NEW YORK — Two hard-driving, enormously successful coaches shared a tender moment Tuesday night after Dukes Mike Krzyzewski became the winningest coach in Division I mens basketball.
Moments after career win number 903, Krzyzewski embraced Bob Knight, who coached him at Army and won 902 games in his career. No. 6-ranked Duke had just defeated Michigan State 74-69 at Madison Square Garden with Knight sitting in the ESPN color analysts chair.
Both men got choked up as Krzyzewski thanked Knight.
Im not sure people tell you this, Krzyzewski said he told Knight. But I love you, and I love what youve done for me.
Boy, Krzyzewski said Knight replied, youve done pretty good for a kid who couldnt shoot. And I think that means he loves me.
Perhaps Krzyzewski couldnt shoot. But he has recruited plenty of players who could. On Tuesday night, junior guard Andre Dawkins led a brilliant performance that has been typical of Krzyzewski-coached teams.
Krzyzewski is known for recruiting sharp-shooting guards such as J.J. Redick, Trajan Langdon and Jon Scheyer, and getting them open 3-pointers off screens and dribble penetration by their teammates.
Dawkins, who totaled just 10 points in Dukes first two games, made six 3-pointers and scored 26 points. Guard Seth Curry, who added 20 points, and Ryan Kelly each made two 3-pointers as Duke (3-0) went 10-for-21 from 3-point range.
The big game for the Blue Devil guards came after Knight visited the team hotel Monday night.
"Coach Knight told us last night that if we didn't win, he was going to run practice for the next few days, Dawkins said, so I think I was more scared into making shots than anything."
They did it on a special night in unusual circumstances. The NBA lockout made it possible for a couple dozen former Duke players to attend; among them were Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Chris Duhon, Elton Brand and Shane Battier.
Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, who didnt play for Duke but were members of the 2008 Olympic team that Krzyzewski coached to a gold medal in China, also were at the game.
They saw the Blue Devils win with a gritty, man-to-man defense that was typical of teams coached by Krzyzewski, whos 903-284, and Knight. Michigan State (0-2), which lost 67-55 to North Carolina in its opener, fed its big, physical forwards in the low post.
Dukes forwards muscled up against them, and the Blue Devil guards collapsed into the lane to steal the ball. Dawkins made four of Dukes eight steals as the Blue Devils forced 21 turnovers.
It wasnt a perfect performance; after leading by 20 points, Duke committed careless turnovers that made the score close at the end. But it was good enough to deliver a big win on a huge stage.
Im excited, Kelly said. Im proud. One of the reasons I came to Duke is that I believe Coach K is the best coach and he can make me into the best player. I think hes certainly still the best coach, and that number shows it, and hes certainly made me the best player I can be.
A generation earlier, Krzyzewski might have said something similar about Knight. On Tuesday night, Krzyzewski got to take a brief timeout from coaching Duke to tell his coach how he felt about him.
And he was grateful for the way it turned out.
I thank the basketball gods for allowing Coach to be here for this moment, to have the two of us together, Krzyzewski said. Because you dont know that would happen. That was really a good thing for the two of us to be together tonight.
Tysiac: 919-829-8942, or @kentysiac on Twitter