Famous writer Oscar Wilde once said a well-tied tie is the first serious step in life. There are many reasons Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski is already the all-time Division I men’s basketball leader in wins. But could the secret be in his crisply knotted half-windsors? The Blue Devils finished the season 30-6 with their title run ending in the Elite Eight against Louisville. In the team’s 36 regular-season games, Krzyzewski donned 18 different ties.
The Mason Plumlee
Coach K wore one tie seven times throughout the season: a chic but not showy striped one that alternates between thin slivers of silver and thinner grey-black ones. Like senior forward Mason Plumlee, who averaged 17.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, this was Coach K’s go-to weapon throughout the season and it consistently produced.
The Blue Devils won their first six games when Krzyzewski wore The Plumlee. They romped Temple and Clemson by an average of 25.5 points the first two times he wore it, then he put it back in the closet for more than a month, only to whip it out once again for the home game against North Carolina. Duke stormed back to beat the Tar Heels by five.
He later wore it on back-to-back games against Virginia Tech and Boston College (average victory margin of 26.5 points), and he wore it again against the Hokies in Plumlee and the seniors’ home finale.
But he wore it one more time, ruining his perfect record with the tie: at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. when Duke lost to Maryland in the quarterfinals. He didn’t wear it the rest of the season.
Like The Plumlee, The ‘Sheed is a striped black and silver cravat, only with slightly thicker stripes. The Blue Devils went 3-0 when Coach K donned The ‘Sheed.
Why “The ‘Sheed”? Sulaimon had two of the best games of his freshman year when Coach K wore this tie. The first time was against then-No. 4 Ohio State, when Duke trailed by eight at halftime. Sulaimon went scoreless in the first half but scored 17 in the second to lead Duke to victory. Coach K then wore it in the home game against Maryland, when ‘Sheed scored a then-career high 25 points.
The Bright Raven
Although Krzyzewski steered clear of loud ties all season, he went with an almost-metallic fuchsia in the home game against Miami, which marked the return of senior forward Ryan Kelly.
After missing 13 games with a foot injury, Kelly—a.k.a. “The White Raven”—scored a career-high 36 points against the Hurricanes, leading the Blue Devils to a 79-76 victory. When Duke played Miami without Kelly, they lost by 27 while Coach K donned a gray tie that he wore in no other game during the season. Coach K rode The Bright Raven hard down the stretch, also throwing it on for the final game of the regular season—a 16-point win against North Carolina. The Bright Raven’s luck ran out, though, when he wore it for a third time in the season finale against Louisville. But Coach K stuck firm with it, never even loosening it as the team returned to campus at 1 a.m. that night.
A one-strike policy
Coach K never forgave a tie after a loss this year. The team’s first defeat came against N.C. State when he was wearing a navy cravat with white dots. He wore it earlier in the year against Cornell—a 41-point win—but never put it on again after the Blue Devils lost to the Wolfpack.
The same held true with ties during the other losses: Miami (gray); Maryland (silver with blue stripes); Virginia (dark tie with silver dots, also wore it in the win against Wake Forest); The Mason Plumlee; The Bright Raven.
The Best of the Rest
The Blue Devil: Unlike some coaches, Coach K isn’t one to tout his school’s colors with a standout jacket (see Roy Williams’ baby blue blazers). But Coach K wore a strong blue tie twice. The first was the season-opening win against Georgia State, and the second was the team’s 23-point win against Santa Clara.
The Calipari: Coach K showed Kentucky head coach John Calipari who’s boss in Atlanta, showing up with a powerful silver tie (though not a classic power tie), as the Blue Devils beat the then-No. 3 Wildcats 75-68 in Atlanta.
The Curry: Coach K brought out a new tie for the team’s first game in the NCAA Tournament, a classily understated blue one with white stripes. Curry must have liked it, scoring a game-high 29 points to lead the Blue Devils past Albany. Coach K hung it back up for the Round of 32—when Curry scored just 17. But when he brought it out again for the Sweet 16 against Michigan State, Curry scored a game-high 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting.