Legendary bench boss Mike Krzyzewski is calling the shots in his 42nd and final season at Duke University.
Universally known as Coach K, the 74-year-old mentor became the NCAA Division I’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach 10 years ago this week, on Nov. 15, 2011. The Blue Devils topped Michigan State, 74-69, at New York City’s Madison Square Garden to give Mike Krzyzewski 903 coaching victories, one more than his old Army boss and future Indiana University icon Bob Knight.
Coach K entered the 2021-22 campaign with 1,170 wins and another decade of sustained excellence in the books for the ACC powerhouse program, plus a celebrated run as the sideline supervisor of the U.S. national team (highlighted by three Olympic gold medals).
In a series of interviews that I conducted by telephone and email in the days after the Duke coach surpassed Knight, I gained a greater appreciation for his discipline and people skills, hoop IQ, and long-term planning brilliance.
Players and coaches shared insights about Coach K, and all of their insights remain relevant and spot-on 10 years later, I believe.
Here are a few of the Q&A highlights:
Players & Coaches on Mike Krzyzewski
Dwane Casey (then-Toronto Raptors coach, current Detroit Pistons boss):
“Coach K is one of a kind. He survived his early years at Duke and then got his program going. I have the utmost respect for him. He has done a great job of recruiting and getting great players. He runs a very disciplined program that has established an NBA style of play. With him coaching the NBA players and learning the NBA style of play coaching with the Olympic style has helped him establish a style that is different than your typical college style, which makes it difficult for college teams to prepare for.”Dwane Casey
Reggie Geary (then-Yokohama B-Corsairs coach; a former NBA guard and University of Arizona standout):
“Coach K, whether working with Duke, or the USA team, possesses what all great coaches, in my mind, possess: the ability to communicate on a high level with individuals to get the best out of them. …. Coach K has done one of the best jobs, if not the best job, of recruiting and identifying the most talented players in the country: players that possess the mental makeup and characteristics he’s looking for when building a championship-level team who will buy into his system.”Reggie Geary
John Neumann (then-Romania national team head coach; Neumann, who passed away in 2019, led the NCAA in scoring with 40.1 ppg in 1970-71):
“Coach K has been a great coach because he learned the basics for winning from Bobby Knight. Coach K is a tremendous man that can relate to all of his players no matter their backgrounds. Coach K uses his system to make his players better and knows the strengths and weaknesses of his players. He uses angles and numbers better than other coaches and wins because he has a great system and always great relationships with his players. He can coach an NBA great like Kobe (Bryant) or a college player. He has a true gift that others only dream about.”John Neumann
Lynn Washington (then-Osaka Evessa star in Japan: former Indiana U. forward under Knight):
“(Coach K’s) keys to success are his system and his ability to recruit accordingly. … I honestly think Coach K has been successful for so long because of his seasoning at West Point. Granted, Coach K is a great coach, but he had to be seasoned first. I know a lot of players who have played for Coach K and they say he lets them play as long as they play within the system.”Lynn Washington