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Duke To Play On K Cake Day

How have the Devils done on Mike Krzyzewski’s birthday?

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Duke
Even the referees will want to wish Coach K happy birthday this weekend
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

February 13 is Mike Krzyzewski’s 74th birthday. He was born in Chicago to Polish immigrants Emily and Bill Krzyzewski.

Saturday the 13th marks the 14th time in Coach K’s 41 seasons at Duke his Blue Devils will play on his birthday. That’s better than one year in three in which he’s coached at Duke.

Three ACC men’s head coaches were born in February, with Krzyzewski and Boston College’s Jim Christian, born on Feb. 6, directing teams that are playing on their birthdays. BC hosted NC State and, roster drained by COVID and injury, was demolished. A week later the Wolfpack host Duke on Krzyzewski’s birthday.

Barring a schedule shuffle — hardly a rarity this season — Pitt won’t be playing on Feb. 12, Jeff Capel’s birthday.

Louisville didn’t play on Dec. 30, Chris Mack’s date of birth.

Two coaches whose teams probably won’t make the NCAAs were born on March 22, when second-round NCAA games will be played. By then neither Notre Dame’s Mike Brey nor Wake Forest Steve Forbes figures to be leading a winning team, let alone an NCAA entrant. (Brey, who turns 62, is six years older.)

Duke has gone 9-4 in games played on Krzyzewski’s birthday, an opportunity it last had in 2016. Going to Raleigh will be a tough test even if both teams are reeling. Since 2013 the Wolfpack has won two of three and three of the last five against the Blue Devils at PNC Arena. The schools have not met previously on K Day.

The opponent in five of those 13 birthday games (38.5 percent) was Wake Forest, which delivered all four defeats suffered by Duke on Feb. 13. The teams squared off four times in an 11-year span from 1993 through 2003, back when the Demon Deacons were a first-rank program.

The Devils’ only win in that span came in 1999, when they became the last ACC team to go undefeated in league play.

Another K Day quirk: all but four games Duke played on those occasions were at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the home coach was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” from the fans. NC State’s smattering of onlookers probably won’t be as generous.

The Blue Devils have won their last five games on Krzyzewski’s birthday.

Just out of curiosity we checked how teams directed by another longtime ACC head coach and Hall of Famer fared on his February birthday. North Carolina squads coached by Dean Smith were 5-4 in games played on the 28th, including 1-2 against Duke (losses in 1970 and 1981 and a victory in 1976.)

Duke Records on Feb. 13 Since 1981 Season
(* Indicates Number of Overtime Periods)
Year W/L Opponent Score Venue
1982 L Wake Forest 71-86 Home
1985 W Stetson 94-51 Home
1988 W Maryland 90-83 Away
1991 W Davidson 74-39 Home
1993 L Wake Forest 86-98 Home
1994 L Wake Forest 69-78 Away
1999 W Wake Forest 102-71 Home
2003 L Wake Forest 80-94** Away
2008 W Maryland 77-65 Home
2010 W Maryland 77-56 Home
2011 W Miami 81-71 Away
2013 W North Carolina 73-68 Home
2016 W Virginia 63-62 Home
2021 TBD NC State TBD Away