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Is Mike Krzyzewski the best college basketball coach of all-time?

The Duke Blue Devils defeated the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship on Monday night. For Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, it is his fifth title, all coming since 1991. Krzyzewski, who has been coaching the Blue Devils since 1980, might actually be underrated despite being lauded as an all-time great.

Krzyzewski, 68, has reached the Final Four an incredible 12 times and won the ACC Tournament on 13 occasions, to accompany a dozen ACC regular-season championships. On Jan. 25, Krzyzewski won his 1,000th game against the St. John’s Red Storm, becoming the first coach in men’s basketball to ever accomplish the feat at the Division I level.

Many would argue that John Wooden is the greatest to ever roam the sideline, but there is a discussion to be had. Wooden, known as the “Wizard of Westwood” during his tenure with the UCLA Bruins, won 10 championships in 12 years from 1964-75. During that stretch, Wooden went to 11 Final Fours before he decided to retire at the conclusion of the ’75 campaign.

On the surface, Wooden’s numbers are better than Krzyzewski’s. Wooden won double the titles and had a span that will never be matched again in today’s era of competitive balance. Still, Krzyzewski’s accomplishments must be viewed in a different prism because of the aforementioned parity.

Duke is a juggernaut of a program but was a fledgling program when Krzyzewski showed up in Durham, N.C. The Blue Devils had reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the three preceding years including a run to the Final Four in 1977-78. However, Duke had been irrelevant before those seasons, not having reached the NCAA Tournament since 1965-66.

With Krzyzewski at the helm, the Blue Devils struggled out of the gate, missing March Madness in his first three campaigns. Since, Duke has failed just once to reach the NCAA Tournament, happening in a year when Krzyzewski had to take an extended leave of absence because of health concerns.

Almost every program has its peak and valleys. Even the great, Hall-of-Fame level coaches such as Rick Pitino, John Calipari and Tom Izzo have their pitfalls. Few sane people would argue how accomplished those coaches are, combining for four titles. Krzyzewski has outdone them in the column that matters the most; cutting down the final net.

Duke is loved by some, hated by many. The Blue Devils are viewed as a privileged group of kids who slap the floor while having trust funds in their back pockets. Whether that perception is reality or complete fiction doesn’t matter in the eyes of most, it is already a long-held assumption.

In the end, all that matters are the results and how they have come about. Krzyzewski has never been nailed with NCAA sanctions and rarely has to defend his program. Duke has done it the right way, and with Krzyzewski callin the shots it wins constantly.

Give Krzyzewski his due. He’s the best of all-time.

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