Bittersweet ending: Coach K’s farewell home game spoiled by visiting Tar Heels

By John Carlo Ayende

PHOTO: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Celebrities, former players, and students. Everyone was in attendance to witness coach Mike Krzyzewski’s swan song as the head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, capping his illustrious 42-year coaching career.

But their long-time rivals North Carolina Tar Heels entered the jam-packed Cameron Indoor Stadium with no other plan in mind but to ruin his legendary night.

The unranked Tar Heels bid farewell to Coach K by pulling off a stunning 94-81 victory over the fourth-ranked Blue Devils in his home finale. 

It was a back-and-forth first half as both teams were throwing haymakers at each other, concluding with a two-point advantage in favor of the Blue Devils, 41-39.

In the second half, the Blue Devils held a slight edge in the early goings before the Tar Heels turned up the heat in the final five-minute game, outscoring Duke 21-10 during the stretch on their way to an upset.

Four players from North Carolina registered 20+ points led by Armando Bacot with 23 markers. Projected NBA lottery pick Paolo Banchero spearheaded Duke’s offense with 23 points of his own.

After the game, the school conducted a ceremony to give tribute to Coach K’s legacy with Duke spanning more than four decades.

"I'm sorry about this afternoon, it's unacceptable. Today was unacceptable, but the season has been very acceptable,” Krzyzewski addressed the crowd after the disappointing loss. 

Despite not getting the perfect ending in his home finale, Coach K was grateful for all the support he got from his family, former players, and Duke University. 

"It has been emotional but before the game, you're thinking and you get a little teary-eyed and then you say, 'Whoa, I can't do that,' " Krzyzewski said. "And so then you go on the court and then you feel it. Actually, when all the players were there, it was just, like, wow, it wasn't as emotional as it was great."

Former Duke and NBA legends Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Jay Williams, JJ Redick, Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, and Steve Wojciechowski were all present to watch their mentor lead their alma mater at their home turf for one last time. 

Coach K also gives credit to North Carolina for their brilliant performance in the entire game. "They're a really good team and they played a lot better than we did today," Krzyzewski quipped.

Coach K and Duke University will begin their final run to a national championship as the ACC tournament will start on Tuesday following the NCAA March Madness the week after.


Edited by Jostle Doen Pilayre
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