Mike Krzyzewski: The Top 25 Moments of the Coach K Era at Duke
Four national championships.
11 Final Four appearances.
How's that for starters?
Mike Krzyzewski, or "Coach K" (just because it's easier to pronounce, phonetically speaking) is the best coach in college basketball. I'm not a Duke fan per se, but anyone who argues better have a darn good case.
In a head coaching career that began at Army, then went to Duke and USA basketball, Coach K has won consistently. His first and fourth national championships are separated by 19 years, a fact that shows his coaching acumen will never be out of date.
So, with reverence to the coach and the Duke program, here is my list of the top 25 moments (not necessarily the best games) in the Krzyzewski's illustrious career.
I was thinking about doing this chronologically, but some moments were simply much better than others.
25. November 30, 1980: First Game
This marked the first game for Krzyzewski as coach of the Blue Devils.
His first opponent was Stetson, who fell 67-49 to the Blue Devils, signalling the beginning of a new era in Duke basketball.
24. February 28, 1981: Duke Arrives to Challenge North Carolina
In the ACC regular season finale, the Blue Devils defeated No. 11 North Carolina 66-65 in overtime.
It was a great send-off for former great Gene Banks, who scored 25 points in the win, which underscored the fact that Duke had arrived as an ACC power.
23. December 9, 2010: Coach K Passes Rupp
Although it was likely a foregone conclusion, Krzyzewski earned his 877th win, passing legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp for third on the all-time list.
Duke's opponent that evening, the Bradley Braves, didn't put up much of a fight, losing 83-48.
22. December 29, 2010: Coach K Passes Dean Smith
Less than three weeks later, Coach K had moved into second in career wins, passing his long-time rival Dean Smith of North Carolina.
The opponent this time, North Carolina-Greensboro, was as ill-equipped to handle Duke as Bradley, losing 108-62.
21. March 10, 1984: Huge ACC Tournament Upset
After going 14-0 in conference play and finishing five games ahead of second place Maryland in the ACC, the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels looked poised to roll through the ACC tournament.
The Blue Devils had other ideas, though. After losing twice to the Heels in the regular season, Duke survived in a semifinal thriller, 77-75. The win propelled Duke into the NCAA tournament for the first time under Coach K.
Mark Alarie and Johnny Dawkins were the scoring heroes against the Michael Jordan-led Heels.
20. March 18, 1984: 1st NCAA Tournament Game
A week after the stirring win against North Carolina in the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils found themselves in the NCAA tournament for the first time under Krzyzewski.
Though the result was not a favourable one (an 80-78 loss to Washington), it marked the first of 27 consecutive NCAA appearances for Coach K.
(I didn't include the year he started but did not complete the season.)
19. November 17, 2000: 500th Win at Duke
With a 98-85 win over Villanova, Krzyzewski became the fifth fastest coach to win 500 games at one school.
The win came in Coach K's 660th game.
18. March 15, 1985: 1st Win in the NCAA Tournament
One year after bowing out of the NCAA tournament in their first game, the Blue Devils were back and won their first tournament game under Coach K.
Duke defeated Pepperdine 75-62 in the first round of the expanded format (64 teams) tourney before losing a heartbreaker, 74-73, to Boston College in the second round.
17. March 11, 2001: A Special 600th Win
Duke routed North Carolina 79-53 for their third consecutive ACC tournament title.
Equally significant was that it was Krzyzewski's 600th career win.
16. February 18, 2007: Win No. 700
With a 71-62 victory over Georgia Tech, Krzyzewski earned his 700th career victory in just his 898th game.
This mark was the second-fastest in coaching history.
15. March 1, 2008: 800 and Counting
A huge second-half rally propelled Duke to an 87-86 win over North Carolina State, giving Krzyzewski his 800th career win.
14. March 2, 1986: 1st League Title in 2 Decades
Duke defeated—you guessed it—North Carolina 82-74 in their last regular season home game to win their first league championship in 20 years.
The Devils went on to defeat Georgia Tech in the final of the ACC tournament before a memorable NCAA tourney run.
13. March 18, 2011: 100th NCAA Tournament Game
Duke's first game of the 2011 NCAA tournament (second round, as they say now) was the 100th NCAA tournament game for Coach K.
The Devils pounded Hampton 78-45 to celebrate the occasion.
12. March 20, 2011: Coach K Becomes 2nd to 900
Two days after the Hampton win, Duke faced a surging Michigan Wolverine team in a third-round matchup.
The Devils survived a Darius Morris miss as time ran out, defeating the Wolverines 73-71 and securing Krzyzewski's 900th career win.
