The 1980-81 season was Mike Krzyzewski’s first as the head coach of the Duke men’s basketball team. The little-known coach had spent the five previous seasons at Army and Tobacco Road was squarely in the hands of already legendary UNC coach Dean Smith. Coach K has since cemented his reputation as one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history, but had to do it without one Michael Jordan, to whom he wrote this letter after Jordan opted for Smith, Carolina and the Tar Heels.
As they say, the rest is history, but not before Coach K tried guilting “Mike” (whoever that is) into becoming a Blue Devil. OK, so maybe it was just a kind gesture to a high schooler who wound up being arguably the best basketball player ever, but this is unequivocally the biggest jewel Coach K ever lost his hands on.
During MJ’s first two seasons, Coach K’s second and third in the ACC, the Blue Devils skidded, going a combined 21-34 (7-21) with no postseason berths to speak of. Smith and Jordan went 60-10 (24-4), including a national championship and an Elite 8 berth. By the time Jordan took home his Naismith Award after his senior season in ’84, it was apparent Coach K didn’t want to have to write any more of these letters.
Of course, he got his, but it’s always fun to wonder what might have been. Coach K and MJ? Jordan as the Patron Saint of Cameron Indoor? This Bizzarro Tobacco Road is funky.
[h/t Darren Rovell on whosay, Getty Images]