Blue Devils Make a Trip to the Hilltop

Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils took to the San Francisco Chase Center to face off against the University of Arkansas Razorbacks where they claimed a 78-69 win before moving onto the Final Four. PHOTO BY D. MYLES CULLEN/COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

April 2, 2022, will be forever marked as the end of one of the most storied and successful collegiate coaching careers of all time. Former Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, famously known as “Coach K”, coached his final game for the Duke University Blue Devils in a Final Four loss to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. 

Krzyzewski is regarded as one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, if not the greatest. He finished his career as the all-time winningest coach in Division l men’s basketball history with a total of 1,202 wins. In addition to his time with the Blue Devils, Krzyzewski served as the head coach for the USA Men’s Basketball national team where he finished his career with an astonishing record of 75-1 before handing the program over to Golden State Warrior head coach Steve Kerr in 2016.

In the weeks leading up to his final game, Krzyzewski and Duke played their NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games at the Chase Center in Mission Bay.

The University of San Francisco had the pleasure of hosting Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils for practice in the Sobrato Center as they prepared for their upcoming games. There were even a few Duke fans and USF students alike lined up outside the Sobrato Center hoping to meet some of the players and get a glimpse of the renowned head coach. The Blue Devils’ visit to San Francisco also served as a trip down memory lane for Krzyzewski. 

Before he began his coaching career in 1974 as an assistant coach at Indiana, Krzyzewski was enlisted in the army and stayed in  the barracks in the Presidio. Krzyzewski had the opportunity to play for the All-Army team during his time at West Point and spent nearly six months at the Presidio in 1971 and 1972. In a pregame press conference, Krzyzewski shared, “I know this area well,” and described the memories that he shared with the city of San Francisco as well as with USF. “Heck, when we practiced yesterday at San Francisco, [I recalled when] I practiced there and the great Bobby Giron, who has since passed, used to help run that program. It’s conjured up a lot of the great memories.” Giron spent 22 years in the Army as a basketball coach before he came to the Hilltop, where he served as the equipment manager from 1970 until his death in 2006. He was inducted into the USF Hall of Fame in 2003.

Krzyzewski has great respect for San Francisco and the Bay Area because of their love for the game of basketball. “I try to tell my guys, this area loves basketball. Not just the Warriors, it’s deep-rooted,” he said. 

In the press conference, Krzyzewski brought up the Don’s three national championships in ‘49, ‘55, and ‘56. He described how at the end of Duke’s practice in the Sobrato Center, he brought his team together and pointed at the ’55 and ’56 banners and asked “Who was their best player?” To his surprise, everyone yelled “Bill Russell!” 

“I was ready to dig in on them but they knew it,” Krzyzewski said. Bill Russell played for the USF Dons from 1953 to 1956, in which he led the team to two consecutive national championships, as well as leading them to 55 straight wins in 1953. Russell was named the Most Valuable Player of the Final Four in 1955.

It is no question that San Francisco has made a lasting impact on one of the greatest collegiate coaches of all time, and Kryzewksi had no problem making it known to the world. In his concluding remark, he said, “I love this area, it really is part of the foundation of me becoming a coach.” Krzyzewski leaves a legacy that is unmatched and will serve as the highest standard of what it means to be a great coach. 

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