Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — In a cordoned off area at Madison Square Garden, far removed from the ESPN cameras and the horde of reporters covering the game, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski shared a private moment with his family.
The group included not only his wife Mickie, and his immediate family, but his extended Duke family, too.
Former players Bobby Hurley, Jay Williams, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Jay Bilas, Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand, Billy King, Roshown McLeod and many others listened in as Coach K told them all career victory No. 903 — the one that moved him past his mentor Bob Knight and into first place on the all-time Division 1 wins list– was a “program win.”
“I hope all you former players still view me as your coach the way I still view Coach Knight as mine,” Coach K told them after his Duke squad beat Michigan State, 74-69. “I’ve never called him anything else.”
Ah, Coach Knight.
After the game, Coach K walked across the Madison Square Garden court and the two men, mentor and student from their days at West Point, shared a private moment.
“I love you and I love what you’ve done for me and thank you,” Coach K told his mentor.
“Boy, you’ve done pretty good for a kid who couldn’t shoot,” Knight answered back.
“So I think that means he loves me, too,” Krzyzewski later told reporters. “I’m going to take it as that, I’m going to take it as that.”
Krzyzewski said it was a moment of great joy for him that Knight — broadcasting the game on ESPN — was there to share the history making moment.
“I want to thank the basketball Gods for allowing coach to be here for this moment, to have the two of us together because you don’t know that that will happen,” Coach K said.
“That was really a good thing for the two of us to be together tonight.”
In the days leading up to Win 903, Knight joked that he was getting tired of praising his former pupil so much.
“Michael, will you win the first three games so I can stop saying nice things about you,” Knight told him.
“Coach, for the entire time I was at West Point, you never said one nice thing about me,” Krzyzewski shot back.
Coach K told the media that there had been too much focus on himself this week and that he was glad to have the milestone in his rearview mirror.
“I’m getting tired of watching me on TV,” he cracked. “The kids see that and it puts some pressure on them.”
Freshman guard Austin Rivers, sporting a cut over his right eye from the game, seemed somewhat frustrated with his own 1-for-7 shooting night, but glad to be a part of history.
“It’s a big win here in Madison Square Garden, certain players stepped up tonight and I’m glad we got the win for coach,” he said. “It’s really interesting to be a part of it.”
As Coach K moves toward the next big plateau — 1,000 wins, anyone ?– he wants to get back to the business of trying to win championship No. 5 with Rivers and this current group.
“I want to win a championship with each team I coach,” he said. “So I’m more into that because that’s the moment you want with each group.”
And here he was, on this most historic of nights, sharing the moment not only with Rivers and his current players, but with all the groups before.
“When you got a whole back hallway of former players, to me there’s nothing better than that,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “That’s the greatest thing that happened tonight.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.