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Coach K, Calhoun know each other well
And the common link to the 2 — Bobby Knight

SHARE Coach K, Calhoun know each other well
And the common link to the 2 — Bobby Knight

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If you played "Six Degrees of Separation" in college basketball coaching, you could just about encompass all of the coaches in the nation with a handful of prominent ones.

In the case of Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, the link would be Indiana coach Bobby Knight, although not directly.Although both seem to have a quality that would speak of Knight.

"I heard him the other night say something to the effect of 'sometimes wrong but never in doubt,' " Calhoun said Sunday as the teams prepared to meet each other in Monday night's national championship. "And I kind of feel the same way about my decisions at times, which means we're both probably very stubborn about what we do."

Calhoun is not stubborn about revealing his feelings about the effect Krzyzewski has had on the game.

"He's probably the coach for our generation," said Calhoun, 56, of his 52-year-old counterpart.

And Calhoun credits much more than Krzyzewski's 500-plus career victories, eight Final Fours or two national titles, citing his work with the National Association of Basketball Coaches, USA Basketball and other organizations.

"I clearly believe he has taken the time out to try to make sure that basketball is better," Calhoun said.

In the late 1960s as a small college assistant and high school coach, Calhoun would take his teams up to West Point to clinics run by Knight, then the coach there. The last couple of years, Krzyzewski was a player for Knight.

"I got to know Mike," Calhoun said.

A few years later, the two would cross paths again, Calhoun as the head coach at Northeastern, a small school in Boston, and Krzyzewski at Army in 1975 after serving as an assistant under Knight for a year at Indiana.

Somewhere along the way, Northeastern and Army, and Calhoun and Krzyzewski, played one another.

"I can remember losing a tough game to him," Krzyzewski said. "Perry Moss hit a half-court shot at the buzzer and beat us."

Keep that thought in mind.

The shoe was on the other foot -- at a much higher level -- in the NCAA East Regional final at the Meadowlands in 1990. Calhoun's Huskies were up by a point in the final seconds when Duke's Christian Laettner buried a long jumper at the buzzer off an inbounds play.

Krzyzewski leaped in the air, but before his feet could hit the ground, he was turning to Calhoun.

"By the time I reached the peak of my jump, which is not very long, I immediately thought of Jim, and it was like -- it was kind of a difficult situation because I think only a coach knows what the other coach feels," he said.

UConn fans will never forget that shot.

"As much a great person as Mike Krzyzewski is, there are some people in Connecticut who truly don't like him, you know?" he said. "They're never going to forgive him for Christian shooting that shot. I always remember walking into Mass the next day and the priest said, 'At least he had the right first name.' "

Calhoun and Krzyzewski have met each other two other times in their present jobs, splitting each, although the Duke victory was again in an NCAA regional final, in 1991.

"Clearly, they've broken our hearts a couple times," Calhoun said. "Maybe, just maybe, we'll have the opportunity to do a little bit of heartbreak in them, too."

"I'm very pleased for him that he's here in the national championship game," Krzyzewski said.

But Krzyzewski can't discount his own feelings.

"I hope he doesn't win it, but I'm glad he's here," he said. "We want to win it."