Editor's note: A story Sunday incorrectly stated the age of former basketball coach Bob Knight. He is 71.
Mike Krzyzewski sat in his Duke University office a decade ago and reached for the telephone.
He would be entering the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Oct. 5, 2001, and wanted Bob Knight, his coach at West Point and the most profound influence on his life outside his immediate family, to give the induction speech.
But Krzyzewski and Knight hadn't talked for years, their relationship fractured by a private misunderstanding.
Knowing Knight as he had for decades, Krzyzewski believed his former coach would agree to his request. But he wasn't certain.
Theirs is a relationship both simple and complex, layered by time, tenacity and, occasionally, temper.
Now, with a victory Tuesday over Michigan State in New York, Krzyzewski would reach 903 victories and pass Knight as the winningest Division I college basketball coach in history. It's an achievement built over 36-plus seasons. He coached five seasons at Army and is beginning his 32nd season at Duke.
It's a run that has produced four national championships, a record 79 NCAA victories, 13 ACC championships, 11 Final Four appearances and 15 seasons in which his Duke teams have been ranked No. 1.
From Alarie and Amaker through Singler and Zoubek, Krzyzewski has built and maintained a program by which others are measured. Now 64, Krzyzewski coached the U.S. Olympic team to the 2008 gold medal and his friendship and counsel is sought by prominent business leaders. He has written books on leadership, done national television commercials and was named by Time Magazine as America's best coach in any sport.
Some of what has made Krzyzewski extraordinary was learned as a child in Chicago where he combined his family's work ethic with imagination and ingenuity. He watched his late father, Bill, work as an elevator operator in Chicago and his late mother, Emily, earn money by scrubbing floors. It was from her, whose spirit still burns in him, that Krzyzewski learned the lessons of love and relationships that are so much a part of his coaching.
He clings to the childhood friendships he made in the Chicago streets, playing baseball and basketball with the Colombos, his neighborhood gang, where he nurtured his leadership skills organizing games.
But it was Knight who put Krzyzewski on the path that has made him who he is.
"They mean so much to each other," Mickie Krzyzewski, Mike's wife, says. "It's an extraordinary relationship. It almost defies description. It's father/son, player/coach. It's the brotherhood of coaches.
"It's all those things but it's also something else."
At West Point, Knight gave Krzyzewski two commands:
"Don't throw the ball away and I don't want you to shoot," Knight recalls.
And one more thing:
"Play good defense."
Krzyzewski was reeling. He had come out of Chicago the leading scorer for two years in the Catholic League where he played for Weber High and suddenly was told not to shoot. Away from basketball, West Point pushed him. Thrown into a pool and asked to swim carrying a 10-pound brick, he couldn't.
For the first time, Krzyzewski was forced to cope with failure.
"You got to see some powerful things and sometimes at your most vulnerable time when you're a little bit afraid, you're not sure just who you are," Krzyzewski says. "You thought you knew who you were and who you were wasn't good enough."
Still, Knight saw something in Krzyzewski and put him in command of his basketball team on the floor at point guard. Army was Top-20 good under Knight, who wanted his team to be as crisp as a military crease.
Krzyzewski learned by watching and reacting to Knight. He abandoned what he was on the court to become what Knight wanted him to be. The transition consumed Krzyzewski and tied the knot between the player and coach.
"I saw in him a passion I had never seen, a knowledge of the game I had never experienced," Krzyzewski says of Knight.
Krzyzewski's future wife, then Mickie Marsh, also saw something she'd never seen.
"I'd never seen a relationship like that," she says. "It's not like they were close but it was the utter respect and awe Mike had for him. I'd be with him and Knight would walk in and it was like I disappeared."
Kicked off the team
Army opened its 1967-68 season at Princeton with a 62-59 loss. Marsh and her roommate had hopped into Marsh's Volkswagen and had driven from New York City to Princeton to watch Krzyzewski play.
Marsh had been a stewardess for United Airlines based in Chicago and had met Krzyzewski there.
