The lesson carried over to basketball. The first thing Knight told Krzyzewski was to forget about shooting. The drives and garbage opportunities that made him a high school scorer wouldn't be available in college. "Most kids say, 'Here I am, play me,' " says Knight. "We told Mike he would have to play defense and handle the ball. Obviously Mike listened, because he ended up playing."
At a holiday tournament his senior season, Krzyzewski, despite a hemorrhaging eye, dropped in two free throws to beat Bradley. The next evening Knight kicked in a locker and spat on the runner-up trophy after Army lost to Kentucky and Dan Issel. "Over the two weeks after that, we lost another four in a row, and I was captain," Krzyzewski recalls. "I didn't understand what was happening, and I felt responsible."
Krzyzewski eventually helped the team right itself. On March 1, 1969, after Army defeated Navy, he got the game ball. A few months later, four hours after Mike was handed his diploma, he and Mickie Marsh were married in the Catholic chapel at West Point.
Mickie and Mike's first date, two years earlier in Chicago, had been a Martha and the Vandellas concert. "I learned from Mike that I was his third choice," Mickie says. "He believed that whatever the consequences were of telling me the truth, they were less painful than lying to me."
After five years coaching on Army bases abroad and at the U.S. Military Academy prep school in Fort Belvoir, Va., Krzyzewski quit his commission in '74 to work for Knight as a graduate assistant at Indiana. The next spring the head-coaching job at West Point opened up. Before the selection committee could hold his decision to leave the service against him, Krzyzewski turned it to his advantage. Here was a chance, he said, to give back to the academy what he had learned from it—prudent risk-taking, teamwork, leadership. The officers bought his argument.
Krzyzewski had several good seasons at Army, but he had just gone 9-17 in 1980 when Duke athletic director Tom Butters began looking for someone to replace Bill Foster, who had resigned only two years after guiding the Blue Devils to the NCAA title game. The Durham papers, certain the new coach would be Old Dominion's Paul Webb, Bob Weltlich of Mississippi or Duke assistant Bob Wenzel, declared his surname would begin with W. It did, Butters kidded reporters before introducing his choice, "Coach Who?" The next morning's headline in the Duke student newspaper, The Chronicle, read THIS IS NOT A TYPO.
Krzyzewski spent his first few seasons sticking with a man-to-man defense, even against more talented ACC teams, and was quick to yank players who made mistakes. Meanwhile, national titles won at North Carolina in 1982 and N.C. State in '83 cast an unflattering light Duke's way. "[Krzyzewski] was thin-skinned," says Keith Drum, who covered the ACC for The Durham Morning Herald. "He could be stubborn, and he wasn't very patient. There's no way what he'd done previously prepared him for the ACC."
The higher stakes of big-time basketball were nowhere more evident than in recruiting. In 1981 Krzyzewski gave a speech at prospect Rodney Williams's high school awards banquet in Daytona Beach; Williams didn't show up because he had signed with Florida that afternoon. One night Duke assistant Bob Dwyer drove to the West Virginia backwater where recruit Jim Miller lived to deliver a letter of intent for the kid to sign. Miller's high school coach reached Dwyer at his motel the next morning. "Sorry," he said, "Jim's decided to go to Virginia."
MOST PEOPLE BELIEVE DUKE'S nadir came at the 1983 ACC tournament. The team lost to Virginia by 43 points in the quarterfinals and heard Ralph Sampson complain afterward that they had played dirty. "Here's to forgetting tonight," said Johnny Moore, one of Duke's publicity men, raising a glass that night.
The lines sharpened even more on Krzyzewski's lapidary face. "Here's to never forgetting tonight," he said.