Mike Krzyzewski (pronounced Sha-shef-ski) was born in Chicago and raised on the city's Northwest side, among other working class Polish-American families. His father was an elevator operator, his mother a cleaning woman. The family shared a two-story home with relatives. From an early age, Mike showed enthusiasm for all sports, but by high school he was focusing on basketball. As a high school athlete, he made such an impression he was recruited by coach Bob Knight for the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he became captain of the basketball team. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1974.
Krzyzewski's team reached the Final Four in 1986 and came within one game of winning the championship. In that year, they had played more games than any other team in the history of college basketball. With the departure of the five seniors on the squad, many observers expected a sharp decline in Duke's basketball fortunes but Krzyzewski's 1987 Devils won 24 games and made it to the Sweet 16, losing to Indiana, which went on to win the national championship. From 1988 to 1992, he led his team to the Final Four for five consecutive seasons. UCLA's legendary John Wooden is the only other coach in the history of the tournament to perform this feat.
The Duke team made it to the championship game again In 1994, losing to Arkansas by only four points. After the tournament, Coach K. underwent back surgery and was forced to take a ten-month break from coaching, but he returned to lead the Blue Devils into three more NCAA tournaments in 1996, '97 and '99. In 1992 The Sporting News named him Sportsman of the Year he was the first college coach to have been so honored. He has also been named Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (1991) and by Basketball Times (1997).
Coach Krzyzewski and many of his players are also active in international basketball. He served as head coach of the bronze-winning American team at the FIBA World Championships and won a Silver medal at the Goodwill Games in Seattle. He assisted his old mentor Bob Knight at the 1984 Olympics and has served as chairman of the Player Selection Committee for all U.S. teams, including the 1991 Pan Am Team and the 1992 Olympic Team. As assistant coach to the legendary "Dream Team" he shared in the gold medal won by the U.S. at Barcelona. On October 26, 2005 Coach Krzyzewski was selected to be the head coach for the 2008 USA Olympic Senior National basketball team. With players like Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Jason Kidd, Team USA claimed their spot in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and brought home the gold medal.
To date, Krzyzewski has placed his team in more NCAA tournament Final Fours than any coaches other than UCLA's Wooden and Dean Smith of North Carolina. He has won more Final Four games than anyone but UCLA's Wooden, and has the highest winning percentage in the NCAA tournament of any currently active coach. Duke's victory over Arizona in the 2001 tournament gave Krzyzewski his third NCAA championship, tying him with his old coach and lifelong mentor, Bob Knight.
Over the years, Coach K. has turned down spectacularly lucrative offers to coach professional teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers. His continuing commitment to the college game, and his loyalty to the Duke University community have made him an exemplary figure in the world of sports.