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Duke's Coach K Closing In On 1,000 Wins

A young Coach K speaks with Billy King in the 1980s.
Credit Duke University Archives
Duke University Archives
A young Coach K speaks with Billy King in the 1980s.

Mike Krzyzewski leads the Duke men's basketball team into Madison Square Garden this weekend. The legendary Coach K is simply treating it as the 19th game of this season for his Blue Devils. However a milestone is within reach.

The preeminent coach in college basketball was up to the usual this past Monday – glaring at officials, instructing future multi-millionaires and enjoying the home-court advantage his devoted student followers helped create. Duke’s back court played well, helping to end a rare two-game losing streak by polishing off the Pitt Panthers.

Play-by-play voice Bob Harris noted the moment for radio listeners.

"And number 999 is in the books for Mike Krzyzewski for his career. One more to make that make that 1,000 victories for his career."

Afterward, Coach K downplayed any special meaning for win 999.

"It means we’re 16 and two. That’s exactly what that means. And hopefully we can be 17 and two in the next game we play."

The 67-year-old Krzyzewski has been coaching at Duke for more than half his life. He owns the most career wins in the history of men’s Division 1 basketball. But do 1,000 wins matter?

"It’s an arbitrary round number that shows that he’s been here a long time and had really good teams and that he’s a really good coach," said Barry Jacobs, a long-time writer for the Raleigh News & Observer.  

>> Look at some "Coack K" photos from Duke's Basketball Archives


Coach K has won four National Titles, punched 11 Final Four tickets and created an institution.

Coach K's legacy is felt inside Cameron Indoor Stadium where the court is named after him. Outside, his impact is also obvious.

In 2004 he interviewed to become coach of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. He ultimately stayed on Tobacco Road, but then found an outlet for the professional itch – guiding the Americans to gold during the 2008 and 20-12 Summer Olympics.

"USA Basketball fulfilled a lot of that same need he had, or may have had – to work with the truly best players in the world and also to have the advantage of having his own little, call it what you want fiefdom, kingdom, sphere of influence," Jacobs explained.

Coach K makes nearly $10 million annually.  His legacy is felt inside Cameron Indoor Stadium where the court is named after him. Outside, his impact is also obvious.

"Yea, every now and then he’ll come out and give a speech to the people in K-Ville, sometimes he’ll just buy food for everyone in K-Ville," said Peter Yom, a senior at Duke. Inside, Yom is a Cameron Crazy. Outside, he’s a resident of K-Ville – a village of nearly 80 tents and almost 1,400 students. Yes, it’s named after the coach.

"His office is right up there in that tall building and he looks down at us all the time. So, I’m sure he feels bad for us camping out here all the time."

Yom and other students are sleeping-out to get the best tickets for next month’s home-game against rival UNC. Coach K may forever personify the enemy for some Tar Heel fans.  For Duke he’s a living legend and the school’s best known ambassador.

"Duke certainly can credit Mike Krzyzewski for some of its standing in at least in national reputation if not for the academic aspects of what it actually does," said Jacobs, the sportswriter.

This weekend Duke can again get a boost, as the team chases its 17th win of this season and Coach K goes for victory number 1,000.

Jeff Tiberii covers politics for WUNC. Before that, he served as the station's Greensboro Bureau Chief.
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