Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has lead the Blue Devils to four national championships. He has coached two teams to Olympic gold medals, and he’s in the Basketball Hall of Fame. But coming into the weekend, there was one milestone he hadn’t reached: Coach K is one shy of 1,000 wins.
So we called someone who’s already passed that benchmark, coach Dorothy Gaters of John Marshall Metropolitan High School in Chicago.
DT: You have to start coaching pretty young to reach 1,000 wins. Coach K got his first head coaching job at 28. Tell me the story of how you first started coaching girls’ basketball at Marshall.
DG: Well, no one else wanted it. I started teaching here. This is my alma mater, so I did my student teaching, and they asked me to come back as a teacher. None of the other females wanted it, and I think the athletic director wanted a female to coach the girls' team. So, that's how I got started.
[sidebar title="A Conversation With Duke's Mike Krzyzewski" width="630" align="right"] Last May, Coach K joined Only A Game to discus coaching the U.S. National Team, losing players to the NBA and more. [/sidebar]DT: Were you excited about it?
DG: Actually, no. I was intimidated. I didn't know very much about basketball. I knew little to nothing. I would watch basketball — you know, that was my experience there. So I knew nothing about it.
DT: It took a while for Coach K to become the powerhouse coach that he is today. His record in his first 10 seasons at Army and Duke was a winning, but uninspiring 158-124. How were your first few seasons as a head coach?
DG: Actually, they were very, very good. We started out as a club team so we were 1-3. And the next year we went to Interscholastic. And so I was so fortunate. I had some great players, and they knew more about basketball than I did. And so, I just let 'em play.
DT: You’ve said had a sleepless night before you notched your 1000th win. Your team won that game 84-22. Why were you so nervous?
DG: Well, I didn't know anything about the team, so it's not like I hand picked them, like many of the universities do. They'll pick, you know, someone from the pink division. They called me for the game and it just so happens, that was the only time that I could play them. So I knew nothing about them. And no one that I knew could really tell me anything about them. But I think the kids played with a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of my former kids came back, so it was a lot of fun.
DT: It sort of seems like they must've been enthusiastic. Eighty-four is a lot of points.
DG: Yes, well, we don't put up those numbers all the time, but the other team had something to do with that. But I was glad to get the game behind me.
DT: You mentioned that you weren't that excited to get the basketball coaching job in the beginning. What do you love about the game of basketball now, all these years later?
DG: I like working with young people. I like seeing them develop. I definitely like winning. I like to see a nice play develop. So, it's just something I enjoy.
DT: Do you have any advice for Coach K as he approaches the big milestone?
DG: Oh wow, That's funny. Give the ball to Jahlil Okafor -- he's from our conference — and they'll be fine.
DT: So you're not worried, you think he'll get there?
DG: Oh most definitely he'll get there. I watch his games frequently. I watch all successful programs. There's always something to learn and admire about special people.
DT: So you're still studying the game?
DG: Always. You can never know too much.
This segment aired on January 24, 2015.