Cremins, Pastner salute retiring Krzyzewski: ‘Master in his craft’

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Credit: Gerry Broome

Credit: Gerry Broome

Until an upset defeat at the hands of Stephen F. Austin in November 2019, Duke had won 150 consecutive non-conference home games with coach Mike Krzyzewski at the helm. It was a marvel to Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, whose longest streak in such games at McCamish Pavilion is nine.

“His teams, every time they step on the floor, they’re getting everyone’s best shot, and they’re always able to win at the highest levels for the longest of time,” Pastner told the AJC on Wednesday, after news of Krzyzewski’s retirement broke. “That just shows you why he’s the master in his craft.”

Pastner and Tech coaching great Bobby Cremins sang the praises of Krzyzewski, a college basketball legend who will coach one more season at Duke, according to multiple reports. It will be his 42nd with the Blue Devils. Associate head coach Jon Scheyer is expected to succeed him.

At Duke, Krzyzewski has won five national championships, taken the Blue Devils to 12 Final Fours and developed 41 NBA first-round picks. He also led the U.S. Olympic team to three gold medals.

“I think it’s great,” Cremins said. “Mike’s a very family-oriented guy. He knows it’s getting time, and he’s accomplished everything humanly possible to accomplish in our game.”

Cremins was hired at Tech in 1981, a year after Krzyzewski arrived at Duke. Cremins retired at Tech in 2000 at the end of his 19th season coaching the Yellow Jackets and 25 total, itself a long run. He then returned to coach at College of Charleston in 2006 and retired again in 2012. Krzyzewski has managed to stay at Duke the whole time and will outlast Cremins’ second retirement by 10 years.

“I want to see Mike get out at the right time, the right way, so he can spend the rest of his life with his family,” Cremins said. “That’s what he wants.”

To Cremins, the history of ACC basketball has an unmistakable lineage that includes Coach K: N.C. State’s Everett Case, the first dominant coach when the league was founded in 1953, is the father of the ACC. Frank McGuire, who led North Carolina to the 1957 national championship (the ACC’s first), put the conference on the map.

Dean Smith succeeded McGuire and led the Tar Heels to 11 Final Fours and two national championships.

“Dean Smith set the bar, and then Mike broke the bar,” Cremins said. “There’s some other great coaches in between – (Jim) Valvano, Norm Sloan, Lefty (Driesell), Terry Holland. There’s some other people in there. Gary Williams. But if you wanted a quick history of the ACC, that’s it.”

Tech is scheduled to play Duke once next season, in Durham, N.C. The Jackets defeated the Blue Devils on March 2 at McCamish Pavilion, ending a 14-game losing streak to Duke. Krzyzewski has a 60-19 record all-time against Tech.

“He’s been really good to me,” Pastner said. “I’ve gotten along with him, and thankfully we were able to beat him this year because we’re only going to have one more time to play him.”

Pastner said that the retirement didn’t come as a surprise.

“Because he’s been saying in the league meetings that he’s not going to be doing this too much longer,” Pastner said.

Pastner has consistently applied the honorific to Krzyzewski that he is one of the greatest coaches in any sport and perhaps the greatest of all.

“But it’s been a real honor and blessing to have the opportunity to coach against him in the ACC,” he said. “Just really, really cool. I know he’s got one more year, but his impact will last a lifetime.”

In his perpetual drum banging for the ACC, Pastner often noted the many coaches in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. As recently as 2017, there were four – Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Krzyzewski. After the coming season, Boeheim will be the only one left, and, going into his 46th season at the age of 76 (Krzyzewski is 74), his time on the bench may not be long, either.

“The names of the schools are so strong, the league’s a monster,” Pastner said. “It’s going to continue to be the premier league in all of college basketball.”

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