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Friday, 14 March 2008 18:02
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 DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -Long before he became Coach K, Mike Krzyzewski was a captain in the Army. Maybe that's why he's so comfortable with his ascent to a leadership position among coaches.
While Krzyzewski has long been one of the elite coaches in the sport, a pair of important developments this season - the retirement of mentor Bob Knight and the achievement of his 800th career win - have raised his profile even further, elevating him to the unquestioned dean of those who remain active.
As he begins pursuit of his fourth national title this week, the 61-year-old with the Army-honed sense of service has grown quite comfortable with his new role as one of the caretakers of the sport.
guys, and so I'm OK with that.''
Through a coaching career that has spanned more than three decades - and as the victories, championships and milestones piled up - the once-anonymous coach with the hard-to-spell last name developed into one of the most recognizable figures in sports, loved as passionately by Duke's fans as he is detested by the Blue Devils' rivals.
He reached a consistently high level of success that not many other coaches have matched. In 28 seasons at Duke, the Hall of Fame coach has led the Blue Devils to 10 Final Fours, three national titles and an NCAA-record nine 30-win seasons - with a 10th still a possibility this year - and clearly remains driven to add to those already impressive credentials.
``The single biggest motivation for me in competing is, I hate to lose, and I haven't lost that, and it's gotten deeper,'' Krzyzewski said. ``As soon as I would not feel that way, then I would stop coaching.''
He entered the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with 801 career wins - three behind interim San Francisco coach Eddie Sutton among active coaches - and a strong showing this postseason could propel him past Sutton, place him fifth on the career list and make him the winningest active men's coach.
``Eight hundred ... is a mind-boggling achievement. It's an achievement that I don't think I'll ever see,'' said one of Krzyzewski's fiercest adversaries, North Carolina coach Roy Williams - who entered the league tournament with 553 career wins in his 20th season.
He ``has done it as well as anybody that's ever done it,'' Williams added. ``What he's doing now, or what he has done over the last 10-15 years of college basketball is harder than what was done 20 or 30 years ago because ... there's so much more parity. He is definitely one of the leaders of college basketball coaches. He's definitely one of the leaders of coaches, period.''
In a few years, Krzyzewski could become THE leader among men's coaches - especially if Duke keeps winning at its Duke-like pace. His Blue Devils teams have averaged about 26 wins during his time in Durham, and if they maintain that pace, sometime during the 2011-12 season Krzyzewski would surpass Knight - his beloved mentor and the winningest coach in the men's game who abruptly retired last month after his 901st career win.
Krzyzewski has long professed his affection for Knight, who coached him at Army in the late 1960s - outside of his family, ``no single person has had a greater impact on my life than Coach Knight,'' Krzyzewski said when Knight retired - and the man who replaced him at Texas Tech endorses Coach K as a fitting successor as the dean of active coaches.
Pat Knight, who took over the Red Raiders upon his father's retirement, said he sent Coach K a congratulatory note after Duke beat North Carolina State two weeks ago for No. 800.
``I'm really extremely happy because it's somebody that's not just played for my dad, but he's close to our family,'' Knight said. ``He's like a brother to me. I couldn't be happier for him.''
Over the years, Krzyzewski's victories on the court have allowed him to spread his influence beyond basketball - he has written books, raised funds, taught an annual leadership seminar at Duke and turned his name into a brand that has become synonymous with success in the board room - and he insists he isn't slowing down. Instead, his newest job as the coach of the U.S. Olympic team that will compete at this summer's games in Beijing has given him an added appreciation for everything else on his busy schedule.
``You do some things differently because you're 61 - at least, I do,'' Krzyzewski said. ``You change along the way. ... For me, coaching the national team has helped me make even that transition a little bit better.''
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Associated Press Writer Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas, contributed to this report.
 

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