Tippy’s Corner: Coach K Wins Record 903, Continues Legacy

By John Lund

College basketball coaches have an important responsibility. They’re the middle men between high school basketball and the real world; directing their players into a career in the NBA or, the more typical route, into another career or profession off the court. Words can’t describe the influence that a coach can have on his/her players, be it positive or negative. Many great men and women have coached college basketball, and only a select few will be remembered as greats of the game. On Tuesday night, another name was added to the rafters of greatness when Mike Krzyzewski passed his former coach and mentor, Bob Knight, as the winningest coach in Division I college basketball history with his 903rd victory.

Coach K has put together an illustrious career, beginning as a point guard under Coach Knight at West Point, to taking over a Duke team in 1980 that was in shambles to say the least, and rebuilding the basketball program into the powerhouse that it is today. He has piled up a slew of records in his 35 years as head coach, including a three-time Naismith College Coach of the Year recipient, a 2001 inductee of the Basketball Hall of Fame ,and leading the USA basketball team to  two gold medals. Under his leadership, the Blue Devils have made 11 trips to the Final Four, won four NCAA national championships, 13 ACC tournament titles and 12 ACC regular-season championships. Duke has only had four losing seasons under Coach K, and none since 1983.

But what sets Mike Krzyzewski apart from his coaching counterparts is not the numbers or trophies that line the shelves in his office and in the Duke Hall of Fame. It’s the respect he has for his players and the respect that they show for him in return. It’s the leadership that he shows both on and off the court. It’s the humbleness and pride that he shows in his interviews, never praising himself but always thanking others for getting him there. It’s his strong love for his family, friends, fellow coaches and former players that resonate in his personality. It’s him giving his best every single day, and expecting the best from those around him. It’s getting five men to play with a collective toughness as one unit on the basketball court, regardless of a given year’s talent. It’s about believing in winning and achieving goals and accomplishments. It’s about trust and having the qualities that make him an exceptional coach, father, grandfather, friend, co-worker, and most importantly, an exemplary man.

Many will argue for years to come over who the best college basketball coach of all-time is. I would be hard-pressed to say that it wasn’t between Coach K, John Wooden and Bobby Knight. I was fortunate to live within Coach K’s tenure, and will continue to follow him throughout his career, so my bias is with Mike Krzyzewski, if only because I was able to see him coach. Both Wooden and Knight have made it impossible to give an exact answer to whom is worthy of best coach ever though. What we do have are countless stories of how these men have positively changed and affected people’s lives, the game of college basketball, and how the job of coaching. They have left an indelible mark on the game, one which will always be seen as exemplary.

Coach K’s accomplishment of 903 wins and counting is certainly one of basketball’s most prestigious honors, perhaps only topped by John Wooden’s 11 NCAA championships and 88 straight games won, but for Coach K, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about what was previously mentioned in this article, and then some. And maybe that’s what the most important thing is throughout all of the accolades. Basketball is simply a game. Trophies will fade on shelves and awards will be forgotten in the books. But what will stay with someone are the simple things: family and friends, values and respect.. That’s what lasts a lifetime.

Follow John on Twitter @lundinbridge

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