Mike Krzyzewski hustled off the court, just as he has done so many times during three-plus decades at Duke.
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The Hall of Fame coach tried to turn this one into just another victory, and it didn’t work.
This time, Coach K caught his college coach on the career wins list.
Krzyzewski tied Bob Knight atop the Division I men’s victories list with his 902nd victory in No. 6 Duke’s 96-55 rout against Presbyterian on Saturday.
”Whenever an individual coaching honor occurs, it’s because of your players and your assistants and the infrastructure you build,” Krzyzewski said. ”You’re just the recipient of a lot of good things, then, because you’re the head of it. Good players and unselfish kids win a lot of ballgames.”
Ryan Kelly scored 17 points for the Blue Devils (2-0), who shot 61 percent and used a huge first-half run to deliver another milestone victory to their Hall of Fame coach. Coach K improved to 902-284 during his 37th season as a college coach at Army and Duke. He can pass Knight – his coach and mentor – on Tuesday night against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden.
Krzyzewski entered this season needing three wins to pass Knight, and repeatedly has said how proud he is that the first two men’s coaches in Division I to reach 900 wins are a coach and his former point guard. That bond, naturally, led to some good-natured needling between the two.
”He says to me, `Michael … Can you tell your kids to win those three games real quick?”’ Krzyzewski said. ”I said, `Coach, yeah, those first three, every game’s important.’ He says, `No, no, not for that. I’m getting tired of saying nice things about you.’
”He says, `Tell your players I’m getting angry, and maybe that will motivate them,”’ Krzyzewski added. ”I said, `Well, Coach, I’ve spent my entire life trying to make sure you haven’t been angry.”’
Krzyzewski continued his steady climb up the wins list by matching Knight – for whom he ran the point at Army in the 1960s. The Cameron Crazies chanted ”902” as the final seconds ticked away, then chanted his name after the horn.
The public address announcer notified the 9,314 in attendance that the win moved Krzyzewski into a tie with Knight, and Coach K briefly huddled with the Blue Devils on the court, then whisked into the locker room as the song ”Celebration” blared from the speakers.
”We want to win for Coach, but we want to win every game,” Kelly said. ”That’s how we approach it, and that’s how Coach approaches it. He’s just worried about the game at hand. Numbers are a nice thing, but we need to worry about our team right now.”
Krzyzewski insisted the record ”hasn’t been a distraction for me, except time-wise. I’m good about not making it that big of a thing, even though I know it’s a big thing. I’m not minimizing it, but it really will happen (in time), and the development of my team will only happen right now. I’ve got to do that (develop his team). That’s just what you’re supposed to do.
”It’s kind of hard to believe, really.”
Freshman Austin Rivers scored 15 points, Miles Plumlee had 13 points and 11 rebounds and younger brother Mason Plumlee added 13 points for Duke, which improved on a couple of streaks at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils won their NCAA-best 38th straight home game and their 88th in a row against nonconference opponents at home.
The biggest challenge the Blue Devils faced – aside from all the attention for their coach’s march toward history – was the possibility of fatigue after a quick turnaround. The game against Presbyterian started roughly 17 hours after Duke’s tighter-than-expected, 77-76 victory over pesky mid-major Belmont in the opener.
”It was weird because I’m not really used to anything like that – the only experience I have is AAU, where you play like four games in one day, but that’s nothing like a college game,” Rivers said. ”We know what we have to lose, and that’s a lot. We come in here very focused and very ready to win, and that’s what we did.”
The Blue Devils had to work plenty hard to beat those Bruins, who returned the nucleus of a regular NCAA tournament team. They weren’t required to expel nearly as much effort to beat a Blue Hose team that until last year had never defeated an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.
”It was like going into a knife fight with a toothpick,” Presebyterian coach Gregg Nibert said.
Duke’s young team – which has only one senior on the roster – is learning to play without three key players who are now on NBA rosters: Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and, to a lesser extent, Kyrie Irving, who played only 11 games during his lone injury-plagued season in Durham.
These Blue Devils took a significant step forward by coming up with their first overwhelming run of the new season.
Duke outscored Presbyterian 29-6 midway through the first half to push its lead well into double figures and remove all the drama from this one.
The Blue Devils led just 19-17 with 12 minutes left in the half before Mason Plumlee started the burst with consecutive baskets. Freshman Quinn Cook hit two 3s during the surge and reserve Josh Hairston capped the run with a layup that made it 48-20 with 3 minutes before the break. Cook and Seth Curry finished with 10 points apiece.
Al’Lonzo Coleman had 11 points for Presbyterian (1-1). Pierre Miller scored 10 points, and his 3 made it a two-point game before Duke began its decisive run. Presbyterian, the preseason pick to finish seventh in the Big South, went 8 1/2 minutes without a field goal during that span.
”That was a clinic out there offensively,” Nibert said. ”We know how great their guards are, and we tried to go in there and hope that the big guys beat us. They not only beat us, they did a tremendous job.”