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Mike Krzyzewski Receives Dean Smith Award

That probably went over well in Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina vs Duke University
Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski enjoy a pleasant chat before they try to beat each other senseless.

The ferocious rivalry between Dean Smith in his prime and a rising star in Mike Krzyzewski are long ago now, with success teaching Coach K first respect for Smith’s accomplishment and then deep friendship.

Back in the early days of K’s legendary Duke career, he lashed out at Smith after a game, decrying, he said, the ACC’s double standard (Smith had pounded on the scorer’s table, adding 20 points to UNC’s total).

But also early in his Duke career, when he was an embattled young coach, a UNC student manager told Smith that Krzyzewski wasn’t going to be very good.

“You wait,” Smith said quickly. “He’s going to be great.”

And after Smith retired and USA Basketball was trying to figure out how to rebuild Team USA, it was Smith who pushed Krzyzewski for the job.

And memorably, after Smith died, Coach K and Roy Williams knelt and led their teams in prayer on the court.

This year, Krzyzewski was named the recipient of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s Dean Smith Award and it was awarded to him Saturday, given by former Duke Chronicle sportswriter and well-known author John Feinstein.

Coach K had this to say about Smith: “How proud I am of this, and how proud I was to be Dean’s friend. We were fierce competitors. He helped me grow up. Sometimes you have to be smacked a little bit. I didn’t understand until we started winning some championships. Then I understood fully. And he knew I understood fully. And we became great friends, not good friends, great friends.

“Dean was the best man that has ever coached college basketball. He was one of the great coaches, but there was no better man than Dean Smith. The program that he built at UNC has stood the test of time. It was built to last and it has flourished.”

In a nice touch, Coach K received the award at the Emily K Center during the annual Mother’s Day Ball.