Sport Coach K readies for final bow at Cameron Indoor: 'Mine for 42 years, but it's Duke's forever'
Coach K miffed by late-arriving crowd, slippery court in in tourney opener
Krzyzewski had some complaints after Duke's win.In what will be his final final tournament, Krzyzewski’s team got off to a hot start, defeating Cal State Fullerton, 78-61, on Friday night. But that does not necessarily mean the coach is happy. In fact, he’s not. Not at all.
DURHAM, N.C. — Mike Krzyzewski is ready to let go.
Duke's 75-year-old coach says he returned for one more season for continuity — so that the program he turned into a national power didn't stray from a path he bushwhacked with fierce intensity over the last 42 years.
Jon Scheyer was announced as his successor the day after Krzyzewski told the world he'd step away from the game after the conclusion of the 2021-2022 season.
He may not openly admit it, but Coach K wouldn't, no, couldn't retire after last year's team stumbled to a 13-11 record, playing games in mostly empty arenas while missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995.
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Who is in the Final Four? Teams, odds & more to know for 2022 March Madness semifinal gamesThe four teams that made the Final Four in the 2022 NCAA Tournament have been among the last four standing in an NCAA Tournament a combined 61 times (60 if you count the one vacated appearance among the group). Suffice to say, the programs have plenty of experience at this stage, and each coach is making at least his fourth Final Four appearance.
(26-4, 16-3 ACC) has already clinched its first outright regular season title since 2006, the No. 1 seed in next week's ACC Tournament and has an outside shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But is he ready to say goodbye?
On Saturday night against rival UNC, the entire sports world will turn its gaze to Durham as Krzyzewski coaches in his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, on a court where he's earned 572 of his 1,997 career wins, and in a 9,314 seat arena where he's hung five national championship banners.
"It was mine for 42 years, but it's Duke's forever," Coach K said Thursday.
"I did a little bit of thinking yesterday: ‘This is your last game at Cameron,’ " Krzyzewski said Thursday. "It’s crazy, how did that happen? How is it here? I’ll have to spend some time, have a meeting with me."
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For the first time since the Christian Laettner-era teams, the program everyone loves to hate has largely been embraced during this NCAA title run.You hate them for the Final Four bids, the five national championships with the potential for six. For the conference championships, the start-to-finish dominance.
He's spent most of his final season deflecting questions about his farewell tour — pushing focus toward player development and his team's successes and failures — with some notable emotional breaks at Virginia, Syracuse and most recently against his former player and
But 48 hours before his last home game, Coach K took a more reflective tone. Earlier that morning he had said to his staff, "Who would’ve ever thought? It’s my Senior Day."
"I think I’m just going to overall, I’m talking to myself right now, just let it happen," he said. "And see what the hell happens. But try not to let it negatively influence anything for my players, because look, for them, it’s their game. I’m responsible for making sure that they have the best chance to win that game."
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Ode to a legend:
The focus will be on defeating UNC for the second time this season after easily beating the Tar Heels by 20 points last month. But it will be impossible to ignore the surrounding distractions.
The College GameDay stage was already being built in the shadow of Cameron as the team participated in its final practice Thursday. There was an air of anticipation hovering around campus, and maybe a little in the gym.
"I don't really try and let myself enjoy it, because if I do, I'm going to get so nervous," said guard Trevor Keels, one of three five-star freshmen likely playing in their final game at Cameron.
Keels, like the rest of his team, has watched Coach K receive retirement gifts from their opponents: a Louisville slugger and bottle of bourbon from Louisville, a commemorative plaque from Virginia and a steel fist from Pitt.
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Their gift will be effort.
"I'm pretty sure if we get the win he'll be happy," Keels said. "I don't think he wants any gifts but that win."
Like any retirement party, Krzyzewski has already welcomed in extended family and friends that have traveled from out of town. He spoke with Quinn Snyder, a former player, assistant and current Utah Jazz coach, the night before and exchanged texts with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving that morning.
It's expected that upwards of 80 former players will join him for a ceremony before the 6 p.m. ET tip. After the game, regardless of the result, Coach K will return to the court to address the crowd in what will be an emotional farewell.
"Well in the first few years, I don't think I would've predicted that 80 of them would be coming back or that I would even have 80," Coach K said, laughing. "Being in one place and having a good level of success throughout, you're able to form a lot of friendships ... a lot of guys can't be here, but the guys that are coming, that'll be great."
Krzyzewski made it clear, that yes, he'll still be around after retirement and he won't be giving up his top-floor office. He and his wife, Mickie, plan to be ambassadors for the university, but that's where his affiliation with Duke will end. He won't hover.
Opinion: Nobody did it better than Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and college basketball won't be the same without him
Why Duke's Mike Krzyzewski will walk off the floor at Cameron Indoor Arena next March as the greatest college basketball coach of all time. For many reasons, that will not be a unanimous view. John Wooden won more national titles, Roy Williams and Dean Smith won a higher percentage of their games and others like Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo are widely considered superior tacticians. Some critics could even argue that despite the five national titles Krzyzewski won, he probably should have had a few more.
"I will have nothing to do with our basketball program," he said. "Some people have told me things that have been written that I'm trying to maintain control. That could not be further from the truth."
He's got bigger plans for retirement.
"I want to get another dog, quickly," Krzyzewski said. His family lost their 12-year-old dog, Blue, to lung cancer over the summer. "I've missed my dog, big time, during the season. I got home yesterday and thought, 'This would be a great day to walk Blue.'"
David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK:
Final Four winners and losers: UNC and first-year coach Hubert Davis riding high; Duke and Coach K face cruel exit .
Hubert Davis has a chance to become the first coach to win his first NCAA title in his first year. Kansas' Bill Self is going for his second title.But that was just the undercard to the main event: No. 2 Duke and No. 8 North Carolina in the first meeting between the two rivals in men's NCAA Tournament history.