No matter what happens next season, Mike Krzyzewski, otherwise known as “Coach K,” has already left his mark on college basketball.
The Duke coach is making one last tour along "Tobacco Road" before he retires at the end of the season, His coaching career has spanned more than four decades, with most of that time spent with the Blue Devils where he has called the shots since 1980.
To put it into perspective, late President Ronald Reagan had yet begun the first of his eight years in office when Krzyzewski began chasing titles with the Blue Devils.
Prior to 1992, Big Blue Nation didn’t pay much attention to Krzyzewski but Christian Laettner’s well-documented shot at the buzzer changed all that and it wasn’t for the better. Aside maybe from Rick Pitino during his tenure at rival Louisville, Krzyzewski has been the most disliked opposing coach during the past two-plus decades.
In the overall, scheme of things, Krzyzewski will forever be known for his longevity and ability to coach at one institution for more than four decades, a feat that is unheard in this current environment of revolving doors in the coaching profession.
During his career, Krzyzewski has won 1.170 games — an NCAA record — won five national titles (1991-91, 2001, 2010 and 2015) and guided the Blue Devils to 12 Final Four appearances, an incredible run that would be reminiscent of the late Adolph Rupp’s run at Kentucky. He also won six Olympic Gold medals.
"It's absolutely mind-boggling,” Duke athletics director Kevin White said. “A comparable run will never reoccur.”
White is right and the list of coaches who stay with one program for more than two decades is becoming increasingly difficult because of the demands on the recruiting trail and the pressure that comes with winning games on the court.
“To think that November may be the last time I ever coach against Mike Krzyzewski is hard to believe,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “For as long as I can remember, Coach K has been synonymous not only with Duke but with college basketball. His benchmark of excellence for nearly 50 years has pushed all of us.”
Calipari admitted Krzyzewski has been one his toughest challenges in recruiting and in a game setting down through the years.
“We have competed against one another because that’s what we do as coaches, but the respect I have for Mike and all that he has done for our game and coaches goes so far beyond the battles we have had on the court over the years,” Calipari said. “Our game is not what it is today without a lifetime of dedication and love Mike has put into it.”
Despite those challenges, Calipari is thankful for Krzyzewski’s contributions to the game of basketball.
“I want to thank Mike for all that he has done for me personally and congratulate he and his wife, Mickie, on an unbelievable career,” the Kentucky coach said. “The bar he has set will go unmatched.”
And his longevity will be unrivaled in the future.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21