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 that the recruiting trail was Krzyzewski’s only answer if the team was to succeed in 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 Blue Devils won a then NCAA-record 37 games while claiming Big Apple NIT, ACC regular season, ACC Tournament and NCAA East Regional titles. 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 ended his career as the National Defensive Player of the Year, closing out a season that Coach K looks back on as the one that demonstrated the winning consistency of the program.
The 1987-88 campaign began Duke’s amazing streak of five straight NCAA Final Four appearances as the Blue Devils won 28 games, claimed the ACC title, won another East Regional championship and found themselves in Kansas City. Senior Billy King followed Amaker by winning the second straight National Defensive Player of the Year award 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 loss. The Blue Devils won the regular season ACC title and posted four consecutive lopsided victories in the Midwest Region for yet another trip to the Final Four.
In the semifinals, Duke got another shot at the Runnin’ Rebels, who were undefeated, and this time Coach K masterfully led the Blue Devils to a 79-77 victory to earn a matchup 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-Americans 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.
“I loved my 1991 team, but this team was a great team,” said Krzyzewski following the 1992 championship. “It met every challenge and at the Final Four it showed its true personality by winning both games in the second half with what I like best, defense.”
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 Duke record for most wins with 37, winning the NCAA East Regional title, capturing the ACC Tournament crown 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 No. 1 ranking in both major polls. Senior Chris Carrawell and junior Shane Battier were named consensus All-Americans, 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.
On November 17, 2000, Krzyzewski’s numerous accomplishments at Duke were recognized as the fabled Cameron Indoor Stadium court was named Coach K Court in his honor in a postgame ceremony. 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).
With its 82-72 victory over Arizona in the 2001 national championship game, Duke ended a four-year run with 133 victories. The Blue Devils lost just 15 games during that four-year span. The 133 wins broke the previous
NCAA standard of 132 set twice by Kentucky from 1995-98 and 1996-99.
In fact, 10 of the best 35 four-year runs in college history belong to Coach K-led Duke teams.
Individually, Coach K passed two major milestones in 2000-01: his 500th victory at Duke (98-85 over Villanova) and his 600th win overall (79-53 over sixth-ranked North Carolina in the ACC Tournament final). He reached 600 career wins faster than all but 10 coaches in college history.
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-Americans, 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 No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for a record fifth straight season and finished No. 1 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 Lucious 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 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.
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 Williams, 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 honoree, set the ACC career scoring and the NCAA three-point field 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-Americans and the first since Jason Williams and Shane Battier accomplished the feat in 2001.
Duke featured the school’s youngest team in more than 60 years in the 2006-07 season with 10 of the 12 players on the roster being either freshmen or sophomores. Despite the youth, the squad recorded a 22-11 record and reached the NCAA Tournament. 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.
Coach K had the Blue Devils among the top teams in the nation during the 2007-08 campaign as the team won 22 of its first 23 games. Krzyzewski became only the sixth head coach to reach 800 career wins with a victory at N.C. State. Duke would go on to finish the year 28-6, reaching the NCAA Tournament for the 13th consecutive season. DeMarcus Nelson was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a third team All-American, while Kyle Singler was the ACC Rookie of the Year and a Freshman All-American.
In 2008-09, Coach K led Duke to a 30-7 record, the school’s 10th 30- win season, and to the ACC Tournament championship. The Blue Devils advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 and reached a No. 1 ranking in the middle of the season. Gerald Henderson was a first team All-ACC performer while the team featured four players with over 1,000 career points in Henderson, Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler.
The 2010 National Championship team used a stingy defense, hardnosed rebounding and a potent three-man scoring attack to finish the year 35-5 overall. The Blue Devils held opponents to 61.0 points per game, the second-lowest in school history, and averaged 39.0 rebounds per contests for the second-most during Krzyzewski’s tenure at Duke. The Blue Devils also featured the nation’s top scoring trio as Scheyer, Singler and Nolan Smith combined to average 53.3 points per game. Duke won every possible championship they competed for in 2009-10, winning the NIT Season Tip-Off, ACC regular season and ACC Tournament on the way to reaching the NCAA Final Four for the 11th time under Krzyzewski.
In 2010-11, Krzyzewski led the Blue Devils to a 32-5 record, the ACC Tournament championship and the CBE Classic title. The Blue Devils spent 11 weeks atop the AP Poll and were ranked in the top 5 of the AP and USA Today/ESPN Coaches Polls for the entire season. Nolan Smith became the seventh player under Coach K to average over 20.0 points per game and was a unanimous first team All-America selection and the ACC Player of the Year. Singler also capped off his record setting career with All-ACC and All-America accolades in 2011. Krzyzewski, the 2011 NABC District II Coach of the Year, became the second coach in NCAA history to post 900 career wins with a 73-71 win over Michigan on March 20 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Krzyzewski guided a young 2011-12 team to a 27-7 record, including a 13-3 ledger in league play. Duke spent the entire season ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll and collected 10 wins over NCAA Tournament teams. The Blue Devils posted a 74-69 win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15 to give Coach K his NCAA-best 903rd career coaching victory.
Duke also ran the table at the Maui Invitational, including a championship game win over 2012 NCAA Tournament runner-up Kansas, to improve to 16-0 alltime in the event. The Blue Devils registered a buzzer-beating win at North Carolina and erased a 20-point deficit with 11 minutes to play in a dramatic come-from-behind win over N.C. State in 2012. Rivers garnered third team NABC All-America and ACC Rookie of the Year honors, while averaging a team-high 15.5 points per game. He also became just the seventh freshman in league history to earn first team All-ACC honors. Juniors Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry were third team all-conference picks, while Plumlee also earned CoSIDA first team Academic All-America accolades.
With a talented senior trio of Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, Krzyzewski led the Blue Devils to a 30-6 record and an NCAA Elite Eight appearance in 2012-13. Duke spent the entire season ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll, including five weeks ranked No. 1 overall. Krzyzewski’s squad registered wins over No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Kentucky, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Miami, marking the third time in school history the Blue Devils have posted at least four or more wins over top-5 teams. Duke also recorded its 17th undefeated season at Cameron Indoor Stadium with a 16-0 mark at its home venue. The Blue Devils won the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis, capping off the tournament with an impressive win over eventual national champion Louisville.
Duke also become the fourth program in NCAA history to reach the 2,000-win plateau with a 66-50 victory over Creighton in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Plumlee, a first team Academic All-America as well as consensus second team All-America, became the second player under Coach K to average a double-double, while also topping the 1,000-point and 1,000-rebound marks for his career. Curry, who battled through a seasonlong lower leg injury, went on to grab Sporting News All-America honors after averaging 17.5 points per game with 95 three-point field goals.
On the court, Coach K has averaged more than 25 wins a season during his career at Duke and posted 13 30-win seasons, including 30 or more victories in 10 of the last 16 years. Krzyzewski’s 13 30-win seasons
are the most by any coach in college basketball history.