They spoke briefly after the Princeton game and went their separate ways. But a snowstorm prevented Marsh and her roommate from returning to New York. She said they decided to spend the night at a hotel, unaware the Army team was there.
When they realized they were in the same hotel, Mickie and Mike spoke on the phone and arranged to have breakfast together.
The three of them - Krzyzewski, Marsh and her roommate - were sitting at a breakfast table the following morning when Knight and his coaching staff walked in.
"(Knight) literally turned his chair around so his back was almost to his staff at the table so that he was staring at Mike," Mickie remembers. "In his mind, Mike had made arrangements to meet me there. He didn't know the truth.
"Mike got more and more uncomfortable. I'm looking at Mike and asking him, 'Why are you acting like that? Because of that rude man over there?' "
Krzyzewski was kicked off the team - a punishment that would last 48 hours. Back on campus, Krzyzewski went to Knight and explained his innocence.
"What he saw wasn't really what he saw," says Krzyzewski. "With Coach, it had to be this way and sometimes if he saw it out of that way, he would proceed without knowing why it might look that way.
"It was just a misunderstanding."
Near the end of his senior season in 1969, Army had just beaten Navy and Krzyzewski had been awarded the game ball. The Cadets were fighting for a post-season berth when the call came that Krzyzewski's father had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was near death.
Knight arranged for Krzyzewski to fly back to Chicago, then drove him to the airport in a snowstorm.
At the wake after his father's death, Krzyzewski saw his coach walk in. When the family gathered at the Krzyzewski house, Knight was in the kitchen, sharing the family's stories and their grief. He stayed for the funeral and told Krzyzewski to take as much time as he needed.
Krzyzewski didn't miss a game.
"People have different feelings about Coach," Krzyzewski says. "When my dad passed away, he was right there. He has a really good heart."
Four hours after Krzyzewski graduated at West Point in 1969, he married Mickie.
Knight was there, too.
Landing the Duke job
Krzyzewski spent five years coaching and teaching at Army bases overseas and in the U.S. after graduation. He was a graduate assistant on Knight's staff at Indiana for one season before becoming Army's head coach in 1975.
His Army team won 20 games his second season, 19 his third but then fell to 9-17 in the fifth season.
In Durham, Duke athletic director Tom Butters was looking for a coach to replace Bill Foster, who had left to become the coach at South Carolina. Butters called Knight to see if he had any interest.
Knight suggested he talk to two of his former players, who had become head coaches - Bob Weltlich at Mississippi and Krzyzewski.
"They can both really coach," Knight remembers telling Butters. "The one you think fits best at Duke would be the one you should hire."
Weltlich wasn't interested. Knight thought Krzyzewski's background at academically oriented West Point would help him at Duke. When Butters called a second time, Knight suggested Krzyzewski.
"He made better adjustments quicker in moving from high school to college than any kid I ever coached," Knight said. "I think that had a lot to do with what made him the kind of coach he was. He could see and react to what he saw. He could make a change. He could do things he wasn't used to doing. All of that led into the ability he has shown to coach the game."
Butters almost didn't hire Krzyzewski, fearful of the reaction that would come with hiring a coach who had gone 9-17 the previous season at Army.
When Butters' assistant, Steve Vacendek, told his boss to believe in his convictions, Krzyzewski got the job.
Going head to head
Four times Knight and Krzyzewski coached against each other, splitting the games. Duke won the most significant meeting, an 81-78 victory over Knight's Hoosiers in the 1992 Final Four, the penultimate game in the Blue Devils' run to a second straight national championship.
In the run-up to that Final Four game, Krzyzewski bristled as questions continued about how much he had patterned his career after Knight's. "I'm my own man," Krzyzewski told the media.
Eight years earlier, working as a special assistant when Knight was the U.S. Olympic coach, Krzyzewski found himself eating dinner with his mentor and legendary coaches Pete Newell and Hank Iba. Krzyzewski felt, he said, as if he had won the lottery with such an opportunity to learn from such giants of the game.
