The man known simply as “Coach K” became Division I’s winningest coach when No. 6 Duke beat Michigan State 74-69 on Tuesday night in the State Farm Champions Classic.
With Knight sitting across the court at the ESPN broadcast table, and with several former players in the stands — many able to attend because of the ongoing NBA lockout — Krzyzewski moved to the top of the list in front of a sellout crowd of 19,979 at Madison Square Garden.
Krzyzewski went right across the court to hug Knight when the game ended. Krzyzewski, tears in his eyes, broke away, and Knight pulled him back, hands on his shoulders, then there was one final slap of the shoulder.
“I just told Coach I love him,” Krzyzewski said. “I wouldn’t be in this position without him. It’s a moment shared. I know he’s very proud, and I’m very proud to have been somebody who’s worked under him and studied him and tried to be like him.
“I’m not sure how many people tell him they love him but I love him for what he’s done for me and I thanked him. He said ‘Boy, you’ve done pretty good for a kid who couldn’t shoot.’ I think that means he loves me too. At least that’s how I’m taking that.”
Junior guard Andre Dawkins had 26 points for Duke (3-0), which took control with a 20-1 run that gave the Blue Devils a 61-41 lead with 9:17 to play. Then it was just a matter of counting down the minutes — except for a late run by Michigan State that made it a five-point game in the final minute — until the celebration could get under way.
It wasn’t the Cameron Crazies cheering their coach on after a few nights waiting and sleeping in Krzyzewskiville. But a pro-Duke crowd started to get loud as the Blue Devils took control in the second half, as well as the fans from Michigan State, Kentucky and Kansas and a bunch of regular old New Yorkers including flimmaker and New York Knicks fan Spike Lee.
“The basketball gods are good … they put two guys who’ve done a lot in the game together, special moments, and tonight is another one of those special moments,” Krzyzewski said of Knight’s presence at the historic game.
The former players in attendance read like a Who’s Who of great college basketball players in the last three decades.
And they were all there for one reason.
“I can’t say I’m surprised because I saw firsthand the level of preparation, the level of passion he put into his program every single day,” said Shane Battier, who won a title with Krzyzewski. “I know if you gave him enough opportunity he’d give Bobby Knight a run for his money. It’s just amazing to be here on this night to see the culmination of this work.”
Like many others, Battier doesn’t think Krzyzewski will be done adding to the win total for several years.