The outcome of Duke-UNC doesn't matter for Coach K's legacy

A win isn't needed to confirm Mike Krzyzewski as the greatest coach in college basketball history

Coach K.
(Image credit: Illustrated | AP Images, Getty Images, iStock)

On Saturday evening in New Orleans, the greatest rivals in college basketball will face off in the most important game in their long histories. The stakes could not be any higher: The winner of the NCAA semifinal game between the Duke University Blue Devils and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels will get to play for the national championship Monday evening.

Yet even setting that enormous prize aside, it's hard to overstate the significance of the competition — and not just because of how much these teams hate each other. Duke and Carolina have never played each other in the NCAA tournament, and their eventual meeting now, in the Final Four — once only an imagined possibility — has previously been described as "college basketball Armageddon." But the biggest consequence tonight is that, depending on what happens, it could be the final game of the greatest coach in college basketball history: Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

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Neil J. Young

Neil J. Young is a historian and the author of We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics. He writes frequently on American politics, culture, and religion for publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, HuffPost, Vox, and Politico. He co-hosts the history podcast Past Present.