Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Krzyzewski will be remembered as a winner

In 1986 and 1988, Mike Krzyzewski's first two Final Fours, no one could have predicted he would be in any argument as the best college coach ever between he or John Wooden.

Wooden had already retired with 10 national championships.

The Wizard of Westwood coached a total of 29 years, including his first two at Indiana State, and had an overall record of 664-162. A winning percentage of .804.

Wooden was 52 when he made his first Final Four, which he lost to eventual champion Cincinnati in Louisville.

Krzyzewski was 39 when he made his first Final Four, this one in Dallas, and Duke lost to Louisville.

Maybe it should just be a tie as to which one is the G.O.A.T. Both had great careers.

Wooden's basketball was in a different era. There was no shot clock, no three-point shot, and basketball was well behind football and baseball in popularity.

Wooden was respected and well-liked by the media, and for many years until his death in 2010, he was a guest at the Final Four. The story was told and retold how he daily read the love letters his wife wrote him before she passed.

Krzyzewski was a popular interview during his first two Final Fours.

He was witty and smart (the man did graduate from West Point) and never seemed like he had anything to do but answer questions from the press.

As it does with most people, that changed with success and wealth.

In 1990, Duke knocked off a very good Arkansas team 97-83 to advance to the championship game where UNLV spanked the Blue Devils 103-73.

The next year, the two met in the semifinals of the Final Four. Duke knocked off the undefeated Runnin' Rebels and then beat Kansas for Krzyzewski's first national championship.

That Final Four was in Indianapolis, and an interesting sidebar was Dean Smith and North Carolina were beaten by Kansas, coached by Roy Williams, who later became the head coach at North Carolina.

Duke beat Kansas for the national championship and repeated the next year by beating Michigan.

Krzyzewski and Duke were upset in the second round the next year, and in 1994 were beaten by the Arkansas Razorbacks for the championship.

By then, Krzyzewski wasn't as witty.

It was as if the fish bowl existence was forcing him to circle the wagons. His family was at every game but always behind the scenes.

By then, he was also recruiting the best players in the country and 30-plus win seasons were almost expected.

His personal pledge was no championship banner would be hung until every player on that team had graduated. In later years, that pledge was forgotten.

Last Saturday was Krzyzewski's final game in Duke's Cameron Indoor Center. At 75, he's retiring, but all day had been unofficially Mike Krzyzewski Day on ESPN. After the game, there was a short ceremony that ESPN carried live.

It was obvious from the moment Krzyzewski and his wife Mickie, holding hands, walked onto the court to a thunderous ovation that the coach was not happy.

Duke had lost to rival North Carolina, 94-81.

That was not acceptable to Krzyzewski. Not because it was his last home game after 42 years, but it was a loss to the team who had refused to respect him and his final appearance in the Dean Dome before their game on Feb 5.

Krzyzewski admonished his team on national TV for not playing hard, pointed at the banners hanging from the rafters and said there was time and room for more.

Like Krzyzewski or not, there's one thing he will always be remembered for: Winning, and he has done it more than anyone else with 1,196 wins.

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