The letter “K” is a symbol that holds many overlapping meanings depending on the situation.
A baseball fan sees a swinging strikeout, an angry significant other sees a simple and petty text message — but for college sports fans — “K” is only applicable to one person. Mike Krzyzewski.
The Duke Blue Devils have become the poster child for achievement in college basketball and the one consistency throughout is “Coach K.”
From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, the man has been the face of an entire university since its first championship in 1991.
His resume speaks for itself, as five national titles, 12 Final Four appearances and over 1,000 wins puts him in an echelon all by himself. But there was more to Krzyzewski than just Xs and Os and stacked recruiting classes — there was the villain.
David vs. Goliath. Jedi vs Sith. Duke vs. the entirety of college basketball.
It’s fitting with a name like the Blue Devils that the team embraced the idea of being the villain. When they won, they did it in crushing fashion.
Teams could take their pick between a 30-point rout or a devastating buzzer-beater from the likes of Christian Laettner, but the result was often still the same.
Alongside the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, Duke was another team you loved to hate.
However, with Krzyzewski announcing his retirement following this upcoming season, the idea of hating Duke will not be the same.
I am not one to talk, as the first college basketball game I attended saw Duke take the win over UConn when Jahlil Okafor was supposed to be the next great big man. As a Sixers fan, I cannot believe I was happy with that draft pick.
Since then, I have always enjoyed tuning into a Duke basketball game. But like how the NBA is better when the Knicks are in the playoffs, nothing beats rooting against the infamous residents of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Because college basketball has become a factory for one-and-done talents, there is rarely a true player-versus-player rivalry to be found. And while it makes sense for athletes to pursue a professional career the second the chance reveals itself, the sport itself loses its draw.
Occasionally you will find the Grayson Allen or JJ Redick type to stoke the fire alongside Krzyzewski, but they are few and far between. And even from a success standpoint, the team has failed to capitalize on its stacked recruiting classes in years past, including the Zion Williamson-led squad that was knocked out in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
But Krzyzewski has been there for it all. The one thing that always remained was Duke’s true villain.
Replicating success following Krzyzewski’s retirement will not be the difficult task for the school.
The dynasty Coach K built won’t fail to bring in recruits long after his tenure is over, and the winning ways will likely continue with new coach Jon Scheyer.
Rather, the difficult task for the Blue Devils now will be trying to recreate the same bad-guy mentality that has fueled the Cameron Crazies for years under Krzyzewski’s leadership. It’s rare to find a coach who has garnered more attention than most of the players who rolled through his system.
So in his final swan song, I urge every Duke hater to not applaud Krzyzewski, but boo even louder than usual. Embrace your inner Silky Johnson and sound like the “2002 Player Hater of the Year.”
But on a more serious note, there will never be another Krzyzewski. So hate on him while you can, America.
Because when he’s gone, all that will be left is Bill Belichick. And there is no telling how much longer he will be coaching.