Mike Krzyzewski, better known as Coach K, announced that at the end of the 2021-22 season, he will be retiring from coaching the Duke University Blue Devils. This move comes after 41 seasons with the Blue Devils, during which he led them to 12 Final Four appearances and won five national championships in 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, and 2015. Krzyzewski also holds the record for most wins in a career at the collegiate level, with 1,170. The next closest is Jim Boeheim, who is over 100 wins behind Krzyzewski.
“You might ask, ‘Why are you doing this right now?’ Look, this is not about health. Mickie and I, whether we look it or not — she does — whether I look healthy … I am. It’s not about COVID or saying, ‘Boy, that year was so bad.’ It’s not about that. It’s certainly not about what’s going on with college basketball. ‘Boy, the game is changing.’ All right. I’ve been in it for 46 years. You think the game has never changed?”Coach K in his retirement press conference
Coach K chose to announce his retirement a year in advance for two main reasons: the new coach and recruits. It wouldn’t be fair for Krzyzewski to recruit players and then unexpectedly retire when one of the main reasons they came was to play for him. Second, he wanted to give his successor, Jon Scheyer, a chance to adjust to the new role that he will be playing. Scheyer is a gifted recruiter (helping to land Jayson Tatum and ranked number three in his class Paolo Banchero. Scheyer played on the 2010 Duke national championship squad, and spent a few years playing overseas professionally post-college. He came back to Duke as an assistant coach in 2013, and in 2018, he was promoted to associate head coach (which is below the head coach but more valued than an assistant coach).
Every player that was recruited or played under Coach K loved him, and said that playing for him was one of the most important experiences in their lives. He has also helped dozens of players go pro, including from the 2010s alone: Vernon Carey Jr, Cassius Stanley, Tre Jones, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Marques Boldin, Zion Williamson1, Marvin Bagley, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, Luke Kennard, Harry Giles, Frank Jackson, Amile Jefferson, Jayson Tatum, Marshall Plumlee, Brandon Ingram, Jahlil Okafor, Quinn Cook, Justice Winslow, Tyus Jones, Semi Ojeleye, Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Andre Dawkins, Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins, Miles Plumlee, Michael Gbinije, Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, Kyrie Irving, and Lance Thomas.
Over three dozen players to the NBA in 10 years. That averages out a ridiculous 3.8 NBA players on every Duke team this decade.
Coach K has been the head coach of Duke’s basketball team since 1980, so his retirement will be well deserved. After starting out his first few seasons at Duke, Krzyzewski somehow had a losing record of 38-47. Despite this, athletic director (at the time) Tom Butters believed in Krzyzewski, despite many around Butters wanting him fired, and gave him an extension. After he began to turn the program around, Coach K was offered yet another contract, until Duke reached the point where they just gave him a lifetime contract with their team. He’s the most influential person in Duke’s basketball program, as they named the floor they play on after him (Coach K Court), students camp out in tents to get tickets to games which is called Krzyzewskiville, and he has been with the program longer than any coach, player, trainer, or athletic director. As the heart and soul of Duke basketball for four decades, fans and students will miss him terribly, and personally, I will be very disappointed if they don’t make a documentary about this man2; he deserves it.
Even though Krzyzewski has said he will stay active in the Duke community, we will all still miss him3. Don’t mourn and cry because he’s gone; smile because he was there.
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1: All-Stars in the NBA are bolded
2: There already is a documentary called, “The Recruiting Class That Saved Coach K,” which is appreciated. But can’t the fans have one just dedicated to his legacy?
3: Don’t forget, he still has the chance to win a 6th National Championship this upcoming season and add even more wins to his already impeccable legacy