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YouTube Gold: Coach K And Duke In The 1980’s

A remarkable rise and a brilliant decade of achievement

Clarkson NCAA Archive
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 31: Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski talks with Tommy Amaker #4 of the Duke Blue Devils against the Louisville Cardinals during the 1986 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship held at Reunion Arena on March 31, 1986 in Dallas, Texas. Louisville defeated Duke 72-69 to win the national title.
Photo by Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

On Saturday, Mike Krzyzewski will coach his final game in Cameron. It’s been a really long run that you can break down by decades.

The first one was pretty amazing. As everyone knows, Coach K was under some pressure in his second and third year, at least from some fans.

He never was from AD Tom Butters, who believed in his hired and not only kept him, but tore up his contract and gave him a better one.

Small point to illustrate K’s longevity: he’s worked for four different AD’s at Duke - Butters, Joe Alleva, Kevin White and at the end, Nina King.

Once the ‘80s got going and Duke started winning, the rise was dramatic. Duke won 24 games after Tommy Amaker joined Johnny Dawkins, Jay Bilas, Mark Alarie, David Henderson and Dan Meaghar to help Duke become a rising power. In 1986, Duke went to the title game against Louisville. The 1987 team was critical because after Dawkins, Bilas, Alarie and Henderson left, things could have taken a major step backwards. But that team made the Sweet Sixteen, losing to K’s old coach Bob Knight, and then Duke made the Final Four in 1988, 1989 and 1990 before breaking through in 1991 and repeating in 1992.

A lot of people now would have a hard time understanding that in 1990, there was a sense that Duke would never win a national championship.

It was an amazing rise and a time of great change and achievement.