Tonight, the Duke Blue Devils took the court in Greensboro, and beat UNC-G by nearly 50 points. Everyone played great -- Nolan was on fire, Miles had some incredible dunks, and Kyle quietly led the team in scoring with some beautifully silky shooting from the 3-point line. Our team played hard during every play, and when the last seconds ticked off the clock, Duke enjoyed one of its many, many victories.
But tonight was more special than usual, because Coach K moved into 2nd place on the list of all-time wins by a men's college basketball coach with...prepare yourself...880 wins.
Yup, 880 wins. And the season just started. And we're going to continue to win. More than impressive, Coach K's career has moved into uber-elite status. And the best part about his success is that it is truly deserved. Nobody works harder than Coach K, nobody cares about his team more, and nobody wants to win more than he does. On top of that, he's a great man -- committed to his family and the Duke community. As you can gather, Coach K can do no wrong in my eyes.
I first noticed Coach K in 1991, when I was nine years old. Duke had made it to the Final Four and was on its way to a storybook championship. As I watched the team progress in the tournament, I gravitated toward three things about Duke.
The first was the "Cameron Crazies" -- the Duke students who painted their faces blue and cheered their hearts out for their team, game after game. I loved the passion that the Crazies showed for their team and their school, and vowed to myself that I'd always look for that kind of community and enthusiasm in the schools I attended and the places I worked.
The second was Duke's point guard, Bobby Hurley. Hurley, who wore #11 and is known as one of Duke's best players, was a pretty scrawny dude at the time, but he dished the ball to his teammates with ease and played incredibly hard. He was tough as nails, and I loved him immediately. Even at nine years old, I fancied myself as a hoopster, and I tried to emulate Hurley's game throughout my basketball career and always wore #11.
The third, and the most lasting thing I noticed about Duke, was Coach K. I loved his intensity and his focus during the games, and I felt that he set a standard of excellence that defined Duke and defined what I wanted to be. At nine years old, I decided that I wanted to be excellent like Coach K and I wanted to go to Duke. Those dreams guided me throughout my life, and I know they've helped shape the goal-oriented, competitive, passionate person I am today.
So now you understand why meeting him a month ago was such a big deal for me. This man is my hero. The fact that he knows me and has supported me on my cancer-killing adventure just blows me away every time I think about it. He shoots me emails on a weekly basis, cheering me on and letting me know that he can't wait to see me in Durham (I'll be there for the Boston College game on January 27th, right before my surgery).
Tonight, I got to cheer him on.
When the buzzer went off and Duke won tonight, as Coach K further cemented his status as one of the all-time great coaches in all of sports, I shed a tear. Out of pride for my school, out of joy for my team, and out of gratitude. I can't really express how grateful I am for Coach K's presence in my life, as a man on TV when I was a second-grader, and as the man inspiring me to keep fighting and keep beating cancer today.
Coach K: my hero, as always.