went on to lead the Blue Devils to five back-to-back NCAA Final Fours between the years 1988 and 1992. Out of that five-year streak came the school’s first two national championships, one in 1991 and the other in 1992. After such an impressive run, it only makes sense that the team would hit a rough patch. Although the Blue Devils reached the national championship again in the ‘93-’94 season, they lost to the University of Arkansas. Due to Coach K’s back surgery, the Blue Devils went 13-18 the following season. Once Coach K was back and healthy, he worked hard to get the team back to its former glory, eventually winning his third national championship in 2001.
As time went on, Coach K only got better. For example, in 2005, he was hired as head coach of the USA Men’s National Basketball team. He coached the team from 2005 to 2016, with a brief break after the 2012 London Olympics. During his time as head coach for Team USA, Coach K earned six gold medals. In 2008, he became the fourth NCAA Division I coach to accumulate 800 career wins. Later, in 2011, he won his 903rd career game, passing Bob Knight as the coach with the most wins in Division I history. The longer his career continued, the more awards and accolades he achieved. He ends his coaching career with five national championships, 12 Final Four appearances, 15 ACC tournament championships, 97 NCAA tournament wins, 1,170 career wins, and so many other achievements. Dozens of current and former NBA players have to give Coach K credit for their success. Grant Hill, Zion Williamson, JJ Redick, Jayson Tatum, Marvin Bagley III, and so many others have to give Coach K his credit.
Although his final season didn’t end how he probably wanted, Coach K has to be satisfied with his overwhelmingly successful career. Nothing will ever take away what he’s done for the game of basketball. His presence will be missed on the sidelines, but his retirement is understandable. Thank you, Coach K, for your extensive and successful career.
PHOTO CREDIT: USA Today Network