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‘A storied champion’: Students, alumni react to Coach K’s retirement announcement

<p>Duke celebrated its fifth national title after a dramatic 68-63 victory against Wisconsin in 2015.</p>

Duke celebrated its fifth national title after a dramatic 68-63 victory against Wisconsin in 2015.

The Duke community reacted with shock Wednesday afternoon when it was announced that men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewzski would retire at the end of the 2021-22 season.

“Coach K has been such an integral part of the Duke community for so long, and he has become a symbol of success and community at Duke,” sophomore Evan McMahan wrote. “He is going to be greatly missed but his legacy will always remain a point of pride for us!”

“My first thought was, ‘Yeah, it’s about time,’” sophomore Cole McMillan said. “And then my second thought was, ‘Who’s going to replace him?’” 

Duke’s assistant head coach Jon Scheyer is expected to be Coach K’s successor

“I’m crushed. It’s the end of an era. In all honesty though, I do like Jon Scheyer and hope he gets the job,” junior Katie Drinkwater wrote.

For junior Andrew Weatherman, though, Coach K’s retirement is “not simply ‘the end of an era.’”

“Mike Krzyzewski is the greatest coach in the history of the sport,” he wrote. “His legacy walks with a swagger fit for kings. His influence on college basketball is second to none.”

Weatherman added that Coach K “embodies what it means to be a true Duke Blue Devil: a ferocious and tireless competitor and a storied champion.”

Junior Daniel Marshall agreed with Weatherman, writing that “we can argue about [Lebron James] versus [Michael Jordan]” in the NBA but that in terms of coaching, “there’s no question: Coach K is the [greatest of all time].”

Weatherman called on the Cameron Crazies to pack Cameron Indoor Stadium and send Coach K off with a sixth NCAA tournament title.

Others also looked to the future and what legacy Coach K will leave behind. 

“[His legacy] is going to be absolutely massive,” McMillan said. “He’ll be able to eat for free in Durham for the rest of his life, if he wants. He’ll have things named after him at Duke for decades, not just after he’s retired, but even after he’s passed. Duke basketball is a massive institution and it’s been built almost entirely on his back.”

“As an NROTC midshipman, I am inspired by his leadership as a coach and as a veteran,” sophomore Clay Bromley wrote. “When he leaves, I know his leadership will have a lasting impact.” 

Coach K’s departure has also inspired some students to partake in longstanding basketball traditions.

“I have absolutely despised the idea of tenting for the past few years (I wouldn’t be able to sleep!) but now I feel like I must to avoid FOMO,” junior Alex Leo-Guerra wrote.

Marshall also wrote that Coach K’s retirement also reaffirmed his desire to tent and go to every basketball game possible next year.

Unable to attend his first Duke basketball game last year, McMillan said that the upcoming season being Coach K’s last one “just means I’ll have to try a little harder to get into the games.” 

“I hope the people don’t go too hard on Scheyer if he ascends to the head coach role, because those are some pretty big shoes to fill,” McMillan said. “And even if he’s successful, he’s going to be compared to Coach K for the rest of his tenure at Duke.” 

Marshall added that he feels he “almost took for granted that at Duke, Coach K is our coach.”

“It’s pretty wild how much he’s shaped our culture,” Marshall wrote. “Two of the most common words on campus are probably ‘K-ville’ and ‘tenting,’ all thanks to Mike Krzyzewski.”

Senior Lily Coll wrote that she is “honored Coach K is graduating with [her].”

Liz Mohrberg, Trinity ‘99, is wondering why Coach K would retire now, especially after Roy Williams, former University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill head coach, retired in April. However, she is “still shocked” about the announcement.

“Mostly, I’m sad for future students who won’t have the chance to see K coach, and I am super grateful for the time I was able to have in [Cameron Indoor Stadium],” she wrote.

Jacob Griffin Stanley, Trinity ‘12, wrote that Coach K is the greatest of all time and “deserves a restful retirement.” However, he called on Coach K and Williams to “use [their] powers for good,” citing barnstorming tours to improve political leadership in North Carolina as an example.

Mohammed Alabdulkarim, Law School '21, hopes that Coach K's last season will be "one last championship for us." Alabdulkarim wrote that replacing him would be "a tough responsibility, especially in the first seasons."

Keith Upchurch, Trinity '72, "was stunned to hear" of Coach K's retirement.

Shortly before Upchurch retired from The Durham Herald-Sun, he met Coach K while sitting in on former Duke track & field coach Al Buehler's final class. Upchurch recalled that Coach K "delivered a heartfelt talk about how much Coach Buehler had given to Duke."

Upchurch also described how Coach K visited his uncle and aunt, as Card Gym is named after his aunt's father, Wilbur Wade "Cap" Card, Duke's first men's basketball coach and also first athletic director. The visit was "greatly appreciated," according to Upchurch.

"Nugget enjoys watching Duke basketball and my big-screen TV will surely miss seeing Coach K there," he concluded.

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