Mike Krzyzewski’s unprecedented coaching career comes down to a few basketball games, with just a month to go before the retired Duke Hall of Famer steps off the sidelines for the final time.
His influence on the sport will live on well beyond this final farewell. The fingerprints of the man known simply as ‘Coach K’ are all over the game’s highest levels as he winds down his nearly five-decade career as head coach.
Nearly two dozen of his former players are currently on NBA rosters. Another dozen or so coach or work for NBA teams. There are others running their own Division I collegiate programs. And some of the NBA’s biggest stars of the past two decades have won Olympic gold medals under his leadership.
“He has a small army of people who work in basketball who believe in his values and the things he thought were important,” said Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, the first-two point guard. Krzyzewski’s NCAA championship teams in 1991 and 1992.” It doesn’t matter if you coached with him or were a player because they will have such amazing experiences and memories of things he did that you use always in your own situations.
“His legacy will continue to grow through other people he impacted in their lives, and I’m definitely one of those people.”
Krzyzewski, 75, practices his final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday, against rival North Carolina. At most, he has 10 games left in a career that began with five seasons in the Army followed by 42 at Duke, assuming the Blue Devils both reach the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament Finals this week. next in New York and the NCAA championship game in New Orleans in April. 4.
No matter when or how the end comes, Krzyzewski’s place is indisputable among the greatest coaches in American sports history.
He has 1,196 career wins, more than any coach in men’s or women’s college history. His five NCAA titles rank second to UCLA great John Wooden on the men’s side, while his resume includes a record 12 Final Fours and a record 127 weeks with teams ranked No. 1 in the basketball poll. Associated Press male scholar.
“He’s the best that’s ever done that in modern basketball,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “John Wooden won 10 championships, you can never say anything more than that. But it’s a different world today. There’s been a lot of great coaches – there’s no one close of what Mike did.
“He gave the game his all and helped make the game what it is today without a doubt.”
The figures confirm Boeheim’s conviction.
Krzyzewski had 21 players in February on NBA rosters — including current or former All-Stars Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram — and an ACC record 27 players last season.
Go back further and NBA teams drafted 68 of Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils, including 42 as first-round picks and three – Elton Brand in 1999, Irving in 2011 and Williamson in 2019 – becoming No. 1 overall.
Duke notes that Krzyzewski coached 113 NBA players between the school and USA Basketball, where Krzyzewski partnered with former general manager Jerry Colangelo to restructure the men’s national team program. The result: He managed star egos and talent like LeBron James and the late Kobe Bryant to produce three-time Olympic gold.
Some former Krzyzewski players are now in leadership positions in the NBA, such as Quin Snyder as Utah Jazz head coach, Brand as Philadelphia 76ers general manager, Trajan Langdon as New Orleans general manager Pelicans and Grant Hill as co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks.
The same is true in college, with Krzyzewski’s tree having spawned 10 former players or staff as head coaches – a number that will increase next season when Jon Scheyer moves up from a seat on the bench. of Duke as Krzyzewski’s designated successor.
For all, Krzyzewski’s lessons linger.
The former Duke guard Grayson Allen, now with NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, noted how Krzyzewski studied filmmaking after games late into the night, then beat players in meetings early the next morning.
“I always tell people that I’ve never been around someone more dedicated to basketball,” Allen said, adding, “He’s fully engaged in every little detail.”
Longtime Notre Dame coach Mike Brey studied Krzyzewski’s competitiveness for eight years as an assistant.
“He always wakes up wanting to fight somebody and beat somebody up,” Brey said.
As for Hurley, he is more appreciative of Krzyzewski’s decade-after-decade streak of sustained success after nine seasons as head coach at Buffalo and Arizona State. He recalled a vivid memory: the end of the 1992 Classic NCAA Regional Final against Kentucky, just before Duke won Hill’s pass on the field to Christian Laettner for a buzzer-beating turnover.
“I’ve seen him be so calm in some of the darkest times when people were losing hope,” Hurley said. “Like our Kentucky game and the way he handled that group. You just look back now that you’re a coach and say, ‘Wow, could I have been so calm? Could I have convinced this group that we were going to win this game? »
It was one of many memorable wins for Krzyzewski, although his impact on the game extends beyond wins.
AP Sports Writers John Kekis in Syracuse, New York; and Steve Megargee in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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