In 1986, Coach K got Duke to the Final Four for the first time. With Mark Alarie, Jay Bilas, David Henderson, Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker starting, and Billy King, Danny Ferry and Weldon Williams off the bench, the Blue Devils were ready.
Unfortunately Duke couldn’t contain Pervis Ellison as the freshman shot 10-14 for 25 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Louisville to a narrow 72-69 win.
Years later, Coach K said that had he had more experience, he would have known better how to coach his team through the whole tournament. Duke had been through a challenging tournament, defeating a tougher than expected Mississippi Valley State, then Old Dominion, DePaul and Navy with David Robinson before reaching the Final Four.
Kansas was a tough out, largely due to Danny Manning.
For Duke, David Henderson, the spiritual heart of the team, entered the tournament in an offensive slump and that may be partly what Krzyzewski was referring to.
Whatever it was, Duke served notice the following year that it wasn’t going anywhere by making a Sweet Sixteen run the following year. Final Fours followed in 1988, 1989 and 1990 before winning Duke’s first championship in 1991.
The 1986 team was the foundation of all that followed.