The career of Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski, college basketball’s all-time leader in wins, came to an end on Saturday as his Blue Devils were eliminated in the national semifinals by their bitter rival North Carolina.
The Tar Heels’ 81-77 victory propelled them to Monday night’s championship game in New Orleans against the Kansas Jayhawks, who beat Villanova in the other Final Four game.
Krzyzewski and his wife Mickie Krzyzewski held hands as they left the floor after the match which featured several lead changes during the streak.
The coach said having three children and 10 grandchildren has left him well equipped to deal with emotional ups and downs.
“You get used to taking care of the emotions of the people you love and are responsible for,” he told reporters after the game.
“That’s where I’m at. I’m sure at some point I’ll deal with this (lost game) in my own way. But right now we have to take care of our family, we’ve developed a family (with his players).”
North Carolina beat Duke in Krzyzewski’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 5 before kicking the Blue Devils out of the tournament on Saturday. It was the first time these legendary rivals, separated by less than 11 miles, had met in the NCAA Tournament.
“Tonight was a battle, it was a game where the winner was going to be happy and the loser was going to be in agony,” Krzyzewski said.
“It’s the type of game we expected. We would have liked to be on the other side. But I’m happy with what my guys did.”
Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said he took no particular pleasure in ending Krzyzewski’s career.
“It’s something I’ve never thought about and never will,” Davis told reporters. “All I think about are those kids, those players and I told them how happy I was to have a front row seat.”
Davis paid tribute to Krzyzewski, known as “Coach K” to college basketball fans, and the thrilling game that had just unfolded.
“Coach K is amazing and this team is the best team we have played so far,” he said. “We happened to make a few more plays tonight.”
Krzyzewski, now retired, finished his career with 1,202 wins and 368 losses, almost all at Duke.
He coached five seasons at West Point, his alma mater, before being hired by Duke in the spring of 1980, where he has been ever since.
Krzyzewski, 75, announced in June that he was hanging up after 42 seasons.
Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer, a former player who led the Blue Devils to the national title in 2010, has been tapped to take over. He was a two-time team captain and his 2,077 career points rank 10th in school history.
This was Krzyzewski’s 13th Final Four appearance, and his five national championships — in 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010 and 2015 — were only surpassed by John Wooden, who won 10 at UCLA.
Krzyzewski’s win total is the most in major men’s college hoops, ahead of Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who is still active and has 998 triumphs.
Across all NCAA divisions, Krzyzewski also tops Herb “Shot Doctor” Magee, who recently ended his half-century career at the school now known as Thomas Jefferson University, a Division II institution in Philadelphia, where he totaled 1,144 wins.
Other male college basketball coaches with at least 1,000 wins on any four-year campus include Harry Statham (1,122) of McKendree University; Danny Miles (1,040) of Oregon Tech; and Dave Holmquist (1,023), who is still active at the University of Biola.
Most of Statham’s and Holmquist’s wins and all of Miles’ wins were in competition with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), an affiliation separate from the NCAA and made up of smaller liberal arts colleges that often have religious affiliations.