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The Historic Success of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski

News that former POTUS Barack Obama has picked The Blue Devils as favorites to win the 2023 NCAA Basketball championship should come as no surprise given Duke’s recent run of form. What’s more, Obama’s sage estimation appears to be corroborated by bookmakers who have Duke wading into March Madness with odds of +3000 to carry the tournament. 

Fortunately, American fans can now make the most of this opportunity to back the Devils following the repeal of federal legislation PASPA in 2018 that previously limited sports betting across the country. Before then, it was largely up to international college basketball fans, who could make use of lines offered by platforms operating from gambling industry hotspots such as Malta, to back Duke’s hope of adding to their prestigious record.

And what a record it is—all told, Duke is the fourth most successful team in the NCAA’s long history, behind only UCLA, Kentucky, and North Carolina. This is all the more impressive when one realizes that all five of its national titles came under the leadership of legendary “Coach K”, Mike Krzyzewski.

Early Career

In 1974 Krzyzewski began his coaching career in earnest at Indiana University, where he worked as an assistant under Bob Knight and participated in a historic season for the Hoosiers. In that year, the side won no less than 37 big ten matches—in dominant fashion too, typically finishing up with an average point lead of over 20. Their sensational run was ultimately cut short by Kentucky in the Elite Eight. 

Coach K was not to stick around however and moved the next year to West Point Military Academy, his alma mater, where he assumed the role of head coach. There he stayed for five seasons and led the side to a distinguished record including two NIT appearances. All told, under his purview the team enjoyed a winning average of .553, tasting victory 73 times out of 132 games.

Joining Duke

In 1980, Kryzyezewki began his iconic relationship with Duke University, where he assumed the role of head coach on the 18th of March that year. Before his arrival, Duke had been a decent side and one that had entered the NCAA eight times previously, with their highest finish coming in the Final Four in 1963. They were not considered among the top flight of the tournament, and few could have predicted that the side had the latent potential to become one of the greatest franchises in NCAA history.


Kryzyezewki came in at ground level and began patiently rebuilding the side. Following two unremarkable yet promising seasons, Duke broke through to the NCAA in their third season under Coach K, the first time they had qualified in almost a decade. Then, in 1986, The Blue Devils enjoyed their first Final Four in over 20 years. Following right on from this, in 1987, they won the ACC for the first time since 1966. 

Revolutionary Success

Ultimately, Kryzyezewki brought an analytical rigor to the side that was lacking, instilled a formidable work ethic, and made wise recruitment choices over his tenure. This ended up resulting in the side winning no less than NCAA titles, 13 ACC regular season titles, and 15 ACC championship titles. 

What ended up being remarkable about Dukes under Coach K was their consistency. He contributed to the Dukes reaching the Final Four no less than 13 times, the last of which came in his final season with the franchise in 2022. This is now a standing NCAA record and should be counted among Kryzyezewki’s highest achievements. When the legendary Coach K finally retired from the franchise he made history after 42 years, he had notched a winning record of .785 with 1129 to 309. 

Olympic Gold Medals

Krzyzewski is also a multiple-time Olympian, having served as the assistant coach for the Barcelona 1992 “Dream Team”, and head coach of the US basketball teams that won gold medal victories in the Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016 competitions.

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