One of the most famous coaches in college basketball — Duke University's coach Mike Krzyzewski — decided to retire after this season. While this has been very emotional for Duke and Coach K throughout the whole season, this past Saturday was the most emotional game. Saturday, March 5th, Duke played its final regular-season game at home against their rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels. There were two ceremonies planned for this final game for Coach K, one at the beginning and one at the end.
At the beginning of the game, former players attended the game and lined the entryway for Krzyzewski. There were almost a hundred Duke basketball alumni — almost half of Krzyzewski's former players — that sat behind the Duke bench and cheered Duke and their Coach on during the game. At the first ceremony, Krzyzewski could be seen tearing up and starting to get emotional while his former players gathered around him.
Coach K started this when discussing the pre-game celebration, saying, "It has been emotional but before the game you're thinking and you get a little teary-eyed and then you say, 'Whoa, I can't do that,' and so then you go on the court and then you feel it. Actually, when all the players were there, it was just, like, wow, it wasn't as emotional as it was great."
Coach Krzyzewski took a moment to go into the locker room and take a breather. Once he came back out, he had his game face on and was ready for the game. The game did not go as Cameron Crazies had hoped for or as Coach Krzyzewski had planned. Fans could see their beloved coach become unhappy as North Carolina came back out at the beginning of the second half and took a dominant lead. The Duke loss put a slight damper on the post-game celebration and led to Coach Krzyzewski actually apologizing to the fans and alumni who paid thousands to tens of thousands of dollars to attend the game.
In an impromptu speech, Coach Krzyzewski walked up to the microphone prior to the starting of the program and took responsibility for the loss and said it was unacceptable and apologized. The crowd started to almost say "nooo" all at once and Coach Krzyzewski was not having it. He said, "No, no, no, please be quiet. Today was unacceptable. But the season has been very acceptable. The season isn't over, all right?". The crowd responded by chanting "we want six" referring to another national championship.
Once the actual program started at the end of the game, several speakers discussed Mike Krzyzewski and stated how amazing he has been for Duke. The president of Duke University announced that he would be starting a scholarship in honor of Mike Krzyzewski.
The coach was also awarded a portrait that included several aspects to it, including all the places Krzyzewski had been a part of, his high school basketball number on a jersey with Duke's colors, his West Point jersey, and his high school, West Point, and Duke in the background. He also had a bench dedicated to him in honor of the way he always put family around Duke and made Duke basketball and Duke University a brotherhood and family.
Once the honors and speeches about Coach Krzyzewski were over, the Coach was given a chance to speak. He thanked his family, Duke University, his former players, his Cameron Crazies, and most importantly, his wife of 52 years and his three daughters, or "his ladies", as he calls them. An emotional evening was finally over, and everyone was in tears. To say I also didn't cry would be a lie. Coach Krzyzewski said that this season isn't over, and we now have a hunger and drive for the long-awaited March Madness tournament.