March 11, 2022 | SPORTS | By Olivia Xerras
After 41 seasons as the head Duke University men’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski has confirmed that this year will be his last. In the final weeks of conference play, most Atlantic Coast Conference schools elected to honor Coach K during their scheduled game day. Well, everyone except long-time rival UNC-Chapel Hill, that is.
In fact, in the wake of Saturday’s game, the final home game for the coach, this very fact lingered on the minds of the fans in the arena and the players on the bench. As the tune “Everytime We Touch” by Cascada, a song famously played to fire up the Duke basketball crowd during tip-off, blared, the stage was set for a perfect afternoon of basketball.
However, Duke soon realized they were playing in a nightmare. They lost 81-94 in their own arena. It was personal to the Blue Devils.
Two Duke assistant coaches denied newly appointed UNC head coach, Hubert Davis, a shake of the hand in the traditional handshake line after the game. Was this too out of line for Coach K’s staff? Maybe, but there is no rivalry like UNC vs. Duke.
The fandom and passion expressed from students and alumni for Duke nation, the atmosphere that Cameron Stadium cultivates, and the ticket receiving process via quizzes and tenting when these teams match up is astounding. Davis, a former Tar Heel, would know that better than anyone.
Following the game, instead of what should have been a festive party in the arena for Coach K’s retirement, Krzyzewski opted to be with his team for a while before finally walking out to a sea of blue where he raved of his embarrassment at his coaching and players’ performance.
Following these remarks, he closed his speech saying, “We need to fight for Duke, we need to fight for the brotherhood, and we need to fight with all of our might for through the remainder of the season. Then I’ll be ready to get the hell out of here.”
Losing is simply not in Coach K’s vocabulary. Per his head coach profile on the Duke Athletics website, no Division 1 men’s basketball coach has won more games than him. Having won five collegiate national championships, earned six gold medals as the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team, boasted 68 players drafted into the NBA, and collected 1,097 victories at Cameron Stadium – the most in NCAA history for one school – Coach K is likely the greatest NCAA basketball head coach of all time.
He has set the expectations for what a program should esteem to be. The love he receives from his own school and the jealousy he receives from others makes it clear that he has done many things correctly throughout his tenure.
Although Coach K is 75, he says that age has nothing to do with his decision to leave. Instead, he remains confident in his response that he wishes to allocate his time better and not to make a promise to an incoming player he might not be able to keep, as he confessed in an NPR interview with Dave Dewitt.
With this in mind, Coach K has made it obvious that the goals and promises he’s made with his current team of players can still be realized. Heading into the NCAA tournament, the only thing on his mind seems to be redemption, earned respect from his Duke nation, and as many wins as it takes to be the last team standing.