Coach K: From Black Knight to Blue Devil

Phil Briggs
March 29, 2019 - 11:41 am
Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Army Basketball, USMA Mens Basketball, ArmyWPBasketball

US Army WP Basketball

Just say NCAA College Basketball and two things come to mind- March Madness and Coach K.

Since the 1980s, the Duke Men's Basketball team's coach Mike Krzyzewski (pronounced Sha-shef-ski) has dominated the sport, accumulating more wins than any coach in college basketball history.

But before he was the Blue Devil's iconic coach, he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and played for the Army Black Knights.  We looked through the history books and found some interesting facts about the legendary Coach K.

When he played for West Point his coach was a rising star in college basketball named Bob Knight. Coach Bobby Knight would later become a legendary coach at Indiana University and battle against Coach K for basketball dominance in several NCAA Tournaments.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Army Basketball, USMA Mens Basketball, ArmyWPBasketball
West Point / Army WP Basketball

As Capt. Mike Krzyzewski, he was a field artillery liaison to the infantry in the early 1970s at Camp Pelham in Korea. He then transferred to Yongsan Garrison in South Korea to coach service basketball teams, eventually moving stateside to coach the Military Academy Prep School in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Team USA Basketball
Zhukovsky | Dreamstime.com

Krzyzewski has also coached Team USA.  His medal count is insane.  According to USA Basketball, "Since 1979 he has been a member of 21 USA coaching staffs, compiled a 139-7 and in the 15 international competitions Krzyzewski has been involved in as a USA head or assistant coach, those teams have captured 11 gold medals, two silver medals, and two bronze medals."  He was also an assistant coach for the 1992 "Dream Team" featuring basketball legends, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Mens Basketball
Jerry Coli | Dreamstime.com

In a 2006 interview with Stars and Stripes, he talked about how he eliminated egos among pro players on Team USA, “Concepts such as loyalty, trust, and teamwork still can be reinforced among members of a group when they’re dedicated to winning.”  To make his point about those selfless concepts, Krzyzewski once brought a soldier to their practice who had been blinded in Iraq.  The players said they couldn’t help but be inspired by the soldier’s dedication to his combat team members.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Mens Basketball
Associated Press/Capozzola /Sports Illustrated

On November 15, 2011, Krzyzewski led Duke to a 74–69 victory over Michigan State and became the coach with the most wins in NCAA Division I men's basketball history. Krzyzewski's 903rd victory broke the record held by his former coach, Bob Knight. On January 25, 2015, Duke defeated St. John's, 77–68 and became the first Division I men's basketball coach to reach 1,000 wins.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Mens Basketball
Kelly Vandellen | Dreamstime.com

They built a city for him - Students at Duke University often spend many nights camping out in tents to get entry to Cameron Stadium for basketball games.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Mens Basketball
Aspenphoto | Dreamstime.com

He’s #1 for Loyalty - Coach K has turned down multi-million dollar offers to coach pro teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers. His commitment to the college game and his loyalty to Duke University basketball has made him one of the most revered and respected coaches in all of sports.

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