Coach K’s 1,000th win did not come without a major struggle

“I’m so glad it’s over.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m the lucky guy.”

Coach K, in postgame remarks after Duke came from behind to beat St. John’s to become the first ever NCAA Division One men’s head coach to reach the monumental total of 1,000 coaching wins.

What a scene it was Sunday afternoon inside Madison Square Garden.

With Fox carrying this game to a nationally televised audience, it appeared that St. John’s was about to get its’ first major win since the first round of the 1985 NCAA Tournament at the then-named Rosemont Horizon (nee Allstate Arena in the affluent north Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois).

“To do it here, to win the 1000th, you’ve gotta be a lucky guy,” Krzyzewski said. “I love Cameron, but this is a magical place.”  26 of Duke’s major wins have come inside ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena’.

With plenty of former Duke and Army players in attendance, this game took on an NCAA Tournament type of feel.  Both sides of the crowd were about 50/50 in terms of cheering support–half for the Blue Devils, half for the Johnnies.

The Red Storm led for 11:20 of the second half.  But Duke showed plenty of resolve, thanks in large part to a 15-1 run that gave the Blue Devils a 66-62 lead with 4:07 remaining.  At that juncture, St. John’s big man Chris Obekpa picked up his fourth foul which changed completely the final outcome.

Tyus Jones a few minutes later hit another three right in front of the Duke bench with 75 seconds to play.  Albeit the final score was 77-68, this game felt a lot closer than that.  Jones, one of the best freshmen in the nation replacing 2014 stellar freshman Jabari Parker, finished the game with 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists.  Fellow freshman teammate (and frontrunner for Player of the Year), Jahlil Okafor, compiled a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Next up for Duke, a grudge match in the always iffy winter weather community known as South Bend, Indiana and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame before a trip to undefeated Virginia takes place next Saturday night (this after nearly being upset on the road at in-state rival Virginia Tech by reeling off a 14-3 run late in that game to win 50-47 on Sunday).

And for those wondering who could join Coach K, only time will tell if and when Jim Boeheim of Syracuse will join that stellar 1,000 Win Club.  Currently, the Orange’s winningest coach has 962 so he would have to stick around in upstate New York for at least all of next season.  More than likely, he would probably have to stick it out after the Christmas holiday in December 2016 to join Coach K.

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