Shane Dunaway: Coach K worthy of storybook ending

Published 8:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2022

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When it comes to sports, I’m a sucker for storybook endings where coaches or players get to finish their careers with a championship in hand.

In my lifetime, I’ve had the privilege of seeing several players accomplish this feat, mostly in the NFL, whether it was Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis or Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

A more recent example of this feel-good scenario came in Super Bowl LVI, where Los Angeles Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth earned a ring by beating his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals. I feel like that one flew under the radar a bit because of the position he plays, but I digress.

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College basketball could be the first sport to give me an opportunity to see a coach finish his career by leading his team to a championship.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is certainly no stranger to championships, having won five with the Blue Devils, but there’s something magical about this opportunity that may make this one the most memorable title run of his career if he can guide his team to two more victories.

His first hurdle comes today against a North Carolina team that defeated his squad 94-81 in his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

There’s no doubt in my mind those players on the court are going to give Coach K every ounce of energy they can muster to bounce the rival Tar Heels from the tournament and avenge what should have been another feel-good moment a month ago.

From there, Coach K would have to face either Kansas or Villanova in the championship game on Monday. Jayhawks coach Bill Self led Kansas to a national championship in 2008, while Wildcats coach Jay Wright’s resume includes a pair of title wins in 2016 and 2018.

Either way, it would be a formidable and worthy opponent in what would be Coack K’s final game, but only if his team can pull off the win tonight.

Will Coack K’s squad have enough left in the tank – not just physically, but emotionally – after a win on Saturday?

I’m convinced a win over North Carolina would bolster the Blue Devils’ resolve, make them even hungrier for a championship and motivate them to give Kryzewski the farewell a career of his caliber deserves.

I just hope we get a memorable, “This one’s for John!” style of sound bite to accompany it.

Good luck, Coach K.