The two winningest coaches in college basketball history met for one final time (in the regular-season) at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. In front of a crowd of 31,803, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski squared off in what would prove to be a non-competitive contest as Duke ran away with a 97-72 victory.
Before tip-off, the two coaches met at center court as Syracuse gifted Krzyzewski with a piece of the old Carrier Dome roof, decorated with a photo of the two long-time friends.
Syracuse also honored Krzyzewski with a military-related scholarship in his name, which will be given annually to a military-connected Syracuse University student. The scholarship was named the Captain Michael William Krzyzewski Award for Leadership and Civic Engagement.
Krzyzewski was presented a plaque in honor of that scholarship.
“Jim and I are as close as we can be. Our families, we love one another. We feel like we’re right there,” Krzyzewski said, bringing his hands together. “For the honor that they bestowed on me today was amazing. Just absolutely amazing.”
“I thought it was a great idea, the scholarship in his name,” Boeheim said. “He’s a military guy. We have a tremendous military presence on campus. The veterans building, what the chancellor has done with the board, the trustees, dedicating that building for what it’s being used for. I think it was a great tribute to Mike because he’s a West Point guy.”
More than a game.— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) February 26, 2022
The two winningest coaches in college basketball history and close friends, this was a special moment pregame as Coach Boeheim honored Coach K in his final game at the Dome. pic.twitter.com/rPSk9Qijtu
Krzyzewski and Boeheim have developed a close bond throughout the years, strengthening their rapport through USA Basketball. Krzyzewski tapped Boeheim as one of his assistants after he was appointed the head coach of Team USA. The two of them combined to win three gold medals in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
As for the final meeting between the two Hall of Fame coaches, Krzyzewski was taken aback when he saw his long-time friend introduced in front of the largest crowd of the season. As Boeheim came through the tunnel and was introduced on the PA system, Krzyzewski remarked at the support.
“Especially because they’re not 22-6,” He said. “They’re fighting for every game.
“I just think it’s Jim’s palace. I love his intro. There were over 30,000 people here. That was pretty cool, he came out and I just smiled. So good. I really think about Jim and his program and the excellence they’ve had for almost five decades he’s been here. He’s been a National Champion. He’s knocked on the door a couple more times.”
Although it was a lopsided victory, Krzyzewski spoke in nothing but pleasantries about Syracuse and Boeheim. Duke is head and shoulders above the Orange and is the far more talented team. That was obvious on Saturday.
But an interaction between Duke’s Director of Player Development Amile Jefferson and Buddy Boeheim, who scored 23 points on 10-21 shooting, seemed to capture the sentiment of the night. As Jefferson walked past Buddy Boeheim in the bowels of the Carrier Dome, he motioned toward him.
“Good game,” Jefferson said, before walking toward stadium control. Buddy acknowledged.
Krzyzewski has long been effusive of his respect for Boehiem, stating last year as Syracuse made another unexpected run to the Sweet 16 that Boeheim hasn’t quite been given the credit that he has.
The game wasn’t memorable and the usual Syracuse-Duke drama that fans have come to expect was certainly lacking. Still, the aura of the moment was felt.
“This is one of those iconic programs, Syracuse.” Krzyzewski said. “I think ours is too. So when you bring both of them together in this setting it’s spectacular for college basketball. It’s on Jim, what he’s built here.”
Boeheim reciprocated that respect, stating Krzyzewski has been the best coach for 50 years. He mentioned John Wooden’s 10 National Championships while also acknowledging the present world of college basketball is much different than it was during Wooden’s reign. Boeheim thinks there’s nobody who’s come close to what Krzyzewski has done as a college coach.
“He’s an unbelievable organizer and coach for people, handler of who people are and how to handle them and how to work with people and coaches. He’s the best that’s ever done that,” Boeheim said.
It remains possible that these two programs could meet in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament with Syracuse all but locked into the 8/9 game. But if not, Boeheim said he would think about the final meeting between he and Krzyzewski some other day.
“I’m just happy that we’re good friends,” Boeheim finished.