Coach K’s next win counts
By Joedy McCreary
DURHAM ó Mike Krzyzewski has never counted wins. Now on the verge of history, he isnít about to start.
The Duke coachís first attempt at becoming the winningest menís coach in Division I history comes Tuesday night.
A victory by the sixth-ranked Blue Devils over Michigan State in New York would leave Krzyzewski alone atop the list with 903 wins ó and counting ó for his Hall of Fame career.
ěIíd rather go out and try to win this game for the right reasons, and the residual is you get 903,î Krzyzewski said Monday. ěI mean, thatís another perk you get from it. Thatís not the perk. The perk is beating Michigan State, going 3-0 and becoming a better team. And then things add up.î
He said heís ěnot trying to hide the significanceî of the record, but he canít put the pursuit of it ahead of molding his latest Duke team into a title contender.
Krzyzewski is 902-284 in his 37th season as a college head coach, matching the total held by his mentor Bob Knight on Saturday with a rout of Presbyterian.
Knight ó who coached Krzyzewski at Army in the 1960s ó is scheduled to be on hand at Madison Square Garden for his prot»g»ís attempt to pass him. Heíll work alongside former Duke player Jay Bilas as ESPN analysts.
And the coach Krzyzewski will try to beat for the milestone, Michigan Stateís Tom Izzo, called the occasion ěpretty neatî and said Krzyzewski ědeserves the spotlight.î
ěI told my guys, ëThis is about our chance because weíre playing the game, too,íî Izzo said. ěReally, itís neat to be playing a game like this.î
Krzyzewski has never been shy about praising for Knight, saying he ěwas able to understand the game totally by being his point guard.î
During a speech last month at Butler University, Knight joked that when he coached Krzyzewski, he told him to distribute the ball, to play with intelligence, to play tough defense ó and to never shoot.
ěI think thatís what has made him such a great coach,î Knight said. ěHe understood strengths and weaknesses and he was disciplined, and Iíve really enjoyed watching his teams play because they play that way.î
When the record-breaking win inevitably comes ó whether thatís Tuesday or sometime after that ó Krzyzewski said it will take on more significance once he retires, which he insists he isnít doing any time soon.
Thereís no specific number of wins he wants, not even a set number of seasons he plans to coach. He said his retirement ěprobably will not be as planned. Iíll know. Iíll just know.î
The only time Krzyzewski said he ever gave serious thought to retiring was when he left his 1994-95 team during the season to deal with back surgery and exhaustion and the Blue Devils went on to finish 13-18. He said he offered resignation to then-Duke athletic director Tom Butters, but the AD refused to accept it.
ěWhen I did that, I knew I couldnít lead my team, and I just think that comes from the military,î Krzyzewski said. ěIf youíre not (able), there should be a different leader … and Tom Butters said, ëWeíre not doing that. Thatís not appropriate.í And he was right.î
Krzyzewski led the Blue Devils to plenty of highs during three-plus decades in Durham ó four national championships, 11 Final Fours and 13 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles.
But what drives him, he says, is avoiding the lows. His record during his first eight years as a head coach was a pedestrian 111-106. He painted the bleachers gray at Army because there wasnít anybody else there to do it. He took over a Duke program he described as ěa house of cardsî and built it into one of college basketballís most powerful brand names.
ěGoing through eight years of just really cutting coupons … I try to still coach that way, even though weíve lived in a penthouse,î Krzyzewski said. ěWe live with a few other programs recognized as elite programs. It hasnít always been that way.
ěI think the reason weíve won is because I had those eight years. I know what it is to lose. I know what it is to feel bad,î he added. ěYou have to grow up. You have to man up during those times, and I think itís made us better for the times when weíve had unbelievably good players and health and things going well. But you canít forget the hunger. … Ten of those years, those were hard, hard years. So I never forget those things. I donít want to go back.î
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