Duke’s Coach Krzyzewski passes Bob Knight as winningest Division I basketball coach

November 16, 2011

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, lovingly known as Coach K by fans, became the winningest coach in Division I basketball history with a win over Tom Izzo’s Michigan State 67-55 on Tuesday night. As AP reported:

Michigan State has had quite a whirlwind week to open the season.

The Spartans played No. 1 North Carolina last Friday in the inaugural Carrier Classic on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson. That game was a 67-55 loss.

On Tuesday night, Michigan State played No. 6 Duke and the Spartans’ 74-69 loss at Madison Square Garden was Mike Krzyzewski’s 903rd victory of his career, putting him on the top of the career list in Division I.

“We weren’t seasick so we can’t use that as an excuse,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “The crowd here was great. Everybody wants to play in Madison Square Garden. The back hallway full of his former players, there’s nothing greater than that. I certainly respect that.”

The Spartans trailed by one point at halftime, but the Blue Devils used a 20-1 run stretch in the second half to seemingly take control of the game only to see Michigan State get within five points in the final minute.

“We played our butts off in the first half and the last 10 minutes, but we haven’t put together that full game. That’s what we have to work on,” Izzo said.

He knew it was going to be a tough night no matter what.

“I was in a no-win situation,” Izzo said. “I was either going to be the guy who threw the ball to Henry Aaron for the record breaker or the guy who shot Bambi.”

Coach K passed his mentor and former coach Bob Knight to take the record, and shared a moment with Knight after the game ended. As Matt Brooks explained:

In 1965 Army head men’s basketball coach Bob Knight made his recruiting pitch to a scrawny kid from a Chicago Catholic League school. He was looking for a point guard, but ended up with one of the most accomplished college basketball coaches in history.

On Tuesday night before a sellout crowd of 19,979 at Madison Square Garden, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski passed his former coach and mentor to become the all-time winningest coach in Division I basketball with Duke’s 67-55 win over Michigan State.

After the final horn sounded on win No. 903, “Coach K” walked over to the broadcast table where he met the always-sweaterd Knight — the previous record-holder with 902 victories — for a few emotional words and an embrace.

Two men with 1,805 wins a so much more shared between them over the last 46 years.

When Duke was searching for a new head coach in 1980, Knight told Blue Devils athletic director Tom Butters he didn’t think Krzyzewski could handle the pressure of the ACC. Then in 1992 after the Blue Devils beat Indiana in the Final Four, Knight gave his former point guard the cold shoulder in the handshake line after the game.

Nearly a decade later when Coach K was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, he chose Knight to present him. That night brought the two together once more and the scene after Tuesday’s game looked quite similar.

Former Duke players and some who had been coached by Krzyzewski at the Olympics were on hand to watch him break the record, and praised the coach for his work ethic and ability to motivate players. As AP reported:

Surrounded by three decades of former Duke players, Grant Hill understood how his old coach set the career wins record.

“How you motivate a guy in 1984 compared to ‘94 or compared to ‘04 or compared to 2012, each group is a different era,” Hill told The Associated Press as the seconds ticked down on victory No. 903 for Mike Krzyzewski. “A lot of coaches can get out of touch. They can’t connect. He’s been able to do that and actually almost get better.”

The Blue Devils beat Michigan State 74-69 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night with more than 30 guys in the stands who helped tally up all those wins. Hill talked to Coach K at his hotel Monday night, marveling at how the Blue Devils have dominated the ACC for the last 13 seasons in a way they couldn’t even when he starred for Duke on national championship teams in 1991 and ‘92.

Two of Krzyzewski’s Olympic players, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, also attended the record-breaking victory.

Krzyzewski was coming off two rough seasons when he recruited Shane Battier in the mid-90s. Battier isn’t at all surprised to see his former coach pass the record of his own college mentor.

“I saw firsthand the level of preparation, the level of passion he put into his program every single day,” said Battier, who led the Blue Devils to Krzyzewski’s third title in 2001. “I know if you gave him enough opportunity, he’d give Bobby Knight a run for his money. It’s just amazing to be here on this night to see the culmination of this work.”

Hill, Battier and many of the other players in the crowd should have been busy with NBA games this week but found themselves free because of the lockout.

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