Looking back on Coach K’s historic career with Duke

By Farah Bassyouni Apr 8, 2022
Coach Krzyzewski otherwise known as “Coach K” Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Coach Krzyzewski otherwise known as “Coach K”
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On Saturday, April 2, one of the biggest rivalry games in sports history took place. The Duke Blue Devils and University of North Carolina Tarheels have met 258 times since their first game in 1920. This was Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 100th time playing against the Tarheels, and he came out a winner after exactly half of those games.

Coach Krzyzewski, known as “Coach K,” is not only one of the faces of college basketball, he’s one of the most notable names in all of sports. Finishing with an astonishing record of 1,202-368, there’s no doubt that Krzyewski found consistent success during his head coaching career.

Coach K is often brought into the conversation of the greatest coaches of all time. I know that as I grew up playing basketball, all of my coaches quoted Coach K at least once. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “my hunger is not for success, it is for excellence. Because when you attain excellence, success just naturally follows.”

Despite some games where Duke looked slow throughout this season, they always seemed to find a way to win. After beating top ranked teams Kentucky and Gonzaga early in the year, expectations were certainly high for the team. Even though Duke found success throughout the entire season, they failed not once, but twice when it really mattered.

In the last game of the regular season, Duke was blown out by their rivals in a 13-point loss at home. Coach K, in an already infamous moment, apologized to Duke fans after the loss. 

“Today was unacceptable, but the season has been very acceptable. And I’ll tell you, this season isn’t over, alright?” Krzyewski said. Now, after Duke met UNC for the first time in NCAA Tournament history, their season is officially over.

  Duke entered this year’s NCAA tournament as a number two seed in the western region of the bracket. UNC was a number eight seed from the East. UNC finished the year as the hottest team in the NCAA. Sporting a consistent five-man rotation, UNC’s bench players only scored two points on Saturday. Despite that, the Tarheels looked fast, driven and showed no signs of fatigue. 

For two of Coach K’s final three losses to come from his biggest rival in a year when he has a much more talented team is frankly humiliating. Even though his last loss was to a bitter rival, Coach K continued to be a beacon of sportsmanship in a post-game interview with CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson. “Congratulations to them. I thought both teams played their hearts out and it’s an emotional win and it’s an emotional loss and that’s the way a game like this should be,” Krzyewski said.

Coach K appeared proud of his team, in spite of the disappointing loss that ended their season. 

“I have a bunch of kids who are crying and I’m proud of ’em. They’ve been a joy to coach and they’ve played winning basketball, and they did tonight, too, but so did the other team,” Coach K emotionally explained later in his interview with Wolfson.

Though Coach K is exiting the league at one of the lowest points of his career, this season shouldn’t affect his legacy as one of the greatest coaches of all time. 

Krzyzewski has won the NCAA Championship five times in his 47 years as a head coach and has also won three Olympic gold medals as a head coach for men’s basketball. With 188 more all-time wins than the next highest head coach, it’s near impossible to argue that Krzyzewski isn’t a generational coaching talent.

Though it may take a few years to forget the disappointing end to Coach K’s career, he’ll always be remembered for his inspirational words and leadership around the sports world. It will undoubtedly take Duke some time to adapt to losing their head coach of 42 years. With one of the best recruiting classes of all time coming in next year, everyone will be watching to see how Krzyewski’s legacy plays out.

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