Duke's Krzyzewski surpasses Bobby Knight in men's major college basketball
"Coach K" is among the most highly acclaimed coaches in the sport
Krzyzewski nearly left the team in the mid-90s, but his resignation was turned down
Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, affectionately known by fans and players as “Coach K,” surpassed the all-time record for wins in men’s major college basketball with a victory Tuesday night against Michigan State at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The win, number 903 of his coaching career, broke a tie with Bobby Knight, who was Krzyzewski’s college coach and his mentor. Duke beat Michigan State 74-69.
It adds to an impressive array of statistics: 466 weeks ranked among the nation’s top 25 men’s teams, 12 times national coach of the year, 11 Final Four appearances, and four national championships.
But, Krzyzewski said in a news conference earlier this week on campus, this moment almost didn’t happen. He offered his resignation in the mid 1990s when he was battling illness, but that resignation was turned down. His reaction? Thank goodness.
Krzyzewski said Duke University athletic director Tom Butters told him, “We’re not doing that. That’s not appropriate.”
“And he was right, which he was just about most of the time about things – except my first salary,” Krzyzewski said.
His career, including 32 years at Duke, has encompassed some of the most memorable moments in basketball, including beating the dominant UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on the way to his first NCAA national championship in 1991 and leading the 2008 “Redeem Team” to an Olympic Gold medal in Beijing.
Time magazine and CNN named him “America’s Best Coach in 2001.”
Admiration for Krzyzewski extends beyond sportswriters and critics to include students and worldwide fans of the team. Students camp out in tents for days in advance to secure entrance to key games, creating a small community known as Krzyzewskiville.
He’s been known to treat the fans who camp out to pizzas while they wait in line or even a pregame strategy session in the school’s gym.
Anna Levina, a Duke graduate who joined other alumni at the game, said, “We were sitting with a lot of fans who were rooting for Michigan State…and when we won, they just stopped talking.”
At the end of the game, “everyone stood, and everyone cheered. It was absolutely awesome.”