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Coach K Duke

(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Top 10 Duke Teams Under Coach K

Coach K Duke
Mike Krzyzewski is retiring at the end of the 2021-22 season. So, here are the top 10 teams Coach K has led in his tenure at Duke. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Top 10 Duke Teams Under Coach K

Mike Krzyzewski will be retiring at the conclusion of the 2021-22 college basketball season, and the tributes will certainly roll in this year, but it’s not without reason. His list of accolades as a head coach is one of the most impressive in the history of the sport. He’s won five national championships, 15 ACC tournament championships, and 12 regular season ACC titles. He’s also a three-time Olympic gold medalist as the head coach for the U.S. men’s basketball team. He will retire at Duke as, likely, the greatest coach of all time. With that being said, I have ranked the top 10 Duke teams under Coach K.

#10: Duke 2018-19

This team is one of the greatest “What Ifs?” in Duke basketball history. A roster boasting superstar talent in Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett along with Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones, among others, certainly underachieved for what was expected of them. They announced themselves on the national stage by thumping No. 2 Kentucky 118-84 in their first game together. At that point, I remember being told by a friend in the hallways of school that Duke shouldn’t lose. Well, as is to be expected of any young team, there were some slip-ups, but they entered March Madness on the heels of an ACC tournament title. This team escaped with wins against UCF and Virginia Tech before falling to Tom Izzo’s Michigan State in the Elite Eight on a three from Kenny Goins. Coach K had this team primed and a simple late rotation with less than 60 seconds left ended this Duke squad’s hope of a sixth banner. Frankly, I’m still upset.

#9: Duke 2005-06

This Duke squad was led by the third best player in program history and that year’s Wooden Award winner: J.J. Redick. They also had the NABC Defensive Player of the Year in Shelden Williams. The 2005-06 Blue Devil squad lost three times in the regular season by a combined 15 points. And then they lost in the Sweet 16 to LSU. It was a painful loss with it being Redick and Williams’ last time in a Duke uniform. This is one of five non-national title-winning teams on this list, and it hurts as a Duke fan knowing that Redick never got to cut down the nets in April.

#8: Duke 2001-02

The 2001-02 Blue Devils were the defending national champions and failed to repeat. They returned Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, and Carlos Boozer: a trio of stars that any coach would love to have. It was written in the stars that they were going to meet the Maryland Terrapins in the Final Four like they had the previous year. It simply had to happen. Alas, it didn’t. Despite a 31-3 record and the National Player of the Year in Williams, the Blue Devils and Krzyzewski lost to Indiana in the Sweet 16 by one single point. It was a true letdown because this team could have gone back-to-back.

#7: Duke 2009-10

This is the first national champion on this list, and some may be surprised by how low they are. This in no way discredits the talent of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, and co. had on this squad. They were a veteran team that lived up to its lofty standards. They completed the trifecta of titles under Coach K, winning the regular season ACC title, the conference tournament, and the national title game. Say what you want about the lack of luck that night in Indianapolis – I am, of course, referencing Gordon Hayward’s miss at the buzzer – but this Duke team was deserving of a national title win.

#6: Duke 2014-15

This was the second national title win in my lifetime and my favorite of every team on this list. I remember nearly every game from this season, and there were certainly a lot of monumental moments. Coach K won his 1,000th game at Duke in a game against St. Johns in a sold out Madison Square Garden. After dropping a game to Notre Dame in South Bend, this squad came back and beat the Fighting Irish by 30 in Cameron Indoor. They completed the season sweep of the Tar Heels and then went on to win the national title in a season where it was Kentucky’s to lose. Jahlil Okafor was the star, Quinn Cook the glue, Justise Winslow the energy, Grayson Allen the spark, and Tyus Jones the hero. I really love this team.

#5: Duke 1985-86

And now we reach the team that started it all. The 1985-86 Duke team was the turning point for Duke’s basketball program and initiated the Blue Devil dynasty under Coach K. While they fell just short of the school’s first national title against Louisville, this team silenced the program’s doubters and Krzyzewski’s in particular. Boasting a 37-3 record, a regular season title, and ACC tournament title, this squad is one of the best in Duke’s history. The 1982 recruiting class that had been on one hell of a rollercoaster graduated as legends. Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, Jay Bilas, and David Henderson are all remembered as Blue Devil greats. Oh, this squad also had Tommy Amaker and a young Danny Ferry too.

#4: Duke 1998-99

The greatest Duke team to never win a national title. The Blue Devils were undefeated in conference play, beat North Carolina three times – including the ACC tournament championship game – and advanced to the national title game. They ultimately lost to a very good UConn team, but that loss is the very reason I have grown up hating the Huskies. Elton Brand basically swept every individual conference and national award, while Coach K won Naismith Coach of the Year, and it still wasn’t enough. One of the greatest teams to have never won a national title in college basketball history.

#3: Duke 1990-91

The first team to ever win a national title at Duke. Coach K cleared the final hurdle of his career with one fantastic Final Four game against UNLV and then a win against Kansas in the national championship game. The Blue Devils were undefeated at home and won the ACC regular season title. This squad featured Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, and more in a year where the unlikely became a reality. While their record may be worse than some of the aforementioned teams, the sentimental value and significance of this squad has them placed in third.

#2: Duke 2000-01

The No. 1 and 2 spots on this list are nearly interchangeable. I settled on the 2000-01 squad here, though. They completed the trifecta of titles under Coach K by sharing the regular season title and winning the ACC tournament and national championship. Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, and Carlos Boozer shined on a team that steamrolled their way to a national title. Granted, that Final Four game against Maryland was a little shaky in the first half, but they beat the Terps by 11. Every opponent in the NCAA tournament was beaten by 10+ points, and Battier and company delivered Coach K his third title in 11 years.

#1: Duke 1991-92

The 1991-92 squad is the greatest Duke team of all time under Coach K and in program history. A team that, despite all odds and expectations, repeated as national champions. This squad returned Laettner, Hill, and Hurley and won Coach K’s first title trifecta. Laettner won National Player of the Year and hit the greatest shot in the greatest game of college basketball history. He stepped on you in more ways than one. They embarrassed a young Fab Five team in the national title game by 20 points and delivered Coach K his second title. This team stoked the fiery hatred for Duke across the national sports landscape and remains a shining testament to the distaste people have for Coach K, Laettner, and Duke.


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