Rick Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski may be in competition with each other, but they are also friends who have immense respect for one another.
The friendship between Pitino and Coach K began after their teams competed in the 1992 East Region finals of the NCAA tournament. Krzyzewski’s Duke squad beat Pitino’s Kentucky team 104-103 on Christian Laettner’s famous shot. The game is considered to be one of the best in college basketball history.
On Sunday their teams met in the regional finals, marking the first time the coaches have faced each other in the NCAA tournament since that game. Pitino and Krzyzewski had nothing but praise for each other before the game. Pitino, now the coach at Louisville, even called Coach K “the modern-day John Wooden.”
“He’s the modern-day John Wooden. He’s a true winner on and off the court,” Pitino said of Krzyzewski in an interview with CBS before the game.
“What I love about him, too, is that when he loses, he’s a gracious loser. He doesn’t give you the blow by handshake. He’ll stay there, he’ll congratulate you, he’ll praise you in the press conference. So he has it all together.”
Pitino expounded on their friendship while meeting with the media Saturday.
“We’ve been friends from that point on,” Pitino said, via The Lexington Herald-Leader. “Both of us looked at the game a lot different than the Kentucky fans or, for that matter, the Duke fans. Both of us just sat back and coached and watched an incredible offensive display.
“Any time you write a whole book about one game, it’s kind of special.”
Comparing someone to Wooden is about as strong of praise as you can get. Wooden won 10 national championships at UCLA and was considered to have character as strong as his coaching ability. But Coach K isn’t too far off from Wooden. He has reached eight championship games, won four national titles, and his 11 Final Four appearances are one shy of tying Wooden’s record 12.
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