The career of Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski, college basketball’s all-time leader in wins, ended Saturday as his Blue Devils were eliminated in the national semifinals by bitter rival North Carolina.
Krzyzewski and wife Mickie Krzyzewski held hands as they walked off the floor after the game that featured multiple lead changes down the stretch.
Now that he’ll no longer be on the bench, Krzyzewski said he’ll miss competition.
“And I’m sure that’s the thing, when I look back, that I’ll miss. I won’t be in the arena anymore,” he told reporters. “But damn I was in the arena for a long time1, and these kids made my last time in the arena an amazing one.”
Having three children and 10 grandchildren, Krzyzewski said, has left him well-equipped to deal with emotional highs and lows.
“You get used to taking care of the emotions of the people you love and that you’re responsible for,” he said. “That’s where I’m at. I’m sure at some time I’ll deal with this (lost game) in my own way. But for right now we need to deal with our family, we’ve developed a family (with his players).”
North Carolina beat Duke in Krzyzewski’s final home game, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 5, before ushering the Blue Devils out of the tournament on Saturday. This was the first time these storied rivals, separated by less than 11 miles, had ever met in the NCAA Tournament.
“Tonight was a battle, it was a game that the winner was going to joyous and the loser was going to be in agony,” Krzyzewski said.
“That’s the type of game we expected. We would have liked to have been on the other side of it. But I’m glad about what my guys have done.”
Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said he didn’t take any particular joy ending Krzyzewski’s career.
“That’s something that I’ve never thought about and would never think about,” Davis told reporters. “All I’m thinking about are these kids, these players and I told them how happy that I get a front row seat.”
Davis paid tribute to Krzyzewski, known as “Coach K” to college basketball fans, and to the thrilling game that had just unfolded.
“Coach K is unbelievable and that team is the best team so far that we have played,” he said. “We just happened to make some more plays tonight.”
The now-retired Krzyzewski ended his career with 1,202 wins and 368 losses, nearly all at Duke.
The 75-year-old Krzyzewski announced in June that he was hanging up his whistle after 42 seasons.
Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer, a former player who led the Blue Devils to the 2010 national title, has been tapped to take over. He was a two-time team captain and his 2,077-career points ranks 10th in school history.
This was Krzyzewski’s 13th appearance at the Final Four, and his five national championships — in 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010 and 2015 — is surpassed only by John Wooden, who won 10 at UCLA.
Krzyzewski’s win total is the most in major men’s college hoops, ahead of Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who is still active and has 998 triumphs.
In all divisions of the NCAA, Krzyzewski also tops Herb “Shot Doctor” Magee, who recently ended his half-century-long career at the school now known as Thomas Jefferson University, a Division II institution in Philadelphia, where he totaled 1,144 victories.
Other men’s college basketball coaches with at least 1,000 wins at any four-year campus include Harry Statham (1,122) at McKendree University; Danny Miles (1,040) from Oregon Tech; and Dave Holmquist (1,023), who is still active at Biola University.
Most of Statham and Holmquist’s wins and all of Miles’ victories were in competition of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), an affiliation that’s separate from the NCAA and made up of smaller liberal arts colleges that often have church affiliations.