As he approaches 1,000 wins, Mike Krzyzewski continues to expand his legacy. He has won four national titles and produced a multitude of NBA draft picks and All-Americans.
Krzyzewski, Bobby Knight, John Wooden and Dean Smith are all in the “greatest coach of all time” conversation.
Krzyzewski has coached some great teams throughout his tenure. Here are his best Duke squads (in order). Agree? Disagree? Tell us on Twitter by using #Top10Thursday.
Christian Laettner led the Blue Devils to their second consecutive national championship. That 34-2 squad defeated its opponents by an average of 15.4 points per game. It led the nation in shooting a 54 percent clip from the field. And then the Blue Devils whipped the Fab Five by 20 points in the title game. This wasn’t just Coach K’s best team -- it was one of the greatest squads in NCAA history. Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Thomas Hill, Cherokee Parks. What a squad.
The greatest Duke team that never won a championship. The only blemish on this assembly’s résumé is its loss to Rip Hamilton and Connecticut in the national title game. But that’s the only thing this marvelous crew failed to achieve. Duke went 37-2, averaged 91.8 PPG (No. 1 in the nation) and defeated its opponents by 24.6 PPG (No. 1 in the nation). Trajan Langdon scored 25 in the title game, but it wasn’t enough. Elton Brand won every major national player of the year honor. William Avery, Corey Maggette, Nate James, Shane Battier, Chris Carrawell. My goodness.
The 1990-91 UNLV team, which entered that year’s NCAA tournament with a 30-0 record, was arguably the greatest squad that failed to win a championship, perhaps even better than the Runnin’ Rebels who crushed Duke by 30 points in the 1990 national championship. Duke beat that great UNLV team in the 1991 Final Four (that night, Laettner finished with 28 points, Grant Hill had 11 points and Hurley collected seven assists) before advancing to defeat Kansas in the national title game.
Today’s college basketball fans probably recognize Jason Williams as an ESPN commentator. But check the YouTube clips, man. Williams was a beast and one of the greatest point guards in college basketball history. His 2000-01 squad averaged 90.7 PPG. Carlos Boozer, Chris Duhon and Mike Dunleavy Jr. were on that team. Oh, and Battier won the Wooden Award that year. These Blue Devils beat Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas and a strong Arizona squad by 10 points in the national title game.
Coach K’s back-to-back rings in the early '90s didn’t just materialize from thin air. He’d been building Duke basketball for years. Proof? Under Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils reached the Final Four three times in the 1980s. The 1985-86 Duke squad won 37 games, secured the ACC’s regular-season and tournament titles, and lost only to “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison and Louisville in the national championship. That team included Johnny Dawkins (Naismith Award winner), Danny Ferry, Tommy Amaker and some guy named Jay Bilas.
After Laettner graduated, Grant Hill guided the 28-win Blue Devils to an ACC title and the national championship, where they lost to Corliss Williamson and Arkansas. Hill was a first-team All-American and a member of the NCAA’s all-tournament team. With Jeff Capel, Antonio Lang (NCAA all-tournament team), Parks and Chris Collins, Duke averaged 70.7 PPG throughout the 1994 NCAA tournament and made 39.7 percent of its 3-pointers.
This squad lost to eventual national champion UConn by one in the 2004 Final Four. That team’s best players -- J.J. Redick and Luol Deng -- have a combined career average of 26.2 PPG in the NBA. Shavlik Randolph connected on a tourney-best 76.9 percent of his field goal attempts. Duhon finished with 15 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds in that Final Four loss to UConn. The Blue Devils won 31 games and finished second in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.
Somehow, this team failed to advance beyond the Sweet 16, where Jared Jeffries dropped 24 points for Indiana in a thrilling 74-73 Duke loss. These Blue Devils, however, were phenomenal. They won 31 games, averaged 88.9 PPG and led the nation with a 19.7-PPG scoring margin. Williams won every meaningful national player of the year award. Dunleavy was a second-team All-American. Boozer shot 64.5 percent from the field in three NCAA tourney games and led the Blue Devils with 19 points and nine rebounds in the loss to the Hoosiers. Dahntay Jones, Duhon, Daniel Ewing. Great team that underachieved.
The toe injury that changed a season. Kyrie Irving played in just 11 games in 2010-11 after suffering the injury in December of that season. The freshman returned in time to average 17.6 PPG in Duke’s three NCAA tournament games (Duke lost to Arizona 93-77 in the Sweet 16) and secure the No. 1 spot in the 2011 NBA draft. But he played only 303 minutes that season, so he never had the chance to truly jell with talented teammates Kyle Singler, Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee, Nolan Smith and Seth Curry. Had Irving been healthy all season, Duke might have consecutive national titles.
Ferry was a consensus All-American in 1989, the same year he led Duke to the Final Four and scored 34 points in a loss to Seton Hall after defeating Charles Smith, Alonzo Mourning and the Georgetown Hoyas in the Elite Eight. Ferry’s Blue Devils (Phil Henderson, Quin Snyder, Laettner) finished in a tie for second in the ACC and lost to North Carolina in the ACC tourney title game. They won 28 games, shot 53.7 percent from the field and beat their opponents by an average of 16.7 PPG that year.