Success stories do not just happen overnight. They take time, and the latest chapter in Duke basketball is no exception. Krzyzewski inherited a Duke squad in 1980-81 with a thin talent base outside of All-America Gene Banks, Kenny Dennard and Vince Taylor. The squad hustled its way to a bid in the NIT, but it was obvious the recruiting trail was Krzyzewski’s only answer if the team was to succeed over the long run.
He landed a recruiting class in 1982 made up of Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, David Henderson, Jay Bilas and Weldon Williams. It was rated one of the nation’s best and put Duke on the map to stay.
Joining that powerful group was guard Tommy Amaker in 1983. Duke won 24 games with that nucleus in 1984 and earned the first NCAA bid under Coach K.
With the class of Dawkins, Alarie and company now seniors, the 1986 Duke team won an NCAA-record 37 games while claiming titles in the Big Apple NIT, ACC regular season, ACC Tournament and the NCAA East Regional. They established a school record with a 21-game winning streak during the year (that has since been broken), were undefeated at home, advanced to the NCAA Championship game in Dallas and played more games (40) than any other team in college basketball history.
With the loss of the five seniors, many expected Duke to drop considerably in 1987, but not Krzyzewski. The team won 24 games and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament before losing to eventual national champion Indiana. Amaker closed out his career as the National Defensive Player of the Year, while Coach K looks back at the season as the one that showed the winning consistency of the program.
The 1987-88 campaign began the school’s amazing streak of five straight NCAA Final Four appearances as the Blue Devils won 28 games, again swept to the ACC title, won another East Regional championship and found themselves in Kansas City. Senior Billy King followed Amaker by winning the National Defensive Player of the Year award, the second in a row by a Blue Devil.
The role of leadership again fell to the senior class in 1988-89. This time it was the National Player of the Year Danny Ferry, Quin Snyder and John Smith taking the reins. They guided the team to another trip to the NCAA Final Four with a win over heavily favored Georgetown in the East Regional final.
In 1989-90, seniors Alaa Abdelnaby, Robert Brickey and Phil Henderson led the way to the Final Four with a 29-9 record, landing just one game shy of the title in Denver. The group won its third consecutive East Regional championship with an overtime triumph over top-seeded Connecticut.
Then came 1990-91, a season that forever changed the face of basketball at Duke. After the 30-point loss to UNLV in the 1990 final, Krzyzewski’s team was determined to avenge the embarrassment. The Blue Devils won the regular season ACC title and swept its way to four consecutive lopsided victories in the Midwest Regional for yet another trip to the Final Four.
In the semifinals they got another shot at the Runnin’ Rebels, who were undefeated, and this time Coach K masterfully led Duke to a 79-77 victory to earn a match up with Kansas for the title. Duke’s crowning glory came on April 1, 1991, with a 72-65 victory over the Jayhawks as Christian Laettner earned MVP honors in Duke’s first national basketball championship.
In 1992, the stage was set for an unprecedented chapter in college basketball history and Coach K and his squad were up to the task. Behind National Player of the Year Christian Laettner and fellow All-Americas Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill, the Blue Devils rolled to a 34-2 record and held the No. 1 ranking from start to finish (18 polls). Duke won its second consecutive NCAA crown with a 71-51 victory over Michigan. Along the way, the Blue Devils captured their fifth consecutive regional championship, won the ACC regular season and tournament titles and equaled the school record to that point for ACC victories with 14.
In 1993-94, the Blue Devils and Coach K were back knocking at the door of another national championship. Duke piled up a 28-6 overall record, won the ACC regular season championship, was ranked from start to finish in the nation’s top 10, captured the Southeast Regional title with an upset win over top-seeded Purdue and advanced to the national championship game before bowing to Arkansas, 76-72, in Charlotte.
The Blue Devils finished the 1998-99 campaign equaling the NCAA record for most wins with 37, winning the NCAA East Regional title, winning the ACC Tournament for the first time since 1992, recording the first 16-0 record in the ACC regular season, securing a school-record 32-game winning streak during the year and wrapping it all up as the NCAA runner-ups. Elton Brand was the consensus National Player of the Year, Shane Battier was the NABC National Defensive Player of the Year and Trajan Langdon was a first team All-America for Duke.
In 1999-2000, Duke finished with a 29-5 record, its fourth consecutive outright ACC regular season championship with a 15-1 record, its second consecutive ACC Tournament title and the final regular season number one ranking in both major polls. Senior Chris Carrawell and junior Shane Battier were named consensus All-Americas and Battier earned his second consecutive National Defensive Player of the Year Award. The Blue Devils accomplished this despite losing four starters from their 37-2 squad that advanced to the National Championship Game in 1999. Duke also had seven freshmen, the most on a Blue Devil team in school history, on its roster.
Continuing to build on his well-earned reputation as one of the top college basketball coaches of all time, Coach K led Duke to its third national championship in 2001, joining just three other coaches — Wooden (10), Adolph Rupp (4) and Bob Knight (3) — who have won three or more NCAA titles. The Blue Devils finished the season with a 35-4 record, including 10 consecutive victories to end the year, their third consecutive ACC Tournament championship, fifth straight ACC regular season championship and the TiVo Preseason NIT title. Duke also was ranked at the top of the final Associated Press poll for the third consecutive season, marking just the second time in NCAA history a program had accomplished that feat (Wooden’s UCLA squads did it from 1971-73). Duke earned a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season in 2001, becoming the first team to be a number one seed four years in a row since the seeding process began in 1979. In league activity, Duke became just the second program in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference — the first in 32 years — to secure three consecutive ACC Tournament and regular season championships.
