Share This Article
The Coach K Farewell Tour ended in disappointing fashion. Here’s a look back at three unforgettable moments of the Krzyzewski era.
I love college basketball.
As I sit here and write this blog, I’m watching the end of an era unfold. I’m literally witnessing history. Mike Krzyzewski is coaching his last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Typing that just doesn’t seem real.
The era of college basketball I grew up on consisted of Nolan Richardson’s 40-Minutes of Hell, the Fab Five, Georgetown Allen Iverson, the Michigan State Flintstones, and of course, the Duke Blue Devils.
This man has been at the forefront of college basketball my entire life. I’ve watched him win five national titles and accumulate nearly 1,200 victories.
He’s managed to sustain a culture of excellence for over 40-years, and tonight he finishes a chapter.
In processing his retirement, I’ve compiled my top-3 Coach K memories.
Here’s to you, Coach…
3. Runnin’ Rebel Revenge Game
If you’ve only followed college basketball for the last quarter-century, then all you’ve known is Duke as a dominant blue blood program with a roster capable of winning a national title every year.
However, in the early days of Coach K’s tenure at Duke, things weren’t always so certain. He took over the program in 1980 and spent the first half of the decade struggling to build the team into a winner.
By 1985 he had recruited a group talented enough to win a national title but fell short, losing a heartbreaker to Louisville in the 86’ championship.
The Blue Devils would reach the Final Four three times over the next four years, but it wasn’t until 1990 when they’d get another shot at winning it all.
Coach K finally had another opportunity to prove that he could get Duke over the championship hump. Believe it or not, people were questioning if he was capable of winning the “big game.”
The 1990 game would see Duke face one of the most exciting and polarizing teams in college basketball history.
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels led by head coach Jerry Tarkanian and future NBA stars Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony.
1989-90 Runnin Rebels
Duke didn’t stand a chance from the opening tip and would end the night in historical fashion.
The Blue Devils would suffer a 30-point loss, the most significant margin of defeat in NCAA championship game history.
One year later, with essentially the same rosters intact (though Duke did add a freshman by the name of Grant Hill), a rematch would ensue between the Blue Devils and the Runnin’ Rebels.
This time, the only difference is that the game was a semifinal matchup, and the Rebels were boasting an undefeated 34-0 record.
If Coach K and Duke wanted an opportunity to prove they were national champions, then they would have to go through arguably the greatest team ever assembled.
Not to mention a team that embarrassed them severely the year before. This was prior to the ‘one and done’ era of college basketball, so the game indeed was a genuine rematch.
Duke prevailed victorious 79-77 and went on to win their first national title days later.
This marked the beginning of a dynasty that would sustain itself for the next 30 years.
2. Christian Laettner’s “FIRE”
Okay, so this isn’t really a Coach K memory or moment; it’s more like a nugget of wisdom from the Krzyzewski well of knowledge.
In the 30-for-30 documentary “I Hate Christian Laettner,” Krzyzewski tells a story about when Coach Sidney Lowe reached out to him for advice on managing Christian Laettner.
Lowe was the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who had just drafted Laettner with the 3rd overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft.
Laettner was known for his hot-headed flair at Duke, and together he and Coach K won back-to-back national championships.
Lowe struggled with Laettner’s attitude and told Coach K, “Man, coaching Christian is really challenging.”
Coach K’s response was, “You have to think about Christian like fire. And you are the superintendent of a building. If you handle him the right way, he can heat up every apartment in the building. But if you don’t approach him the right way, he’ll burn the building down.”
I’ve used this analogy repeatedly as it provides such an incredible outlook on life and people.
Coach K has always been more than just a basketball coach; he’s a leader, developer and builder of men.
1. “Hey Dean…F*CK YOU!”
My favorite Coach K memory of all time is when he told fellow legendary coach Dean Smith, “F*CK YOU!”
The incident occurred during the 1989 ACC Championship, as Art Chansky states in his book, Blue Blood:
Mike Krzyzewski jumped off the bench, reacting to the hard contact under the basket. “Hey, 42, that was a dirty foul!” he shouted at UNC center, Scott Williams. On the opposite bench, Dean Smith pulled himself up, clapped his hands, and screamed at his adversary, “Don’t talk to my players!” Coach K glared down the sideline, crinkling his nose and forehead in anger.
“Hey, Dean!” he yelled back. “[F**k] you!”
What more could you want? ACC Championship. Duke vs. North Carolina. Two future hall-of-fame coaches. And a piercing F-Bomb fired from one rival coach to the other.
At the time of this incident, Dean Smith was an iconic figure in the college basketball landscape.
He was in his 28th year coaching the Tar Heels, had numerous Final Four appearances, and won a national title coaching future NBA Hall of Famers James Worthy and Michael Jordan.
Coach Dean Smith
On the other hand, Krzyzewski was a budding star on the cusp of building Duke into an elite program.
He wasn’t yet the five-time national champion we know today.
Coach K had some cojones even as a 42-year-old rising star yet to win a national title.
Imagine Chris Beard or Shaka Smart giving Coach K the middle finger during a game in 2022. That is dang near the equivalent to Krzyzewski f-bombing Dean Smith in 1989.
Legendary. GOAT status. Whatever you want to call it.
There will never be another Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
PS: North Carolina just beat Duke 94-81 and Coach K is visibly pissed off during his ceremony!