NEW YORK – Mike Krzyzewski passed Bob Knight, then spent some special time with his former coach.
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.
The Blue Devils (3-0) gave Krzyzewski his 903rd win, breaking the tie with Knight, Krzyzewski’s college coach at Army and his mentor throughout his professional career.
Junior guard Andre Dawkins had 26 points for Duke, 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 until the celebration could get under way.
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 Knight when the game ended. They were cheek to cheek in a hug. Krzyzewski, tears in his eyes, broke away and Knight pulled him back, hands on his shoulders, then 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.”
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.
“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.
Dawkins, who had six 3-pointers, and Ryan Kelly hits 3s to start Duke’s big run. As Michigan State (0-2) kept missing shots down low, Seth Curry hit another 3 for Duke and then the Blue Devils closed the run by making 6 of 6 attempts at the free-throw line.
The Spartans kept Krzyzewski coaching to the final minute. They finally started hitting shots and forcing turnovers to close to 74-69 with 12.9 seconds left.
“It’s a special moment,” Krzyzewski said of his family and former players being there. “At halftime I wasn’t sure we were going to have this moment. We beat a really good team and I’m glad now we can just move on and just develop our team.”