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From Army to Duke, Coach K’s intensity a constant

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DURHAM – Herman Bulls knew Mike Krzyzewski early on, long before Duke’s basketball Hall-of-Famer was Coach K, his iconic identity. He was an unknown Army coach with a silent K preceding his tongue-twister surname.

Similarly, Krzyzewski knew Bulls when he was merely a budding West Point cadet broadcasting Army basketball games on the campus radio station, WKDT. Bulls had yet to launch his highly honored and profitable business calling with a Fortune 500 company following his Army career as a Ranger that climbed to the rank of Colonel before he retired.

Their humble yet disparate beginnings intersected at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy. For those that gain admission to the stone fortress on the banks of the Hudson River in New York, opportunities abound if able to endure the demanding academic and military training curriculum that builds leaders. Krzyzewski turned his opportunity, playing at West Point for Bobby Knight, into a coaching career. When he fulfilled his military commitment and retired as a U.S. Army captain, he served one year as a graduate assistant for Knight at Indiana. Then Knight recommended Army hire his former pupil as a 28-year-old rookie head coach for the 1975-76 season.

At the time, Bulls was a West Point cadet broadcasting Army basketball games for the campus radio station, WKDT. His vantage points, with access to practices then and now, have provided him a unique window into Krzyzewski’s coaching career.

On an October visit to Duke’s campus, at the invitation of Coach K for his Center of Leadership Ethics (COLE) seminar. Bulls was among Fortune 500 company executives and high-ranking military officers and commanders.

Bulls reflected over breakfast at the J.B. Duke Hotel on how they met, how their titles and places in life have changed and, most of all, how the core of their lives as West Point graduates remains unchanged.

“I can remember going to his practices at West Point, and his intensity has not waned at his practices from then to now,” Bulls said. “I’ve seen it up close and personal. I can tell you he is as demanding of an individual I’ve ever seen, but at the same time he is a person to his players that teaches excellence and demands excellence.

“He obviously knows what he’s talking about. I’ve never heard him say this, but in my view, his lesson to his players has been, ‘I can make you a better player and person, but you’ve got to listen to me.’ He’s looking for that type of kid.”


Duke (9-1) has been off this week for exams and play only twice over the next 15 days. The upcoming non-conference games, both at Cameron, are Dec. 19 against Wofford and Dec. 28 against Brown.

The Blue Devils, ranked No. 7 in the AP poll and No. 5 in the USA Today rankings, resume ACC play on Dec. 31 against Boston College at Cameron Indoor Stadium.


All-conference honors go to teams at the top of the standings, but a measure of Duke managed to have eight players earn All-ACC recognition in an injury-plagued season.

Three players earning second-team honors were junior defensive end Victor Dimukeje, redshirt sophomore tight end Noah Gray and redshirt sophomore specialist Damond Philyaw-Johnson.

Third-team picks were senior linebacker Koby Quansah, who played through a broken thumb suffered in practice before the season opener, and redshirt sophomore defensive end Chris Rumph II.

Earning honorable mention were junior center Jack Wohlabaugh, senior punter Austin Reed and junior kicker A.J. Reed.

Tom Shanahan is freelance writer based in Cary and author of Raye of Light, a book featuring Fayetteville’s Jimmy Raye as a pioneering black quarterback for College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty on Michigan State’s Underground Railroad football teams of the 1960s.