This Sunday, Duke University will take on St. John’s in what will be Mike Krzyzewski’s first attempt at reaching 1,000 wins. How fitting is it that this first opportunity will come in the mecca of basketball at the world’s most famous arena; the building in which NBA players and collegiate athletes come to put on a show. Coach K will be looking to put on his own show as he will coach perhaps his toughest 40 minuets. He will have to set aside a large amount of emotion in order to focus in on getting the win at Madison Square Garden.
But what does coach K getting his 1,000 career victory mean to college basketball and to his peers who also serve as head coaches? It means a great amount considering how he has won his games, the players he’s had, the era he is now coaching in, and the example he is setting for other coaches.
Coach K has always made it a point to recruit well. The players he’s recruited have always had a good background. Not to say he doesn’t bring troubled kids to Duke, it’s just that he and his staff have made it a point to bring upstanding young men into the Duke family. Think of the names like Kyrie Irving, the Plumlee brothers, Jabari Parker, Austin Rivers and Jahlil Okafor to name a few. All of these players have a grade A background and aren’t influenced by the wrong things and distractions that come along with being a college athlete.
Coach K is also at a prestigious institution with high academic standards. Duke doesn’t get into the academic trouble that other universities have in recent years, especially in basketball. Although it’s not publicized, coach K makes sure his players not only go to class, but also have success in the classroom. In his sales pitch to commit to Duke, going to class has got to be a number one priority. He understands and tries to convey the message that there is a life after basketball and the ball will not bounce forever.
Krzyzewski has also won in an era of one and done players coming in and out of programs. Granted, he’s had his share of players with this caliber like Irving, Parker and Okafor, but at the same time he has gotten players to buy into the program and stay long term. Players like Quinn Cook, Shelden Williams, Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins, Josh Hairston, Tyler Thornton and even Seth Curry. Yes, its true that all of these players don’t have the one and done talent level, but it is also true that they can serve a purpose in the NBA. And if there’s one thing coach K does well, it’s giving his players a chance to play at the next level.
Krzyzewski does the very opposite of the John Calipari coached teams. He allows his studs to leave but builds up a strong core and nucleus in order to stay competitive in the ACC and in order to compete for titles.
All of Krzyzewski’s players love to play for him, both past and present. When you love to play for a coach, you give it your all on the floor in order to get the win. When players love to play for the coach it translates to long-term success, which is exactly what Krzyzewski has enjoyed.
His peers in the NCAA all have work to do if they want to reach that plateau of coaching lure. Of course the marquee names like Pitino, Boeheim, Calipari, Izzo and Williams all have the status and opportunity to catch up in the win column, but chances are they won’t. Krzyzewski doesn’t show any signs of stopping his coaching career any time soon. He doesn’t throw his name into NBA coaching carousels, he stays true to who he is and he is as loyal as they come.
Krzyzewski receives praise from the greatest basketball players in the world all the time. He has coached the worlds best on the worlds biggest basketball stage in the Olympics. He is a college coach who has the system and lure to coach grown men and the best players in the world. Not only does he coach them up, he gets them motivated each and every game to play their hearts out and represent our country to the fullest.
So, when the 1,000th win does happen, let me be the first to say congratulations to coach Mike Krzyzewski. You deserve it.
*Section Photo credit to Ethan Miller, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Jim Dedmon, USA Today Sports.