How to beat Coach K

I had the good fortune to compete against Coach K and his Duke Blue Devils teams for nine seasons while coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies. The reason I say good fortune is that it was an honor to prepare a team to play against Duke. You knew you were playing the very best, and were game planning for a team that was talented, skilled and disciplined as well as mentally and physically tough.

But I actually knew Mike Krzyzewski before he was Coach K. He played at Army when my college coach, Al LoBalbo, was an assistant to coach Bob Knight. We share that common bond, and in our conversations before or after games we would frequently reference Coach Lo. Later, when he became the Army coach, Coach Krzyzewski used to lecture at our annual Fairleigh Dickinson coaching clinics, and I was often his demonstrator. When I became an assistant at Columbia, our staff would visit West Point and talk basketball with Coach. Having that background with Coach K in some ways made it easier to prepare and coach against him -- in a roundabout way I felt we were part of the same coaching tree. Now let's be realistic -- I was a small branch on the tree, and he was the foundation of the tree. That said, I was never awed, but rather inspired, by the challenge of facing him. I do think our team sensed that when we played Duke.

I was fortunate to have some success against Duke* and to have played some memorable games against Coach K's teams. I think our plan was simple, yet sound.