A Landmark Victory for Coach K at MSG

New York, NY—Mike Krzyzewski recorded his 1,000th win as a men’s college basketball coach on Sunday afternoon as his Duke Blue Devils (17-2, 4-2) defeated the St. John’s Red Storm (13-6,2-4) ,77-68, at the “Mecca of Basketball”, Madison Square Garden. The record win places Coach K in a class by himself as a basketball coach; coach K reached victory 1K on Sunday.

I feel compelled to apologize in advance to Coach K for now describing his previous outstanding coaching accomplishments as he appealed to the members of the media to no longer write about his 1000 victories as a college coach. A description of his 40 years of success can prove that the number of his wins was not achieved solely through longevity, but rather through his capability.

His Duke teams won four NCAA titles and played in 11 Final Fours. He won Gold Medals as the head coach of the last two USA Olympic teams (2008 and 2012) and the last two FIBA World Championship teams (2010 and 2014). His teams have only dropped 308 games while winning 1,000 in his 40 years of college coaching.

With most of his children and grandchildren present at Madison Square Garden to share in the celebration of his unique accomplishment, Krzyzewski spoke with humility, “I’ve been lucky to have health and be in two good places, Army and Duke. I went to the best leadership school. [Coach K graduated from West Point in 1969.] I hope we always did it with class and the right way.”

The venue of the victory gave it special importance to the legendary Duke coach, a member of the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame since 2002, “Outside of Cameron; it’s the best place. I played here. This is a magical place. To get it here and against a storied program [St. John’s] you’ve got to be a lucky guy.”

Coach K also talked with respect and warmth of his college coach and basketball mentor, Bob Knight, “I hope he’s watching. He’s the best.” Interestingly, Coach K on November 15, 2011, broke Knight’s college win mark with 74-69 victory over Michigan at Madison Square Garden.

The huge crowd that filled MSG was treated to a fascinating basketball game irrespective of its historical importance. The uniqueness of the contest in which each team led by double figures was made clear by the remark of Coach K, “I’ve not been in a game like that in 1,300-1,400 games. It felt like three games.”

Duke had a game-high 11 point lead at 12:26 of the first half. The Johnnies followed with an 11-2 scoring run. The Red Storm took the lead late in the half. They began the second half with a 10-4 run to go ahead by their game-high of 10 (53-43) at 14:05. In the final 8:35, Duke totally controlled the action to change a 10 point St. John’s lead to a nine point Duke victory by outscoring St. John’s, 26-8.

Coach K spoke with feeling about his team’s play in the final minutes, “It was beautiful to see them fight and win. I knew it would be a real tough game.”

Red Storm’s experienced head coach, Steve Lavin, saw the contest very similarly, “I thought it was a very impressive basketball game, two teams competing at a very high level. We were not able to answer their final run.”

Each coach praised the contributions made by players on his and the opponent’s tem, but one player, Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor, was the focus of most fans including Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony. New Yorkers are hoping that the expected #1 selection in the 2015 NBA Draft will be on the Knicks. Coach K said of the youngster, “He has the biggest upside in college basketball. I was impressed by how many minutes he played hard today. He’ll be a franchise player and franchise person for whoever is lucky enough to get him.”

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