Ode to K
When Duke survived Cinderella in Lucas Oil Stadium, the achievement moved Mike Krzyzewski (4) into a new realm of the great coaches -- not just in college basketball, but in all of sports.
Sure, Krzyzewski already had his place secure in the pantheon. But now, The Minutes will argue that he stands alone behind John Wooden (5) among the best in the history of his sport and is rivaled only by Phil Jackson among the greatest coaches in all major sports over the past 25 years.
Phil has won far more titles, but he also got to coach Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. (Granted, it isn't as if Krzyzewski has ever hurt for talent at Duke.) The only other coaches in major American sports who have won four championships since 1990 are Gregg Popovich, Joe Torre and Scotty Bowman.
None of them can match Krzyzewski's seven championship-round appearances in that time, or 11 semifinal appearances. And none of them spaced out his titles the way Krzyzewski has.
What winning this most recent title did was extend K's run of rings beyond any in college basketball history. He has won titles in 1991, '92, 2001 and now 2010 -- a span of 19 years. That's dog years in college basketball.
Compare it with Wooden's compressed domination between 1964 and 1975. The other coaches who have won more than two titles also did it in a relatively narrow window of time: Adolph Rupp (6) won four from 1948 to '58; Bob Knight (7) three from 1976 to '87.
From Christian Laettner (8) in 1991 to Kyle Singler (9) in 2010, that's a quantum leap across eras during some of the most tumultuous changes the game has ever seen. Players have become less permanent, recruiting has become more complex and fan patience has dwindled. Yet none of that has been able to derail the Duke express.
In some ways the Blue Devils' program is like the famous Gothic building where they play -- untouched by time and unmarred by so-called progress. At Duke, they still trade in that quaint commodity known as seniors -- and they even tend to graduate. The game experience at Cameron Indoor Stadium remains bereft of modern arena techno-gimmicks.
And yet in other ways Duke is as modern as any program in the country. The practice facility has all the stuff recruits (and head coaches) covet. The Blue Devils' style of play allows players as much freedom and creativity as they can handle. And Krzyzewski's gold-medal work with NBA stars internationally has given the 63-year-old all the street cred he needs to continue recruiting at the highest level.
That means you can expect Krzyzewski to still be a force in the game for as long as he feels like doing it. And that absolutely includes this season, since he has the team to beat once again.