On March 18, 1980, Mike Krzyzewski took over as head coach at Duke. He may not have realized what was about to happen, but he started a legacy that lasted 42 years. Counting this season, his Blue Devils teams have won almost 79% of their games, appeared in 36 NCAA tournaments, finished first in the ACC 13 times, appeared in 12 Final Fours and won five national championships. And just for good measure, Coach K also won five Olympic gold medals.
Tonight Coach K will be in charge of his last home game for the Duke Blue Devils. The team is a lock for the NCAA Tournament and still has the ACC Tournament to play, so it’s not quite Coach K’s last game yet. But that hasn’t stopped the Cameron Crazies from… well, to go crazy for the farewell at the Cameron Indoor Stadium. Ticket prices for the match range from $4,313 to $27,000 per ticket.
During a recent appearance on ESPN Forgive the interruption, Coach K mentioned that he will always be an ambassador with the Blue Devils, even if he will not be paid as well as he was when he was a manager.
So, that begs the question: how much did Coach K earn during his Duke career?
Salary figures for the 1980s and 1990s are harder to come by (and some schools just haven’t made that information public), but Coach K reportedly hired for $48,000 in 1980. In the early 1990s, he also won $200,000 in mentions of shoes. And top coaches of the time, including Krzyzewski’s former coach and mentor Bob Knight, earned between $500,000 and $750,000 each year, which included salaries, bonuses and sponsorship deals.
To keep the math a bit simple, let’s assume that Coach K was earning around $50,000 a year throughout the 1980s and $500,000 a year in the 1990s, which also happened to be the decade he started to win titles. It’s a total of $5.5 million.
In 2000, Duke offered Coach K a lifetime contract, which helped him earn more money. From Duke tax releases, we know that Coach K earned just under $600,000 in total compensation in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, his salary rose to $750,000 and $800,000 l ‘Next year. In 2005, he broke the million dollar mark with a salary of $1.2 million. Then his income really started to take off.
In 2012, Krzyzewski brought in $7.6 million in base salary alone. For most of the 2010s, it exceeded $9 million each year.
Add it all together and Coach K probably did approximately $125 million throughout his career as a duke. And that probably even underestimates the sponsorship deals and bonuses he likely received from college and other businesses.
Due to his success at the collegiate level, many NBA teams have used Coach K’s services. In 1990, the Boston Celtics tried to sign Krzyzewski away from the Blue Devils, but he turned them down. The Portland Trail Blazers came calling in 1994, but again Krzyzewski said no. In 2004, the Los Angeles Lakers offered a five-year, $40 million contract and shared ownership of the team, but Krzyzewski also declined. He also turned down contracts from the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Jersey Nets, the latter arriving in 2010 and worth $12 million and $15 million a year.
Some fun facts about these offers:
The year after turning down the offer from the Celtics, the Blue Devils won their first title under Krzyzewski. They would go on to repeat the following season.
The season after Krzyzewski turned down the Nets’ offer, they were one of the worst teams in the NBA. They only won 24 games, finishing last in their division. The Blue Devils – who have won the ACC Conference Tournament and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament – have won 32 times despite playing in 45 games less.
We’ll never know how successful Coach K would have been in the pros. But something tells us he’s totally okay with his decision to stay at Duke.