Coach K’s coaching career at Duke is longer than his name and that’s saying a lot seeing as his last name is impossible to spell without looking it up first but for the record, it’s K-R-Z-Y-Z-E-W-S-K-I and yes I Googled “Coach K.”
The legendary coach announced this week that the upcoming season will be his last and it’s going to be weird watching the Duke Blue Devils without Krzyzewski (to make writing this column easier, I decided to simple copy and paste his last name) on the bench where he has been longer than I’ve been alive.
Krzyzewski has been Duke’s head basketball coach since 1980. Among many other accolades, his impressive resume includes 12 Final Four appearances which ties him with John Wooden for the most in the category and his five national championships puts him behind on Wooden, who won 10. Coach K won 1,170 wins and unless everything comes crashing down in his final season, he will add to that number.
If there was a Mount Rushmore of men’s college basketball coaches there’s no doubt that Krzyzewski would be up there, likely along with Wooden, Dean Smith and Bobby Knight? Roy Williams?
OK, the debate is not whether Krzyzewski belongs up there or not but who would join him. I’ll even take it a step further and argue he’d belong on that mountain even if you open it up to NBA coaches. It’s hard to argue against a Mount Rushmore of basketball coaches that includes Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson, Wooden and Krzyzewski but nonetheless, it could make for a fun discussion.
To be honest, I don’t consider myself a Krzyzewski fan but I can respect and admire what he has done as a coach. Because of him, the Blue Devils are the New York Yankees or New England Patriots of college basketball. I’m not a fan of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick or George Steinbrenner but the success they’ve had is undeniable. They’ve been instrumental in building programs you either love or hate. There’s no in between. People watch in desperate hopes of either seeing them go down or win it all.
Throughout the years of filling out a bracket, many of us have battled as to whether to go chalk and put Duke in the Final Four or hit a home run by calling an early-round upset. I’ve enjoyed many battles between Blue Devils as they take on their rivals seven miles away, which by the way, already won’t be the same with the retirement of Roy Williams.
We still have one more year to enjoy what we have in Coach K and for the idea of having someone else on the bench to grow on us.
For what it’s worth, my all-time favorite game coached by Krzyzewski? November 26, 2019. The No. 1 Blue Devils suffered their first loss of the season to SFA Lumberjacks, 85-83 in overtime.
However you look at it, basketball is losing a legend to retirement. It’s going to be weird without him.