Mike Krzyzewski is considered one of the greatest coaches in basketball history. He won 1,202 games in his 47-year college basketball coaching career, leading Duke to five NCAA championships and 15 ACC Tournament championships, plus he was a coach on five of the United States’ Gold Medal-winning Olympic men’s basketball teams.
Coach K was never involved in the NBA, as he did not play or coach in the league. But many of the players he coached went to the NBA, and he also coached many prominent NBA stars in the Olympics.
What Was Coach K’s Playing Career?
Mike Krzyzewski did play basketball for a few years in the 1960s. He played at Archbishop Weber High School in Chicago and led the Chicago Catholic League in scoring twice.
He went on to the United States Military Academy to play for Bob Knight’s Army Golden Knights team. Krzyzewski started playing in his sophomore year in 1966, which was also Knight’s second year as the Knights’ coach. While Krzyzewski became the captain of the Knights during his senior year, he only averaged 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game that year. The team went to the National Invitational Tournament and finished in fourth place.
Krzyzewski was never good enough of a player to be considered by the NBA, but he became more experienced as a coach in the Army in the 1970s. He was an Army officer from 1969 to 1974 and coached some service teams and U.S. Military Academy Prep School teams.
Krzyzewski was hired by Bob Knight to be an assistant coach for his Indiana Hoosiers team in 1974. Coach K spent one year in Bloomington, but it was a memorable one as the Hoosiers went 31-1 and reached the regional final of the NCAA Tournament. Coach K would leave after the season and returned to Army to coach the Black Knights from 1975 to 1980, collecting a 73-59 record and one NIT appearance. He was hired by Duke University in 1980 to coach their team, which he did for 42 seasons.
How Many Future NBA Stars Did He Coach?
Coach K coached more than seventy future NBA players while at Duke. Gene Banks was the first player he coached to be drafted, as he was taken in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs in 1981. Johnny Dawkins was the first first-round player to be coached by Coach K, as he was picked tenth in 1986 by the Spurs. Danny Ferry was the first Krzyzewski-coached lottery pick, as the Los Angeles Clippers took him second in 1989.
Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving, Zion Williamson, and Paolo Banchero were all first-overall picks. Grant Hill is the only Naismith Hall of Fame member who played under Coach K.
As of the 2022-23 season, Trevor Keels is the last Krzyzewski-coached player to be drafted into the NBA. He was picked 42nd by the New York Knicks, making him the fifth Blue Devil taken in that draft.
How About Team USA?
Coach K has also coached many NBA stars on the United States national men’s basketball team. He was an assistant to Bob Knight in 1984 and Chuck Daly in 1992, helping coach the team to Gold Medals in both those events. The 1984 team featured Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Sam Perkins, and Chris Mullin. The 1992 club featured Jordan, Ewing, Mullin, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, and Christian Laettner among other NBA stars.
Coach K was the head coach for the Gold Medal-winning USA teams in 2008, 2012, and 2016. Some of the NBA stars he coached included LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant.
Did Coach K’s Assistants Reach the NBA?
Only one of Coach K’s assistant coaches became a coach in the NBA. Quin Snyder was an assistant from 1995 to 1999, eventually becoming the head coach at Missouri from 1999 to 2006. Snyder would become the coach of the Utah Jazz from 2014 to 2022. He led the Jazz to six straight playoff appearances and three Northwest Division titles, plus he had a 372-264 record with the team.
None of Coach K’s other assistants made it to the NBA, but many are successful college coaches. Mike Brey has been coaching at Notre Dame since 2000 and has led the Fighting Irish to the Elite Eight twice. Jeff Capel has a twenty-year career in college coaching that spans Virginia Commonwealth, Oklahoma, and Pittsburgh. Tommy Amaker has been coaching Harvard since 2007 and has led the Crimson to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including a 2012 appearance that was their first since 1946.