North Carolina spoils emotional home finale of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski applauds while being recognized before the team's game against North Carolina.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski applauds while being recognized before his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday against rival North Carolina. The Tar Heels won 94-81.
(Gerry Broome / Associated Press)

North Carolina spoiled the emotional home finale of retiring Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, beating fourth-ranked rival Duke 94-81 on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The day that was all about the coach who has 1,196 career victories and five NCAA championships abruptly turned into a season-defining performance for the Tar Heels, who played fearlessly in an extra rowdy arena and shot 59% after halftime.

By the final minutes, the Tar Heels (23-8, 15-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) were stretched the lead to double figures, hitting clinching free throws and leaving the “Cameron Crazies” in disbelief that Krzyzewski’s final home game after 42 years at the helm of Duke would end this way.


Krzyzewski could only watch from his seat at the end, with North Carolina in firm control. And when the horn sounded, the Tar Heels mobbed each other to celebrate on the court, while Caleb Love — who overcame an 0-for-8 shooting start to score 15 of his 22 points after halftime — jawed at the Crazies.

Armando Bacot scored 23 points to lead North Carolina. Freshman Paolo Banchero scored 23 points for the Blue Devils (26-5, 16-4), who shot just 42%.

The success of their respective basketball programs have made USC’s Andy Enfield and UCLA’s Mick Cronin two of the hotter names on the coaching market.

March 4, 2022

Krzyzewski’s Cameron farewell was highly anticipated since he announced his plan last June: A final season that would become a farewell tour of sorts, a last championship run with another talented team featuring high-end NBA-caliber talent.

He has spent the better part of that time deflecting questions about his looming retirement — even eschewing the use of the word “last” — and trying to avoid being a distraction or creating additional pressure on his team. That began to change more in recent days as the moment drew near for a coach who has long taken a live-in-the-moment approach on everything.

Even then, he knew he would have to prepare for the emotional spectacle, saying he’d “have a meeting” to give himself the kind of chat he had given so many of his players before their final game.

More than 90 former players were in attendance, including some of the program’s biggest names like Grant Hill, Shane Battier, J.J. Redick, Jay Williams, Danny Ferry and Christian Laettner.

North Carolina's Caleb Love shoots against Duke's Paolo Banchero (5) and AJ Griffin (21) during the first half March 5, 2022.
North Carolina’s Caleb Love, who scored 22 points, shoots against Duke’s Paolo Banchero (5) and AJ Griffin during the first half.
(Chris Seward / Associated Press)

They gathered to create two lines on the court — several motioning to the student section for more noise or capturing video with their cellphones — to make an aisle for Krzyzewski to walk to midcourt to join them for a group photo captured from the rafters.

After returning for the final pregame minutes, Krzyzewski appeared to be fighting back tears during the national anthem and dabbing his eyes with a tissue during the final huddle before tipoff.

Associate head coach Jon Scheyer — designated as Krzyzewski’s successor next season — took a moment to pat his mentor on the right shin before the opening tip.

According to the school, the guest list for Krzyzewski’s going-away party included comedian Jerry Seinfeld, actor/comedian Ken Jeong, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and quarterback Kyler Murray of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

There was also the sighting of retired NBA great Dirk Nowitzki, who took a walk-through of the Duke practice facility earlier Saturday and ran into current player Wendell Moore Jr. — who quickly asked for a photo with the former world champion.