Under Krzyzewski’s guidance, not one, but two of his student-athletes earned National Player of the Year awards in 2001 (Shane Battier was the consensus selection while Jason Williams earned the NABC award). It was the first time in college basketball history that two players from the same team received National Player of the Year recognition by the major outlets. Battier and Williams were both unanimous first team All-Americas, and Battier, the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, earned his third consecutive National Defensive Player of the Year award.
“I thoroughly loved coaching these kids,” said Krzyzewski following the 2001 national title. “They’ve been so good. They’ve given me their hearts, their minds, and not only that, they’ve given it to each other … I get real close to the guys on my team. That’s the most rewarding thing about what I do.”
Krzyzewski led Duke to another outstanding season in 2001-02. The Blue Devils finished 31-4 overall, won the ACC Tournament title for a record fourth consecutive year, were a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament for a record fifth straight season and finished number one in the final AP poll for the fourth consecutive season, another NCAA first. Three Duke players — Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer — earned All-America honors and Williams became just the seventh repeat winner of National Player of the Year honors in college basketball history. That Duke threesome also departed for the NBA, where all three were drafted. Williams and Dunleavy were selected second and third, respectively, making them just the second set of teammates to be taken among the top three picks of the NBA Draft (UCLA’s Lew Alcindor and Lucius Allen went one and three in 1969).
In perhaps one of his finest coaching jobs, Krzyzewski led his 2002-03 team, featuring six freshmen, to a 26-7 record, its record fifth consecutive ACC Tournament championship and the school’s sixth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16. Senior Dahntay Jones, the squad’s leading scorer, was Duke’s lone All-ACC representative and an honorable mention All-America selection. Jones became Coach K’s 17th first round NBA pick on 2003 Draft night.
Guided by the leadership of senior point guard Chris Duhon, Duke returned to the Final Four for the 10th time in a 19-year period in 2003-04. Duke finished the season 31-6 and won its sixth ACC regular season crown in eight seasons with a 13-3 league mark. Duke reached the No. 1 national ranking for four weeks during the season, marking the seventh consecutive year that it had reached that height (only UCLA’s streak of 12 straight years of achieving the No. 1 ranking from 1964-75 is longer). The Blue Devils ended the year by dropping a one-point decision to eventual national champion Connecticut in the Final Four in San Antonio. Duhon, J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams each earned All-America honors, bringing Coach K’s total selections to 19 in 24 seasons. In the 2004 NBA Draft, Luol Deng, after playing just one season at Duke, was selected seventh overall and Duhon was taken in the second round.
The 2004-05 squad featured Daniel Ewing, who would become the 36th NBA Draft pick under Krzyzewski, Redick, a National Player of the Year choice, and Willliams, the National Defensive Player of the Year honoree. The Blue Devils went 27-6 and captured the ACC Tournament championship.
In 2005-06, the Blue Devils posted a 32-4 record, including a 14-2 mark in regular season league play. Duke captured the NIT Season Tip-Off crown and went on to win both the ACC regular season and tournament titles. Krzyzewski’s 10th ACC Tournament Championship came in the 1,000th game of his coaching career, a 78-76 win over Boston College at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 12. Redick, a consensus National Player of the Year, set the ACC career scoring and the NCAA three-point fi eld goal records and Williams grabbed National Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second year in a row. Redick and Williams also became the ninth set of teammates selected as AP first team All-Americas and the first since Jason Williams and Shane Battier accomplished the feat in 2001.
In 2006-07, Duke featured the school’s youngest team in more than 60 years with 10 of the 12 players on the roster either freshmen or sophomores. Despite the youth, the squad recorded a 22-11 record and reached the NCAA Tournament for the 12th straight season. Coach K recorded his 700th career victory at Duke against Georgia Tech, making him the second-fastest coach in NCAA history to record 700 wins at one school.
With a team that featured just one senior, Krzyzewski guided Duke to a 28-6 overall record, including a 13-3 mark in the ACC in 2007-08. The 13 regular season conference wins marked the 11th time overall, including eight of the past 11 seasons, Duke has accomplished that feat. The remaining 11 ACC teams have won 13 or more conference games a combined 14 times. The Blue Devils also made their 13th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, earning the second seed in the West Region. Duke has now received a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in 10 of the last 12 seasons.
On March 1, 2008, Coach K recorded his 800th career victory with a dramatic 87-86 win at N.C. State.
On the court, Coach K has averaged more than 25 wins a season during his career at Duke. The Blue Devils have won at least 30 games in eight of the past 18 seasons. He directed his teams to nine straight trips to the round of 16 from 1998-2006, as well as joining John Wooden as the only coach to guide a team to the Final Four five consecutive years.
In all, Krzyzewski has directed his teams to 10 Final Fours, third-most by any coach in NCAA history. His 71 NCAA Tournament victories stand as the all-time record.