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'Luckiest guy to coach ever:' The significance of Coach K's 1,000th win at Duke

Mike Krzyzewski spoke to the crowd for a few minutes in an on-court ceremony after Saturday's win, his 1,000th at Duke.
Mike Krzyzewski spoke to the crowd for a few minutes in an on-court ceremony after Saturday's win, his 1,000th at Duke.

Saturday night was not the first time Grayson Allen sat in front of his locker with a white 1K t-shirt on, though he didn’t have as many media around him last time.

Allen is the lone active Blue Devil that was on the team when Mike Krzyzewski picked up his 1,000th career win against St. John’s Jan. 26, 2015. Krzyzewski then made up five years worth of wins at Army in less than three more years at Duke, becoming the first men’s college coach ever to win 1,000 times at the same school with a 99-69 victory against Utah Valley. 

Allen just played three minutes against the Red Storm, before he emerged as a hidden weapon in the national championship that year, but made a bigger impact on this achievement with 18 points as a senior captain. 

In total, Allen has been at Duke for 90 of Krzyzewski’s wins—with many more likely to come this season.

“It’s pretty awesome to be able to be a part of two pretty historic moments for a coach,” Allen said. “This one, being in Cameron, I felt a lot more love for Coach. I think this one was the coolest just because of the fan support and being at home, being in Cameron with all the Crazies cheering him on.... I can’t believe I got to be a part of two of them.”

After the game, Duke President Vincent Price and Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White presented Krzyzewski with a game ball. Price and former national player of the year Shane Battier then spoke briefly to honor Krzyzewski in an on-court ceremony.

Krzyzewski took the microphone for a few minutes to thank the crowd and started his remarks by reflecting on his first three years with the Blue Devils from 1980-83, when his teams went 38-47. At that rate of wins, it would have taken almost 79 full seasons to get to 1,000, and at that rate of losses, then-athletic director Tom Butters surely would have let him go well before that time was up.

“My first three years, I could have never imagined winning 100 games,” Krzyzewski said. “I had a president in Terry Sanford and an athletic director in Tom Butters who believed in me.”

Butters, who died last spring, gave his coach another chance with a contract extension in 1984. Krzyzewski made his first Final Four two years later and he has been entrenched at Duke ever since, turning down several offers from NBA teams and watching Butters refuse his letter of resignation when he offered to step down in 1995 due to back surgery.

That happened before every player on his current team was born, but that didn’t stop them from becoming a small piece of history themselves.

“It was a special night, to even be part of this team and to go out and play hard for that and to win this game for him,” freshman big man Marvin Bagley III said. “He’s a great coach. I enjoy getting to be around him every day and learning from him every day. I’m just happy to be here and I’m just looking forward to learning a lot from him.”

Saturday’s game was just another early-season 99-69 win, the latest addition to the Blue Devils’ 134-game nonconference home winning streak. Krzyzewski coached it like any other win, and it showed on the bench, as he leapt off the bench to growl at the officials in the opening minutes when Allen and point guard Trevon Duval were both whistled for two quick fouls. 

He was doing the same job he has done for the last 38 years at Duke, and enjoying it.

“I’m the luckiest guy to coach ever. I coached at my alma mater, coached the U.S. team for 11 years and I’ve coached what I think is the greatest basketball program in the country,” Krzyzewski said. “I think there’s more to come, I’m just not sure how many.”

After he left the court, Krzyzewski shrugged off the accomplishment to start his postgame press conference, preferring to talk about his team’s play on the court. Win No. 1,001 with the Blue Devils may be as hard to get as any of the last 1,000 Tuesday against No. 2 Michigan State, and in his remarks to the crowd, he finished by trying to shift the focus from his own legacy to his current players.

“What was is great, and what will might be great, but it won’t unless we consider ourselves fully invested into now,” Krzyzewski said. “Let’s embrace now with this group and see what the hell happens.”


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