by Ted Rajchel
Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, nicknamed “Coach K”, is an American college basketball coach and former player. Since 1980 Krzyzewski has served as the head men’s basketball coach at Duke University, where he has led the Blue Devils to five NCAA championships, twelve final fours, twelve ACC regular-season titles, and fifteen ACC tournament championships.
Among men’s college basketball coaches, only UCLA’s John Wooden has won more NCAA championships (a total of 10), but Krzyzewski has the most wins of any coach in college basketball history. He has coached the United States Men’s National Basketball team, which he led to three gold medals at the 2008 summer Olympics, 2012 summer Olympics, and 2016 summer Olympics. In addition, Krzyzewski served as head coach of the American team that won gold medals at both the 2010 and the 2014 FIBA World Cups. He was also an assistant coach for the 1992 “Dream Team.”
Krzyzewski was born on February 13th, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. He is the son of William Krzyzewski and Emily, who were Polish-American Catholics. Educated at St. Helen Catholic School, Krzyzewski went on to attend a Catholic prep school for boys, Archbishop Weber High School, in Chicago. Krzyzewski was admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, in New York State, during the mid-1960s, where he trained to join the United States Army as an officer.
During his time there, Krzyzewski joined Bob Knight’s basketball team. By 1969, his senior year, he was appointed team captain. Mike Krzyzewski married his wife, Carol “Mickie” Marsh, in the Catholic chapel at West Point on the day he graduated; they now have three daughters and eight grandchildren. After his graduation, Krzyzewski directed military service teams for five years, while serving in the U.S. Army.
In 1974, Krzyzewski officially began his basketball coaching career. He joined Indiana University, where he assisted Coach Bobby Knight. The following year he became the head coach at his alma mater, West Point. Over a five year period, his coaching resulted in a 73-59 win-loss record. From 1976 to 1977, he led the team to a 29-win season.
After five seasons with the Army, Krzyzewski was named the head basketball coach at Duke University on March 18th, 1980. After a few ‘rebuilding’ seasons, he and the Blue Devils became a fixture on the national basketball scene. His guidance resulted in thirty-five NCAA tournament berths over the past thirty-six years, with twenty-four consecutive years from 1996 to 2019. That is the second-longest streak of tournament appearances behind Kansas (which has appeared in the tournament in thirty consecutive seasons).
Overall, Krzyzewski has taken his program to postseason play in thirty-six of his thirty-nine years at Duke University. Among active coaches, he has the most wins in men’s NCAA tournament play with a 94-29 record (.764 winning percentage).
Krzyzewski’s Duke teams have won fifteen ACC championships, been to twelve final fours and won five NCAA Tournaments. On February 13th, 2010 Krzyzewski coached his 1,000th game as Duke’s head coach. On March 20th, 2011 he won his 900th basketball game, one of only two others to do so – the other two being Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and Bob Knight, his head coach at West Point.
On November 15th, 2011 Krzyzewski got his 903rd win, passing Knight’s record for most Division 1 wins. In an interview with ESPN the previous night, Krzyzewski discussed the leadership skills he learned from Knight and the United States Military Academy at West Point. Knight has credited Krzyzewski’s understanding of himself and his players as the keys to his success over the years.
On April 6th, 2015 Krzyzewski won his fifth NCAA championship when Duke defeated Wisconsin in the title game. As of March 19th, 2016, with Duke’s win against Yale in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Krzyzewski became the college men’s basketball coach with the most all-time wins in the NCAA Division 1 Tournament.
On March 17th, 2018, Krzyzewski coached the 1,099th winning game of his career, passing Pat Summitt for most wins by a Division 1 coach, male or female. On February 16th, 2019, he won his 1,123rd game, becoming the college coach, regardless of gender, with the most all-time wins in basketball history at any level (surpassing Harry Statham of Division II at McKendree University).
Madison Square Garden
On November 15th, 2011 Krzyzewski led Duke to a victory over Michigan State (at Madison Square Garden) to become the coach with the most wins in NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball history. On January 25th, 2015, the Duke Blue Devils defeated St. John’s Red Storm at MSG, with Krzyzewski becoming the first Division 1 men’s basketball coach to reach 1,000 wins. Krzyzewski had also played at the Garden as a West Point cadet in 1969, where his team finished fourth in the National Invitational Tournament.
Krzyzewski has won three consecutive gold medals in the Olympics during his several appearances as the head coach of the USA men’s national team. His other results include winning a silver medal at the 1987 World University Games, a bronze medal at the 1990 FIBA World Championship, a silver medal at the 1990 Goodwill Games, a bronze medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, and gold medals at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, the 2010 FIBA World Championship, and the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He was also an assistant coach to the USA teams which won Gold Medals at the 1984 and 1992 Olympics as well as the 1979 Pan American Games Team and the 1992 Tournament of the Americas.
In 2005 Krzyzewski was appointed coach of the U.S. National Team at the Beijing Olympics. In the 2006 FIBA World Championship, the U.S. team won the bronze medal after losing in the semifinals to Greece and defeating Olympic gold medalist, Argentina, for third place. On August 24th, 2008 Krzyzewski’s U.S. Team won the Gold Medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. “The Redeem Team” finished the tournament with a perfect 8-0 record.
Krzyzewski coached the U.S. team for the 2010 FIBA World Championship and led team USA to a perfect 9-0 record, defeating host Turkey in the Gold Medal game. His team won a second Olympic gold in London, defeating the runner-up, Spain. Krzyzewski has amassed a total record of 75-1 (a .987 winning percentage) as head coach of the U.S. National Team.
During his long tenure at Duke, Krzyzewski has been given the opportunity to coach in the NBA at least five times. The first offer came after the 1990 season when he led the Blue Devils to their third straight Final Four appearance. The Boston Celtics offered a coaching position to Krzyzewski, but he declined their offer. In 1994 he was pursued by the Portland Trail Blazers, but again he chose to stay with Duke.
In 2004, Krzyzewski was interviewed by the Los Angeles Lakers, following the departure of their high-profile Coach Phil Jackson. He was offered part ownership of the Lakers and a five-year contract worth forty million dollars but again turned down the NBA.
Off the court, Krzyzewski’s charitable contributions have also been impactful at Duke, in his community, and across America. Known as a philanthropist by nature, Krzyzewski has contributed to the Children’s Miracle Network, The Duke Children’s Hospital and the V Foundation for Cancer Research. As a result, Krzyzewski was presented with the Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association in 2012.
Krzyzewski and his family founded the Emily Krzyzewski Center, a non-profit organization in Durham, North Carolina, which was established in 2006. The center’s mission is to inspire students from kindergarten to high school to act with character and purpose, dream big and reach their potential as leaders in their community. The center’s model serves academically-focused students in out-of-school programming designed to help them gain entry to college and break the cycle of poverty in their families.
The Krzyzewski’s are regarded as among the handful of major donors to Duke University, supporting the establishment of scholarship endowments for students in North and South Carolina as well as one Duke student-athlete every year. Krzyzewski also serves on the board of advisors at the Code of Support Foundation, a nonprofit military service organization.
Among Krzyzewski’s awards: Recipient of West Point’s Distinguished Graduate Award; five-time NCAA champion (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, and 2015); five-time Olympic Gold Medal winner; College Basketball Hall of Fame inductee; United States Olympic Hall of Fame inductee; United States Military Academy Hall of Fame inductee; thirteen-time ACC Champion; National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame inductee. Krzyzewski was also invited to the White House by President George W. Bush in order to congratulate his team, the 2001 NCAA Champions.