Krzyzewski's coaching is based on many of the same fundamentals favored by Knight with an emphasis on aggressive man-to-man defense. But neither his style nor his program is a blueprint of Knight's, rather a blending of concepts he's picked up and tweaked over time by his willingness to ask questions of himself and others.
A perceived snub
Perhaps it was inevitable Knight and Krzyzewski would clash. They are both strong willed and proud, built on the same principles of military culture.
Krzyzewski can be biting but he's quick with a one-liner, often at his own expense. He is passionate about the people and causes he believes in and he talks as much about relationships as he does match-ups.
Knight is more confrontational and aggressive. He elicits devotion from his former players but his brusque approach has often worked against him. Now gray-headed and doing television work, Knight, 71, has mellowed but not much.
He's still Bob Knight - except to Krzyzewski who will forever call him Coach.
"It's the most affectionate thing I could call him," Krzyzewski says.
He won't talk about what caused his estrangement from Knight - it was a private matter, he says, that developed around their semifinal game at the 1992 Final Four.
After Duke's victory over Knight's Hoosiers, they had a quick handshake. However, when they passed again in a hallway near where interviews were being conducted, Knight spoke to the Duke players but ignored Krzyzewski, according to John Feinstein in his book, "March To Madness."
Feinstein wrote that Knight had been bothered by a lack of credit being given him by Krzyzewski.
The Duke coach was shaken by the post-game snub. The same day, Krzyzewski received a private communication from Knight that added to his bewilderment and effectively put their relationship on hold. Krzyzewski won't discuss the message.
The disagreement blindsided Krzyzewski, he says, dampening the thrill of another championship run.
Jay Bilas, who played for Krzyzewski and works with Knight at ESPN, says, "Everybody knew they got sideways for a time but no one talked about it."
Krzyzewski says, "I couldn't deal with it. That's part of the reason it lasted longer. I didn't want it to be true."
For his Hall of Fame induction in 2001, Krzyzewski knew he would have official presenters - his three daughters, Debbie, Lindy and Jamie - but that didn't solve the issue of an induction speaker. It was required that the speaker be a Hall member but it wouldn't have mattered.
"Mike kept saying, 'No one but Knight. It has to be Knight,' " Mickie says.
'The only one'
When Knight answered the phone more than a decade ago, he asked Krzyzewski why he was calling.
"He said, 'Well, what do you want?' " Krzyzewski remembers. "I said, 'I'm being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.'
He said, 'That's right. You should have been.'
"I said, 'I need to be presented by someone. I want it to be you.'
"He said, 'Why would you want it to be me?'
Krzyzewski pauses in telling the story and his eyes moisten.
"I said, 'Because you're the only one.' "
On the night Krzyzewski was enshrined into the Hall of Fame, he was escorted on stage by his three daughters. Then Knight spoke. He talked of examples Krzyzewski had set as a player, a coach and a leader. He said Krzyzewski achieved success the right way. It was warm, sincere and a lifetime in the making.
Then Knight walked into the audience, offered his hand to Mickie Krzyzewski and brought her on stage with her husband and their daughters.
"In a long friendship, long relationship, especially with people you love, sometimes there's a misunderstanding but you never leave each other's heart," Krzyzewski says. "...You realize that you probably lost something and you did. You lost time... I'm just happy that everything has worked out."
The two men are close again. They go out to dinner and talk on the phone for up to 90 minutes at a time. Knight has asked Krzyzewski to spend time together in the offseason getaways but Krzyzewski doesn't hunt or fish. "He likes to shoot stuff," Krzyzewski says.
They've passed all the other great coaches. John Wooden. Adolph Rupp. Dean Smith.
Tuesday night in New York City, Krzyzewski can become college basketball's all-time coaching victory leader.
But he speaks of this moment more in amazement of what he and Knight have done together than what he alone is about to do.
"You have this level of a relationship, whether it be a father and son or whatever you equate it to. It's intense. It's at a level that has produced 1,800 wins. Not only that but it will be the guy who coached the guy ..." Krzyzewski says, pausing in mid-sentence.
"The first two are those two. How could that be?"