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  • Benjamin Gerstel

Coach K's legendary legacy

The legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career actually began as a player, at West Point. Kryzewski was an all-state guard out of Chicago, who was heavily recruited by Bob Knight. Knight was the coach of the Army basketball team at the time and Knight himself, became one of the greatest coaches of all-time. A short-lived Army tenure was Knight’s first head coaching gig, and was his final stop before cementing his legendary status at Indiana. Knight is one of six college coaches in Division 1 with over 900 wins. Little did he know, one of the coaches that would eclipse him would be that guard he recruited out of Ohio. In the one year at Indiana University where they both coached, they posted an undefeated record in the Big Ten and lost just one of 32 games.

College Career

Coach K’s college career began where he studied, back at West Point. From 1975-1980, Kryzewski coached there until he was hired by Duke University in 1980. Duke and Coach K formed a special bond and a level of excellence that has been achieved by very few programs.

For 42 years, Kryzewski etched his own name in college basketball’s glorious history. With Duke, Coach K went above and beyond, delivering 5 NCAA championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015), 12 final four appearances, 15 ACC tournament championships, and 13 ACC regular season titles (including this season). Coach K’s 5 championships are second most of all time and his back-to-back championships were uniquely special.

After losing by 30 to UNVL in the 1990 title game, Coach K rolled up his sleeve and brought Duke to new heights. With a two-point win, Duke crushed UNLV’s undefeated season the following year, and then also defeated Kansas and Roy Williams, on his way to the championship. The following season, Duke capped off an epic championship run by beating the infamous Fab Five, one of the greatest college teams of all time, in the championship game. Duke became just the sixth program in history at the time (06’-07’ Florida was the seventh) to win back to back titles. Under his tutelage, Duke has made the postseason 36 out of his 39 years and It was on November 15, 2011, when Kryzewski officially transcended his mentor. Coach K earned his 903rd win, passing Bob Knight for the most wins in Division one history.

Those are just some of his achievements and they barely scratch the surface of the significance of Kryzewski’s career. Coach K is the winningest coach of all time in Division 1 history with 90 tournament wins and has the most wins by any coach of any division, male or female, in college basketball history. He is also the first coach to win 1,000 games with one program. There may never be a coach like him again.

Fortunately, college basketball is in a better place because of Kryzewski. After everything he has learned, from by coaching under Bob Knight to having one of the most legendary coaching careers in any sport, Coach K spread his vast knowledge of the game to not only his former players, but the many coaches who had worked for him. Coach K’s long list of former coaches include the likes of present-day head coaches Jeff Capel (Pittsburgh), Bobby Hurley (Arizona State), and Mike Brey (Notre Dame). Brey has done a fantastic job with Notre Dame, as he led his program to a 20 win season this year. One other coach who you may know is actually Quin Snyder, who so far, is the only member of Coach K’s coaching tree to make it to the NBA. Just last year, Snyder and the Jazz finished at the top of the Western Conference, with 52 wins.

International Career

Somehow, Kryzewski managed to mirror the success he had in college, at the Olympic level as well. With Team USA, the iconic coach collected 3 gold medals with the team, and consistently broke records. On top of going undefeated with the youngest team ever in 2014, with the largest margin of victory since 1994, Coach K is the only coach to have won gold at the Olympics, and the FIBA World Cup, while also possessing an NCAA Championship. He has the most selections of any coach for USA Basketball’s Coach of the Year with seven, and has an utterly unbelievable 139-7 overall record (95.2 winning %).

Coach K, over a 37-year span, gained experience winning the Pan American Games, Olympic Festival Souths, the Olympics/Olympic Qualifiers, the FIBA Americas, and the World Championships as a special coach, an assistant coach, and most recently, a head coach. During that time, Kryzewski evolved from a special coach, to one of the most decorated coaches of all time. The list goes on and on of what he achieved throughout his career, and the effect he had on players, coaches, and fans while he graced the sidelines is invaluable. There truly are no words to describe how iconic he really was. Coach K is simply one of the greatest coaches in any sport, and not just basketball. It’s no wonder that thousands of “Cameron Crazies” wait in line for days on end, just to watch the product of the culture he has built.

Tonight, The Zoo will certainly be out in full force. After waiting in line in Kryzewski-ville (yes, Duke has a literal town named after him), you know the Duke fans will be cheering the team on against their arch-nemesis UNC. Kryzewski will look to improve his record against their in-state rival to 51-46 with a win tonight, in this epic final regular season matchup. While no words can describe Coach K’s epic career, maybe some special moments from tonight can encapsulate his legacy.

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