One last time? Kentucky and Duke kick off Mike Krzyzewski’s farewell season


Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski talks with media during an interview at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday, April 3, 2015 in Indianapolis , IN. Photo by Jonathan Krueger | Staff.

Jaron Centers

Kentucky and Duke: the names alone instantly evoke memories of two of the most storied programs in college basketball.

Once again, the two blue bloods will face off under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden in New York City. This time around, however, the stakes are a little higher, not necessarily for the players but for the coaches. John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski will potentially be coaching their last contest against each other. 

Krzyzewski, popularly known as “Coach K,” will lead Duke one last time this upcoming season, as he announced his retirement in June after coaching the Blue Devils for 41 years. In that time, the Naismith Hall of Famer accumulated five National Championships, 12 Final Fours and 1,170 wins — the most of any coach in Division I men’s basketball history. 

Calipari gave a statement looking ahead at the matchup, recognizing Krzyzewski’s decorated career at Duke.

“To think that November may be the last time I ever coach against Mike Krzyzewski is hard to believe,” Calipari said. “For as long as I can remember, Coach K has been synonymous not only with Duke, but with college basketball. His benchmark of excellence for nearly 50 years has pushed all of us.”

Calipari commemorated Krzyzewski’s contributions that reach beyond the game.

“Personally, he has challenged me as a coach and a recruiter,” Calipari said. “The respect I have for Mike and all that he has done for our game and coaches goes so far beyond the battles we have had on the court over the years. Our game is not what it is today without a lifetime of dedication and love Mike has put into it.”

Calipari has a chance to even the all-time record between the coaches on Nov. 9, as Krzyzewski has won two of the three matchups between them. Kentucky leads the series all-time against the Blue Devils, 12-10. 

The possible final battle between the legendary coaches is once again set to be competitive, as both teams are expected to rank in the top-15 nationally.

Kentucky looks to hit the reset button following a lackluster 9-16 season plagued by a lack of experience and chemistry. 

Duke, after a disappointing 13-11 season, seeks to stand at the top of the ACC once again. The Blue Devils bring in the No. 5 overall recruiting class headlined by five-star freshman Paolo Banchero, the No. 2 overall player in 2021, per 247Sports. Returners Jordan Goldwire, Jeremy Roach and Mark Williams will be key in Coach K’s final campaign.

The “Cats and the Blue Devils” matchup will be the first since 2018, when Duke defeated Kentucky in dominating fashion, winning 118-84 in Indianapolis. The Nov. 9 matchup will kick off the 2021-22 college basketball season at the annual Champions Classic.

After a tough year for the world of sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hype builds as college basketball fans can look forward to a somewhat normal season. The season opener will pin two of the most storied programs and legendary coaches against each other: Kentucky and Duke, Calipari and Krzyzewski, facing off in the Big Apple — with a little more pride on the line.