Growing up in Winston-Salem, NC and later becoming an alumnus of North Carolina State University (class of 1997), I have learned two important things: hating the University of North Carolina and despising Duke. And my loathing for Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Kryzysewski has increased over time.
So pardon me when I say that I found myself between a rock in a hard place: pulling for the Atlantic Coast Conference to land the national title while having to stomach watching Duke represent the ACC in doing so.
Speaking of Coach K, it’s time to give credit where credit is due. He is the greatest college coach of all time. Period.
Now I’m sure there are several old-school – REALLY old-school – UCLA fans who would say I am full of shit and would argue that the late John Wooden is the mack daddy of all college basketball coaches.
Here is where I would defeat that argument.
Wooden’s Bruins was dominant over a decade (from 1964-1975). Wooden also had the benefit in not only playing in a much weaker Pac-8 (now Pac-12) conference, the field was not but so deep as well. Not trying to poo-poo Wooden’s legacy, but let’s call it for what it is: he won with mostly dominant players (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich) during a time where college basketball was not as strong and popular as it has been since the 1980s.
Coach K’s road to the top, on the other hand, was much rougher.
People forget that Coach K was almost fired after his third season. His records during his first three seasons were 17-13, 10-17, and 11-17 respectively.
And while Wooden wasn’t but so success during his early years as well, Coach K had the misfortune of getting lost in the shuffle in an ACC that included Dean Smith (UNC), Terry Holland (Virginia), Jim Valvano (NC State), Bobby Cremins (Georgia Tech) and Lefty Drisell (Maryland). The ACC was (and arguably still is) the best college basketball conference in the land and Duke fans and boosters were not having it.
Then 1984 happened.
Led by the likes of Johnny Dawkins, Jay Bilas, Dave Henderson, and Mark Alarie, Coach K took Duke to the first NCAA tournament for the first time in his career. That started a run of 11 straight NCAA tournament berths, during with Coach K won two national titles and five Finals Fours.
The year after the season where he took off due to health reasons (back surgery and recovery from exhaustion during the 1994-1995 season), he got the Blue Devil Machine going again in leading them back to the NCAA tournament.
The most important part of Coach K’s legacy is that while Wooden had his decade of dominance, it was just that – a decade. Coach K has been exerting his dominance for three decades and counting. And the competition – not to mention recruiting – in college basketball has been a helluva lot more tougher than it was during the Wooden era.
All and all, Coach K’s accomplishments are the following:
- Five-time NCAA Champion – 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015
- Four-time Olympic Gold Medal winner – 1984, 1992 (assistant coach); 2008, 2012 (head coach)
- Two-time FIBA World Championship Gold Medal winner – 2010, 2014
- Three-time Naismith College Coach of the Year – 1989, 1992, 1999
- 13-time ACC tournament champion
- 12-time ACC regular season champion
- Five-time ACC Coach of the Year – 1984, 1986, 1997, 1999, 2000
- 12 trips to the Final Four
- Nine NCAA championship games
Again it pains me to say this (as I have before), Coach K is the greatest college coach of all time and second place is not even close. Time for me to throw up in my mouth.