11. January 27, 2007: Maryland and the Miracle Minute
Known as "The Miracle Minute", Duke staged one of the most unlikely comebacks in college basketball history, coming from 10 points down with one minute to play and eventually winning in overtime against rival Maryland.
Jay Williams—with (in order) a layup, steal, three-pointer, three-pointer—set the stage for Nate James, who made two free throws to tie the game and essentially seal Maryland's fate.
10. March 31, 1990: Blue Devils Start Championship Game Run
In Duke's second Final Four appearance in three years, they faced Arkansas, Nolan Richardson and his "40 Minutes of Hell."
Duke handled the Razorbacks 97-83 to earn the first of three consecutive trips to the National Championship game.
9. March 29, 1986: 1st Final Four Under Coach K
This game marked Duke's first Final Four appearance under Krzyzewski.
The Devils didn't disappoint, defeating Kansas 71-69 to earn a spot in the title game against Louisville. This was the beginning of an incredible stretch in Duke basketball history, as Coach K's teams would appear in six of the next seven Final Fours.
8. March 31, 1986: 1st Final Ends in Disappointment
Two days after the win against Kansas, Duke faced a Louisville Cardinal team led by Denny Crum.
Their first final under Coach K wasn't to be. Johnny Dawkins led all tournament scorers with 153 points, but it was "Never Nervous Pervis" Ellison who stole the show.
The Devils had no answer for Ellison, as he scored 25 points and hauled down 11 rebounds en route to being named MOP for the Final Four, only the second freshman ever to receive the honor. Carmelo Anthony won the award several years later to become the third.
7. April 2, 1990: 2nd Final over Shortly After It Starts
After defeating Arkansas to get to the final, the top-ranked UNLV Rebels were waiting.
And Duke never had a chance. The Rebels scored early and often in a game that was over quickly. However, as fate would have it, the two teams would meet again on a similar stage in the near future.
6. March 30, 1991: Devils Pull off One of the Biggest March Madness Upsets
One year after getting hammered by UNLV in the National Championship game, Duke and the Rebels were set to square off again, this time in the semifinal.
UNLV was a huge favorite and was 34-0 coming into the game, two wins away from a perfect season. They averaged close to 100 points per game and had a winning margin of 27.5 points.
In other words, there was no way they were going to lose.
But they did. Duke won 79-77 in a hard-fought contest that wasn't particularly pretty but was a physical affair from the outset.
Cries of a fix have tainted, to some degree, one of the biggest wins in program history.
5. April 6, 1992: 2nd National Championship
The second consecutive National Championship was a little anti-climatic, for obvious reasons.
First, the Regional final would not be outdone (a few slides later). Second, the Michigan Wolverines were no match for MOP Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Christian Laettner et al.
The Devils won 71-51 behind Laettner and Hill's combined 37 points.
4. April 5th, 2010: 4th National Championship
Duke captured its fourth NCAA title under Coach K with a narrow two-point win over the upstart Butler Bulldogs, who would be making their first of two (and counting) consecutive trips to the finals under Brad Stevens.
When Gordon Hayward's mid-court prayer bounced off of the rim, Duke had a 61-59 win, and their first title since 2001.
How close was Hayward's shot?
3. April 2, 2001: 3rd Championship Marks the End of a Record-Setting Period
The 2001 National Championship game pitted two Hall of Fame coaches, Lute Olson of Arizona and Coach K, going head-to-head.
When Duke emerged with an 82-72 victory, not only was it their third championship under the coach, but it culminated a four-year period in which the Blue Devils won more games than anyone over a similar stretch.
The Kentucky teams of 1995-98 and 1996-99 had won 132 games each, a standard that Duke surpassed with its 133rd win in the title game.
2. April 1, 1991: 1st National Championship
Krzyzewski's first national title came against Kansas and current UNC nemesis, Roy Williams. Ironically, Williams' Jayhawks had beaten his mentor Dean Smith and the Tar Heels in the semifinal.
The Devils won 72-65 behind the play of MOP Christian Laettner and, of course, the famous alley-oop that went from Hurley to Hill, setting the tone early in the game.
1. March 28, 1992: The Shot
It's difficult to say a Regional final win is more significant than a championship game win. But I'm saying it anyway.
The game between Kentucky and Duke was perhaps the greatest college basketball game ever played, especially for Duke fans, but regardless of the outcome.
Christian Laettner hit "The Shot" as time expired, after taking Grant Hill's length-of-the-court pass to give Duke a 104-103 win in overtime.
The intensity from that game was hard to match in the Final Four for Duke, who still beat Indiana and won comfortably over Michigan for their second straight championship.