Clippers’ Duke products Redick, Rivers & Jones enjoyed Krzyzewski’s lessons

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski earned his 1,000th career victory on Sunday, and that accomplishment resonated around the country, especially with the Clippers.

Clippers guards J.J. Redick, Dahntay Jones and Austin Rivers all played for Krzyzewski at Duke. They all still keep in touch with him, and Redick calls him one of his best friends.

"When I got married, it was at the end of June (in 2010) and it was the third session of Duke basketball camp," Redick said. "It was the opening day of Duke basketball camp. Coach has some responsibilities on that day. It was a Saturday. He went to the camp. He signed autographs. He talked to the parents. He talked to kids. He got on a private plane and flew down and got a room at the hotel just to change.

Krzyzewski led Duke to a 77-68 win over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden with many former players and dignitaries in attendance.

"It’s been amazing to have been able to have played for him," Jones said. "It’s an honor. It’s been the best basketball lesson I’ve had in my life to be able to learn from him, to learn the game of basketball and learn the game of life from him. He’s been a great attribute to my life. He’s the best basketball role model I’ve ever had."

The 34-year-old Jones was playing with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the NBA’s developmental league this season until the Clippers recently signed him to a 10-day contract. He got signed to a second one, too.

That didn’t go unnoticed by Krzyzewski.

"I got a birthday message and a (another) message from him saying ‘congratulations and keep working hard and good things happen when you work hard’" Jones said.

"They mean the world. He still cares about us. I know he does. They mean the world."

The 1,000 wins – a feat that has never been accomplished – is remarkable. In Krzyzewski’s storied 35-year career at Duke, he won four national titles.

Austin Rivers was playing at Duke for another of Krzyzewski’s milestones, when he broke the career college coaching record at 903.

"That’s amazing. I’ll definitely be tweeting about it, saying all I can," Rivers said. "I was there when he got the (903) game (to break the wins record) in Madison Square Garden. That game was crazy. We weren’t even playing to win that game. We were playing to win for him. That’s what it was.

"That whole focus, Coach said, ‘it’s not about me. Let’s get the win.’ But we got in the huddle and said ‘we’re winning this one for coach.’ We played Michigan State in Madison Square Garden, so it wasn’t some game we could just cupcake it and win the game. We had to play a great ballgame. It was crazy because he brought back every NBA player, Dahntay and J.J. were there, every player that played for him was at the game. Obviously, it’s in season now so we can’t go to that game but if we all could (have) we would’ve been there."

The Clippers had an afternoon game at Phoenix on Sunday, so they weren’t able to be in New York to honor Krzyzewski.

Being coached by Krzyzewski was instrumental in their careers, but they’ve all enjoyed their relationship with Krzyzewski after they left Duke so much more.

"He’s always been a guy to turn to for advice and a voice, a respected voice," Austin Rivers said. "He has a lot of NBA players in the league. We have three on this team right now. He’s just a guy that stays in touch with everybody … We try to stay in touch with everybody. Everybody is kind of a family at Duke, so it’s pretty cool when you go there."

Krzyzewski is one of the most respected coaches in the world, professional and college alike. Chris Paul, who played college basketball at Wake Forest, said last year that he was leaning toward playing in the 2016 Olympics because Krzyzewski was coaching and that he might not have considered it if it was any other coach.

Jones, Rivers and Redick have plenty of memorable moments they’ll surely think about with Krzyzewski’s latest accomplisment.

"My freshman year he got upset at a practice and threw an unopened, full Dasani water bottle across the floor, and it went underneath the bleachers," Redick recalled. "The bleachers were pulled back in Cameron so it went underneath the bleachers. Later on, after practice, we all went out there, like: ‘There’s no way that bottle should’ve fit underneath there.’ Sure enough, no matter how hard we tried, a Dasani water bottle couldn’t fit under the bleachers. That’s why they call it ‘Coach K Court,’ I guess. He has the magic there."

And at Madison Square Garden, where he won his 1,000th game on Sunday. It was a moment that resonated all over the country, especially with the Clippers in Phoenix.