Duke Blue Devils’ coach Mike Krzyzewski, Coach K, won his 1,000th career college basketball game on Sunday night in New York City at Madison Square Garden (MSG) against the St. Johns Red Storm. Coach K, the all-time winningest coach in Division 1 Men’s Basketball history, led his team past the Red Storm to win by a score of 77-68.
A strong second half performance from the Blue Devils, currently ranked number four in the nation, was highlighted by an 18-2 run to end the game that allowed them to overcome a ten point second half deficit. Tyus Jones lead Duke with 22 points, eight of which came in the last three minutes of the game to lock in the win. Freshman phenom Jahlil Okafor added 17 points and ten rebounds as he continues to prove why he is not only the best freshman in the country, but potentially the best overall player.
Still, the night belonged to Coach K as he continued to further his legacy as one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. When the final horn sounded, the Duke players all rushed to hug and congratulate their legendary coach, while shirts saying “1,000 Wins and Kounting” were handed out.
The environment at MSG in the second half was electric as the fans began to realize they were about to witness history. Although the world famous arena is St. Johns’ home court, it is not foreign to the Duke coach. In November 2011, he became the all-time winningest coach in history at MSG, when he secured win number 903 against Michigan State, passing his own coach and mentor, Bob Knight. In a statement Bob Knight said, “It’s a remarkable accomplishment to win as many games as Mike has as a coach, however, being able to coach as well as he has for as many years as he has is even more remarkable.”
The milestone win again brings up the question of where Krzyzewski stands among the all-time greats. In 1975, he began coaching at his alma mater, the United States Military Academy at West Point, then joined Duke in 1980 where he has coached ever since. The 1,000 win mark is just another accolade that Coach K can add to his list of already incredible accomplishments.
At Duke, he has won four National Championships, gone to 11 Final Fours and won 12 regular season ACC titles. With the US men’s national basketball team, he has won gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics as well as in the 2010 and 2014 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Championships. But these accomplishments do not make Krzyzewski the best college coach of all time, because he ranks second in the only category that matters when reflecting on any sports figure’s legacy: National Championships.
Although UCLA’s legendary basketball coach John Wooden only has 664 wins, he was able to win 10 National Titles in 12 years, and during that stretch, he won seven straight championships. Total wins means essentially nothing especially when considering that Wooden coached for ten fewer years. If anything, Wooden was over twice as successful, in a far shorter career, than Krzyzewski has been.
It seems appropriate to point out that Krzyzewski is not the greatest coach of all time but is most likely the second greatest. North Carolina legend Dean Smith also has 11 Final Four appearances but only two National Championships and 879 wins. Bob Knight has only five Final Four appearances, three National Championships, and 902 wins. Krzyzewski clearly has all the trump cards over both Dean Smith and Bob Knight but has no way of competing with Wooden’s ten National Championships compared to his four Championships.
When asked after the game what the win represented for him, in light of the rest of his career accomplishments, Krzyzewski said, “It represents 40 years of being with good people. At West Point and at Duke, I’ve had the best [Athletic Directors] and Presidents, and those schools attract the type of kids that are willing to pay the price to win. I’ve been lucky, very lucky, and I’ve also been lucky to have been coached by one of the greatest coaches of all time.”
Duke now must put the historic win behind them and set their sights on back-to-back games against two top ten teams: #2 Virginia and #8 Notre Dame. Duke is 2-0 against top ten teams already this season, but securing wins against two ACC rivals would bette r position them to win the conference. They currently sit in fourth behind UVA, Notre Dame, and tobacco road rivals North Carolina.
The Blue Devils have their eye on winning a fifth National Championship for their coach, something they have not accomplished since 2010, to cap off Krzyzewski’s now historic season.