Coach K on the verge of another milestone

December, 20, 2010
12/20/10
1:45
PM ET
If you're one of those people that gets annoyed by the media's purported "overcoverage" of the Duke Blue Devils -- and I'm not sure that's a fair claim in 2010, though it's certainly been true at times in the past -- you might want to tune out for the next, oh, four years. After a few seasons spent fretting over disappointing tournament exits and a much-ballyhooed slide into "just-another-good-program" status, Duke is currently looking as dominant as ever.

The past is, well, the past. Duke is the reigning national champion. The present is in fine shape: The Blue Devils are, even with Kyrie Irving's toe still in need of saving, one of the few NCAA title favorites this season. And the future is looking plenty bright: Duke is stockpiling talent on the recruiting trail; next year's top freshman point guard and No. 1 overall recruit, Austin Rivers, will be tearing it up in Irving-esque fashion by this time next winter.

[+] EnlargeMike Krzyzewski
Andrew Synowiez/US PresswireMike Krzyzewski is one win away from tying Dean Smith with 879 career victories.
And throughout all this reinvigorated success, coach Mike Krzyzewski is on the brink of numerous wins-related milestones that will no doubt compel writers far and wide to (very deservedly) praise his unique greatness. By the end of his career, Coach K will almost certainly be the all-time wins leader in college hoops. If this sort of thing annoys you, you might want to turn away now.

One of those milestones is likely to come tonight, and it's one that will draw special attention in the Research Triangle. If Duke beats Elon in Cameron tonight (which is probably more a "when" than an "if") Coach K will tie Dean Smith's career mark of 879 wins. That caused the Raleigh News & Observer to take stock of the two men's careers, the example Smith set for a young Coach K, and an infamous quote that Coach K says is all "hearsay." To wit:
After a 1984 game that included a technical foul for Krzyzewski but none for Smith, who attempted to sound the horn at the scorer's table himself, Krzyzewski decried what he perceived as a double standard in officiating. According to John Feinstein's book, "A March to Madness," Krzyzewski told his assistants during a 1997 game that if he ever acts like Smith, "just shoot me." [...]

"There are a lot of things said when coaches are talking, whether they be frivolous things, truthful things or things that you're goofing around about, that if we wanted a writer there, we probably wouldn't do the things we do," Krzyzewski said. "That's all hearsay."

I'm not exactly sure why the quote is "hearsay" -- presumably Feinstein heard Coach K say it before he included it in his book -- but it doesn't really matter. Neither coach was particularly loved by the other. North Carolina fans hate Duke; Duke fans hate North Carolina. Familiarity breeds contempt. Competitive proximity breeds hate. You wouldn't want it any other way.

But it would be hard for either coach -- or for fans of either North Carolina or Duke -- to disagree with this: Over the past 30 years, North Carolina and Duke were built from the ground up by two of the best coaches we've ever seen in any sport. As Wes Mantooth once famously told Ron Burgundy: "Deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight hate you. But God d--- it, do I respect you."

I hate to bust out the "Anchorman" quotes, but this one is especially fitting. They may not like each other, but on the verge of another coaching milestone on Tobacco Road, Dean Smith, Coach K and the fans that claim allegiance to each should absolutely share the respect.

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