Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke basketball deserve respect, not hate
Fifteen years ago, in the left corner of Cole Field House, Ricky Price rose from the baseline and did in Maryland with a three-point dagger, a shot that very likely sent Duke to the NCAA tournament that season and sent the Blue Devils' bench into a state of pandemonium.
Except Mike Krzyzewski, who started to jump with glee before composing himself, walking toward Gary Williams at midcourt and shaking the hand of the coach who had suffered a wrenching loss. Afterward, Krzyzewski said he understood how big a game it was for both schools. "I could put myself in Gary's shoes at that moment and see myself in the same position," he said.
Still hate Duke?
Still reserve contempt instead of respect for Krzyzewski, whose kids nearly all graduate, whose program never smells of probation and whose only major crime is that he wins?
Eleven Final Fours, two fewer than Roy Williams and Tom Izzo combined. Four national championships, one more than Bob Knight, the coach for whom he played at Army in the late 1960s. In fact, Krzyzweski enters Comcast Center on Wednesday night 15 wins shy of Knight's 902, the record in major men's college basketball.
"When I go back to players that I coached over all the years that I coached, Mike is the best player that I ever coached to be able to go from what he was as a high school player to a college player for us at Army," Knight said. "He was a big scorer in high school but not a very good shooter. And yet, he came to us and became an extremely good guard, getting the ball to other people, controlling the ball. Not throwing it away. He was an exceptional defensive player.
"I think his ability to understand that when he started playing in college it was a different game is the key. He was required to play differently than in high school. Mike's ability to adjust to a different environment in college basketball is the key to his being the kind of coach he's been."
At 63, battling a legion of much younger coaches who often promise more than playing time to recruits, Krzyzewski is as old as he is contemporary.
"It's kind of incredible from my perspective," said Jay Bilas, who played on Krzyzewski's first national finalist team at Duke. "Think about it: The guy I had played for is still coaching at a game I'm analyzing [tomorrow] night.
"I hear people say, 'He's the same guy he always been.' He's not even close. He's so much better in every way. He's more engaged; he's got a reservoir of experience to draw from now."
The people who coached him and played for him agree his biggest strength is adapting to change.
"He treats every year as a new entity," Bilas added. "He doesn't look at this as a continuum.