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Mike Lopresti | | February 13, 2017

Mike Krzyzewski turns 70: A Coach K compendium

  Coach K has stood the test of time in college basketball as he turns 70 years old Monday.

Mike Krzyzewski turns 70 Monday. And before the birthday caps are handed out to the Duke student section, we should review how a kid from Chicago ended up on college basketball’s Mt. Rushmore.

So here it is, A Coach K Compendium.

He’s won five national championships. As many as John Calipari, Bill Self, Tom Izzo and Roy Williams put together.

He’s been to 12 Final Fours. More than all 14 coaches in the Big Ten. More than the 32 coaches in the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big East combined.

  Mike Krzyzewski during his West Point College years.
Even better, as many as John Wooden.

He’s won three national championships – more than all but four men in history – just in the city of Indianapolis alone.

He owns 1,063 victories. A 20-win season is often considered a benchmark for success. A coach would need 53 of them to get near him.

He has 90 NCAA tournament victories. More than every school in the nation except Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA. Oh, and Duke.

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He has 990 wins at Duke, or 47 percent of the victories in the school’s history, and the Blue Devils have been playing basketball since 1905.

His Duke career has gone through seven U.S. presidents, three Popes, and 66 coaches at the other 14 current ACC members.

  President Obama speaks to Mike Krzyzewski while honoring the 2015 championship team

He has won a national championship in three different decades, gone to the Final Four in four. There were 24 years between his first title and his most recent.

He’s older than five justices of the Supreme Court. Only three men have served in the White House at his age. Wooden had already been retired five seasons when he turned 70. Krzyzewski became the third oldest man ever to coach a national champion when Duke won it – seven years ago, in 2010. With the 2015 title, he’s second, behind only Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun.

He’s had three former Duke captains on his staff every season since 1996. This year’s trio -- Jeff Capel, Nate James and Jon Scheyer – combined for 4,794 points as Blue Devils.

  Coach K joined on the bench by former players, now assistants, Jeff Capel and Jon Scheyer.

He’s obviously a very colorful guy. As a teenager, he played for the Red Horde of Weber High School in Chicago. As a collegian, the Black Knights of Army. Then came the Blue Devils of Duke.

Krzyzewski is tied with Arkansas’ Nolan Richardson for the longest last name for a national championship coach. He and Tom Izzo are the only title winners to have the letter z in their last name. He is the only Mike.

According to his personal website, his favorite music includes songs from Carole King, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, the Bee Gees, Celine Dion and Phantom of the Opera.

The day he was introduced as Duke coach – March 18, 1980 – the NBA Clippers were still in San Diego, the Kings in Kansas City, the NFL Colts in Baltimore and the Oilers in Houston. The ACC had eight schools. The original Big East had played one season. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were NBA rookies. Christian Laettner was 10 years old. LeBron James wasn’t born yet.

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Krzyzewski was 33 that day. The ACC had another young new coach, too, at North Carolina State. Jim Valvano was 34, 11 months older. He died nearly 24 years ago.

The year that Krzyzewski, the Army senior, was second team all-NIT in 1969, man had yet to walk on the moon.

The year he won his first game as a head coach – Army over Lehigh in 1975 -- there were only 32 teams in the NCAA Tournament. And no seeding.

The first team he beat at Duke was Stetson. The first team he lost to was North Carolina. He was 1-8 his first nine games against the Tar Heels. And 1-6 in his last seven games against Dean Smith.

He was 38-47 his first three years at Duke, and 13-29 in the ACC. It took him five seasons to finish above .500 in the conference.

The year he coached in his first NCAA tournament, in 1984, there was no shot clock or 3-pointer.

  Coach K celebrates with his team after winning the 1991 National Championship.

He’s gone 8-1 against UCLA, but 3-5 against Louisville and Arizona. The real pain in the K has been UConn. The Huskies probably cost him two more national titles, with a 77-74 upset in the 1999 national championship game, and a 12-0 rally in the final minutes for a 79-78 win in the 2004 Final Four.

In 24 months, he lost the most lopsided championship game in history (103-73 to UNLV in 1990), engineered one of the most shocking upsets the Final Four had ever seen (knocking off unbeaten UNLV 79-77 in 1991), and survived arguably the greatest tournament game ever played (104-103 over Kentucky in overtime in the 1992 East Regional final).

He’s had seven national players of the year. He has even more grandkids – nine, with a 10th on the way. This June will be his 48th wedding anniversary.

He’s 276-8 in Cameron Indoor Stadium against non-conference opponents. The last loss came 17 years ago. The last non-sellout Duke home game was nearly 27 years ago.

In 1,255 Duke games, he has lost only 267. His Blue Devils have been held under 60 only 43 times. They have played 56 overtime games.

As coach of the U.S. National Team, he went 24-0 in the Olympics and 88-1 overall, including the last 76 in a row. He has never spent a day in the NBA, but between his Duke program and the national team, has coached 105 NBA players.

The first two men he beat in the national championship game – Roy Williams and Steve Fisher – are still in college coaching, a quarter-century later. The next three men he beat – Lute Olson, Brad Stevens, Bo Ryan – are not.

  A member of Duke's Cameron Crazies celebrates Coach K's birthday.

His teams have been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament 27 times. Eight of those defeats came by the eventual national champion, eight others by a Final Four team. Duke has been one-and-done only five times. The two biggest shockers came within two years of one another; courtesy of No. 15 seed Lehigh in 2012, and No. 14 seed Mercer in 2014. Both happened in the state of North Carolina, in front of blue-tinted crowds.

Krzyzewski was 67 for the Mercer game, and some wondered if maybe it was getting to be sunset at Duke. A year later, he won his fifth national championship, holding each grandkid after the title game. “It’s always been a family thing, and now we’ve got a bigger family,” he said that night. “When you’re already happy and you get happier, it’s pretty damn good.”

Now he has a newly-repaired back, and a challenging young team that has faced all manner of injuries and flux, and used nine different starting lineups this season, wandering between No. 1 and the outer suburbs of the top-25. Last Thursday's rivalry win was his 83rd game against North Carolina. He is 44-39 against four different Tar Heel coaches.

His first game against them, Michael Jordan was a high school senior. Now Jordan is a long-retired legend and Mike Krzyzewski is 70, planning for yet another March. Where'd the time go? Lots of candles on the cake, and lots of treasure in the legacy.


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