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Oh, K!

5 NCAA titles. 12 Final Fours. 15 ACC crowns. 3 Olympic golds. Hall of famer. Celebrity endorser. In four decades at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski changed the business of college basketball.

By Michael Smith and Erik Spanberg
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Mike Krzyzewski has created the ultimate winning machine in college basketball during his 42 years at Duke. No men’s basketball coach has won more games, advanced to more Final Fours or produced more NBA draft picks than Coach K.

Those accomplishments stand on their own, but what often is lost among all of the victories and championships is how he redefined the role of a head coach across four decades and adapted to an ever-changing media and marketing landscape. 

Krzyzewski, 75, who will retire at the end of this season, not only has been the Blue Devils’ on-court leader, he’s been an innovator off the court — their chief executive, business strategist, corporate pitchman, author, media specialist, lead philanthropist and chief marketing officer. 

Before most programs understood the value of creating their own content, Krzyzewski had his digital and social media teams putting cameras in the hands of their players to document their days. He also was one of the first coaches to start a branded website — CoachK.com — with its own unique content.

The program was on the forefront of digital media, adopting an approach that helped it become the most-viewed college team across social media with 4.5 million followers.

Krzyzewski showed an understanding of media and marketing that transcended the typical college basketball coach, making sure the Duke basketball brand elevated above everything else.

Scouting Mike Krzyzewski

Born: Chicago, Feb. 13, 1947
College: United States Military Academy, B.S. (1969)
Athletic career: Point guard at Army under coach Bob Knight (1966-1969)
Personal: Wife (Mickie), three daughters, 10 grandchildren
Career
1969-74: United States Army, discharged with the rank of captain
1973-74: U.S. Military Academy Prep School at Fort Belvoir, Va., head coach
1974-75: Indiana, assistant coach
1975-80: Army, head coach
1979: USA Pan American Games Team, assistant coach
1980-present: Duke, head coach
2008, 2012, 2016: U.S. national Olympic team coach

“Coach K has always been very forward-thinking, and it has unquestionably paid off for Duke,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN president, programming and original content.

It’s all motivated, of course, by the drive to annually recruit the best players in the country and get them on the Durham, N.C., campus. Ultimately, that’s the fuel for this unparalleled winning machine.

“He has been a fixture for decades, and Duke has become probably the No. 1 television draw in college basketball,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said. “It’s partly because of their winning and part of it is because of the history and the legacy that Coach K has built.”

It’s a legacy that will probably never be duplicated for its duration and achievement.

“The Duke brand that Coach K has built will be just fine,” Magnus said. “I think it’s going to be business as usual, and that’s good for us.”

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