Accolades continue to pile up for Krzyzewski
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski may tell you his most recent NCAA championship is special because his kids deserved it, and because he loved his 2014-15 team.
He'd say it's not about the bigger picture, the number of titles he's won or the number of Final Fours in which he's participated.
It's not about how many career wins he has or how many all-time NCAA Tournament wins his Duke program has accumulated over the years.
This season's NCAA championship - the fifth for Duke under Krzyzewski at the helm - was for the players in Krzyzewski's eyes.
Sure, that may be how the famed head coach chooses to look at it. But for everyone on the outside looking in, the stars aren't necessarily the players whom Krzyzewski brings in and puts on the court. When it comes to maintaining success on the floor in college basketball's difficult and ever-changing landscape in terms of its athletes, Krzyzewski is that gold standard.
The storied coach has brought five national titles to Duke - the most recent obviously being last Monday night's 68-61 victory over a Wisconsin team that was two days removed from ending the would-be story line of the college basketball season.
The Badgers defeated previously unbeaten Kentucky (then 38-0), ending the Wildcats' historic run.
Duke's freshman guard Tyus Jones stepped up immensely for the Blue Devils in the title game, scoring 23 points with some crucial buckets down the stretch that allowed Duke to come back from a nine-point deficit (48-39) with 13:23 left to play in the contest.
Jones was named the most outstanding player in the game, and showed that, like fellow freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, his maturity level far exceeded his age.
Perhaps that's the characteristic of these Krzyzewski-coached teams. Is this the most important trait Coach K seeks in his recruits? Senior guard Quinn Cook, who was not only the veteran leader of the team throughout the season, but he also accepted a position change after Jones overtook the former point guard for the starting spot in the preseason, is a shining example of that.
In a season that culminated in Krzyzewski's fifth national title (he now stands all alone in second place all-time behind legendary coach John Wooden, who has 10 national titles), his team helped him achieve many more feats that can't help but boast his ability, even if Krzyzewski won't do it for himself.
Coach K was already the all-time NCAA Division I leader in wins, but he became the first at the highest level of play to surpass the 1,000 career victories mark. He did so at the Mecca of basketball institutions, winning over St. John's at Madison Square Garden back in late January. He's compiled a coaching record of 1,018-310 in 40 seasons on the job (five seasons at his alma mater Army and 35 at Duke).
He's proven so vital to the Duke program over the years. In fact, the last time the Blue Devils missed the NCAA Tournament was back in the 1994-95 campaign when Krzyzewski coached the first 12 games of the season, then took the remainder of the season off for back surgery. In his absence, Duke went 4-15 with a 2-13 ledger in conference play under interim coach Pete Gaudet.
With his victory over Gonzaga in the Elite Eight of this past tournament, Krzyzewski pulled even with Wooden in terms of the most Final Four appearances all-time. The two coaches have made 12 trips apiece to the Final Four, and Krzyzewski shows no signs of slowing down.
By navigating through the tournament field this year, Krzyzewski increased his total number of postseason wins in the Big Dance to 88 - 23 more than North Carolina greats Dean Smith and Roy Williams, the most single-game wins in the tournament all-time.
His accolades don't just stop with his career at Duke, however. Krzyzewski was an assistant coach on the gold medal-winning 1984 and 1992 Olympic basketball teams and served as the head coach for the 2008 and 2012 gold medal-winning Olympic programs. He's also a two-time FIBA World Championship goal medal winner with the United States.
Krzyzewski is a U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame inductee, which he earned with the Dream Team in its 2009 class induction. He's a college basketball Hall of Famer and a three-time Naismith College Coach of the Year. He's won 13 ACC championships and five ACC Coach of the Year awards. It all speaks for itself.
There's no question Krzyzewski can coach at any level. He's turned down at least five coaching offers from the NBA - one of which came after Phil Jackson left the Los Angeles Lakers following the 2004 season - to remain at Duke.
In terms of the legacy he's built, it's hard to argue against his decisions.
As his Blue Devils celebrated on the court following their most recent NCAA championship victory, Krzyzewski kissed the heads of Jones and Cook, two of his standout players and leaders. It was a show of appreciation for a duo that helped him add to his list of impeccable credentials.
When Duke lost to Mercer in the second round of the NCAA Tournament - an upset that shook the college basketball world - Jones, who was committed to play for Krzyzewski at Duke the following season, texted his future coach and told him, "This won't happen next year."
How right he was.