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He’s The GOAT To Everyone - Except ACC Sportswriters

Mike Krzyzewski hasn’t been coach of the year since last century

UNC Wilmington vs. Duke
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski questions a first-half call on Thursday, March 17, 2016, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I.
Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

As Mike Krzyzewski’s departure from the ACC stage approaches, it’s worth noting that whatever he’s achieved – from championships to wins to developing extraordinary teams and players, a litany overwhelmingly impressive – he’s been amply praised and rewarded.

Except by the media in his own neighborhood.

This is not an intentional slight. But it is odd, if not silly, and perhaps yet another example of our blindness to the familiar. Soon enough, even the familiar passes into memory and then we appreciate more fully what we no longer have.

These days Coach K is commonly met with accolades and genuflection. The sports label “GOAT” (Greatest Of All Time) was copyrighted in 1992 by boxer Muhammad Ali’s wife, but came into common usage within the last decade in reference to NFL quarterback Tom Brady, according to Sports Illustrated.

Soon thereafter Krzyzewski popularly was anointed a GOAT too, with few dissenters.

Yet, and this does seem amazing, it’s been 21 years, since the 2000 season, that the ACC media — for years a free-range group and more recently a preselected, inbred contingent – voted Krzyzewski the league’s Coach of the Year.

That saluteless 21-year interval is longer than most undergrads have been alive. That period covers three NCAA titles, 10 ACC Tournament championships, 10 30-win seasons, 17 finishes in the ACC’s top three, 41 NCAA tournament victories, eight ACC player of the year awards, and 599 Ws. That’s a lot to take for granted.

And, yet, no ACC Coach of the Year recognition. What does a guy have to do?

Krzyzewski never even won in the same year one of his teams captured an NCAA title.

In some ways this enduring recent shutout – covering the latter half of Krzyzewski’s Duke career – is understandable. Observers doubtless came to see him as part of the woodwork, his repeated successes predating most professional media careers, his teams’ excellence par for the course. Folks gravitated instead to the newest, the most surprising, the most refreshing, the least nicked and dinged candidates.

But K’s unremarked GOATness is also ridiculous, especially over a period in which he constantly revamped rosters with outstanding talent he and his staff recruited yet stayed highly competitive as one-and-dones came and went.

Just behind Krzyzewski in the COY totals is Virginia’s Tony Bennett, who arrived at Charlottesville in 2010. He already has four ACC coach of the year awards (over the past eight years) compared to five claimed by Krzyzewski since 1981. And Dean Smith, another sideline fixture who elicited strong reactions, is ahead of everyone, honored eight times as COY in 36 seasons at Chapel Hill.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS BLINDNESS
Number of Selections As ACC Men’s Coach of the Year
COY Coach, School Seasons Selected Coach of Year
8 Dean Smith, NC 1967, 68, 71, 76, 77, 79, 88, 93
5 Mike Krzyzewski, D 1984, 86, 97, 99, 00
4 Tony Bennett, V 2014, 15, 18, 19
3 Everett Case, NS 1954, 55, 58
3 Vic Babas, D 1963, 64, 66
3 Norm Sloan, NS 1970, 73,74
3 Bobby Cremins, GT 1983, 85, 96
3 Leonard Hamilton, FS 2009, 12, 20
2 Frank McGuire, NC&SC 1957, 69
2 Bones McKinney, WF 1960, 61
2 Lefty Driesell, M 1975, 80
2 Terry Holland, V 1981, 82
2 Cliff Ellis, C 1987, 90
2 Seth Greenberg, VT 2005, 08
2 Gary Williams, M 2002, 10
2 Roy Williams, NC 2006, 11
2 Jim Larranaga, UM 2013, 16
Also: Murray Greason, WF (1956); Harold Bradley, D (1959); Bob Stevens, C (1962); Press Maravich, NS (1965); Bill Gibson, V (1972); Bill Foster, D (1978); Jim Valvano, NS (1989); Pat Kennedy, FS (1992); Bill Guthridge, NC (1998); Paul Hewitt, GT (2001); Skip Prosser, WF (2003); Herb Sendek, NS (2004); Dave Leitao, V (2007); Josh Pastner, GT (2017); Mike Young, V (2021).