Coach K's Legacy: Duke's 5 National Championship Teams

 

With Duke’s latest triumph on Monday night, Coach K passed Adolph Rupp for sole possession of second place all-time with five national titles. Mike Krzyzewski also joins Jim Calhoun as the only coach to win Division I national titles in three different decades.

Coach K was 44-years-old when he won his first national championship in 1991. 24 years later, Mike Krzyzewski is showing no signs of slowing down. Let’s take a deeper look at each one of Coach K’s five championship squads and how they fared on the biggest stage.

 


1991 & 1992 Blue Devils

It’s pretty safe to pair these two championship teams together considering they were essentially the same squad. Duke would go on to win the 1991 and 1992 National Championships, becoming the first team since UCLA in 1973 to win back-to-back titles.

Class Balance

Coach K’s first two championship squads were very balanced across the board in terms of class precedence. Christian Laettner served as the experienced leader for the upperclassmen. Bobby Hurley was the happy medium floor general in his own right. Then you had the young gun, Grant Hill, who supplied athleticism and finesse.

In the 72-65 championship victory over Kansas in 1991, the middle classes supplied the majority of scoring. The junior players (Laettner, Brian Davis & Thomas Hill) scored 29 points (40%) of Duke’s total. The sophomore players (Hurley & McCaffrey) accounted for nearly the same percentage, finishing with 28 points between them.

The following year, in Duke’s 1992 National Championship win over Michigan’s Fab Five, the Blue Devils put on a much more balanced scoring attack. Christian Laettner, the lone senior to score, accounted for 26 percent of Duke’s scoring, finishing with 19 points. Duke’s juniors (Bobby Hurley & Thomas Hill) led the scoring front, accounting for 35 percent of Duke’s 71 total points. The sophomore class, led by Grant Hill and Antonio Lang, represented 32 percent of Duke’s scoring.

Glory Days

The loaded lineup of Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Thomas Hill, Cherokee Parks and Christian Laettner was a nightmare to play against. This Blue Devils squad was dominant, defeating opponents by an average of 15 points a game in 1991-92.

Ironically, this was long before the one-and-done era, when it was considered “cool” to stay in college. Also somewhat ironic, most of these players’ success in college did not translate over well to the NBA.

Other than Grant Hill, only Laettner and Hurley were moderately relevant in the pros. Laettner only made one All-Star game and fizzled out near the end of his career in the NBA.

 


2000-01 Blue Devils

Coach K’s 2001 championship team was riddled with future NBA talent. There was the perfect blend of youth with Jay Williams mixed with the experience of Shane Battier. Throw in a couple of future NBA veterans in Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Chris Duhon and you’ve got one of the best lineups out there. This team averaged 90.7 points a game. Those are scary numbers.

Sophomore Success

In Duke’s 82-72 victory over Arizona in the 2001 National Championship, Duke’s sophomores provided the scoring spark. Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy Jr. accounted for 60 percent (49 points) of Duke’s scoring that night. While the junior class failed to score any points, seniors Shane Battier and Nate James accounted for the other 30 percent of Duke’s total score.

College All Stars

Somehow, Carlos Boozer ended up becoming the best NBA player out of this entire lot. If it weren’t for Jay Williams’ freak motorcycle accident, that most likely would not be the case. Regardless, the 2000-01 Duke team produced some consistent and enduring NBA talent.


2009-10 Blue Devils

Coach K’s fourth title came with a senior-laden squad that was high on determination yet low on future NBA talent. Out of all of Duke’s championship caliber teams, this one surely overachieved. This was not necessarily the best talent ever assembled, but this was a true team in every sense of the word.

In Duke’s 61-59 victory over Butler in the 2010 National Championship, Duke’s seniors and juniors scored all of the Blue Devils’ points. Seniors (Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas & Brian Zoubek) accounted for 47 percent (29 points) of Duke’s total. The juniors, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, provided the other 53 percent of scoring.


2014-15 Blue Devils

The 2014-15 season ushered in a new wave of adaptation for Mike Krzyzewski. Junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon was kicked off the team, marking the first time Coach K has ever dismissed a player. Duke implemented more zone this season, another new sentiment in Coach K’s philosophy. To top it all off, Coach K won with a brand of player he once tried to avoid: One-and-Done.

Diaper Dandies

Unlike any other Coach K team we've seen, Duke’s freshmen led the Blue Devils to their fifth national championship. The freshmen accounted for 60 of Duke’s 68 points in their win over Wisconsin. That’s a whopping 88 percent of scoring by a bunch of 18 and 19-year-olds.

“Here you have these four really good freshmen coming in who want to blend, want to be led,” Coach K commented after the game. “I’ve never had a group that had this much chemistry.”

Senior leader Quinn Cook took notice of the blending and chemistry this team provided.

“They came in so humble. It was all about the team,” Cook recounts. “I’m grateful for these young guys to perform on a stage like this.”

I’m sure Coach K is pretty grateful himself. You’ve got to give the 68-year-old Krzyzewski a lot of credit for adapting. 2015 is a year Coach K will remember for the rest of his life. It was a year that ushered in a new era for one of college basketball’s greatest coaches.