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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Significance of 903





In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I adopted the Duke Blue Devils as my second-favorite team (after my alma mater) sometime in the '90s. College basketball has its share of legend coaches, just like football. In a certain way, there are more of them: Wooden, Smith, Rupp, Knight, and the rest. If you watch the sport, there are those still in the game who are legends even before their sunset: Boeheim, Calhoun, Pitino, Krzyzewski. And now
Krzyzewski stands above them atop the win list of men's college basketball. The relatively young man of 64 is numerically greater than all of them. What would have happened if the coach had not led his seriously flawed team past the rising Butler Bulldogs in 2010? Would the celebration of this moment, the adulation, and the editorials be this fawning? No way. And surely that run was energized by leading Team USA to Olympic gold in Beijing. So here we are, facing one incontovertible fact: Arguably the greatest coach ever in college basketball doesn't think he's done yet. He and Coach Pat Summitt can argue that one while there's still time. But they asked him what was next. He said he hadn't won a championship with this team. That didn't sound like a man riding off into the sunset. Imagine what it would be like to be on a team that plays in the championship tournament every year. What if that same team were in the final 16 teams of that tournament nearly every year, and was considered a failure if not? Imagine a bad season of 30-5. Imagine defeating most of your opponents on fear alone. You begin to get some idea what Coach K has done. More championships than Smith. More than Knight. More than Boeheim. With recent events, we can't extrapolate moral virtue from athletic dominance or loyalty, if we ever could. But we can say that a seemingly nice guy has already redefined basketball, and isn't near done.

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