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Duke's Coach K Is Retiring After 4 Decades

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A day after announcing his retirement, Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski explained today why he's leaving the game he's dominated for four decades. WUNC's Dave DeWitt reports.

DAVE DEWITT, BYLINE: Not every retirement event begins with a 74-year-old man dancing - not altogether well, mind you - in front of a crowd of family, friends, colleagues and reporters. But not every retiree is Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYTIME WE TOUCH")

CASCADA: (Singing) 'Cause every time we touch, I get this feeling.

DEWITT: This is a song that is famously played to fire up the Duke basketball crowd during timeouts, and it was one of the things he says he missed during this past year, playing games in front of no crowds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Wow. I miss that music. I miss people on the court, and I'm so excited about this upcoming year.

DEWITT: This upcoming year will be his last. Coach K said his decision to retire was not due to his health or to COVID or to the many changes to college basketball, like increased player transfers between universities and discussions over players earning money for endorsements.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KRZYZEWSKI: I've been in it for 46 years. You mean the game's never changed? In the progression of the game, we've always had to adapt to the changes in culture, the changes in rules, the changes in the world.

DEWITT: Krzyzewski, the winningest college basketball coach ever, said the reason he chose to announce his retirement now, effective at the end of next season, was simple - to allocate his time better and not to make a promise to an incoming player he might not be able to keep.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KRZYZEWSKI: It's not fair to a kid that you would be recruiting. Like, yeah, I think I'm going to coach and then, at the end of the year, say you're not coaching.

DEWITT: In a press conference filled with self-reflection, Krzyzewski referred frequently to the importance of his family and to being able to adapt. One crucial time that both intersected was in the mid-1990s, when his family taught him to learn to let go, to a certain extent, when health issues nearly ended his career.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KRZYZEWSKI: In this profession, whatever you do, when you love it a lot, you can go off the deep end and only love that and forget about what else you love. And that's - I've learned balance. And I didn't have it all the time.

DEWITT: Krzyzewski says he will coach this year with a focus on finishing the season with another national championship. If that happens, it would be his sixth.

For NPR News, I'm Dave DeWitt in Durham, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MONKEES SONG, "AS WE GO ALONG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.