Both Mickie and Mike Krzyzewski had to fight back tears as they accepted the Greater Durham Chamber's Civic Honor Award today at the chamber's annual meeting that drew 800 people.
Mickie pointed out that Coach K has been awarded plenty of prestigious honors.
"But this one hits right here," she said, pointing to her heart. "This is our home."
Coach K said he and his wife knew Duke would be a good fit for them when he took the head coaching job in 1980.
"But when we came here, we fell in love with Durham," he said, his voice catching. "We fell in love with the people."
Coach K said it's been gratifying to see the city unite to achieve the successes - economic and otherwise - in recent years.
"There was so much strength in our community, but it wasn't brought together; it was siloed," he said. "Over the last 32 years, we've seen the city become one. This is a great time. All of you, all of us, are on the same team. How cool is that?"
The entire Krzyzewski clan - including Mike and Mickie's three daughters, their husbands and the 8 grandchildren, all of whom call Durham home - received the award, marking the first time it's gone to more than one person.
Mike Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations and the Chamber's incoming chairman this year, noted that the Krzyzewski's moved here in March 1980, some eight months before Coach K's first game as Duke head coach. Before the record-breaking number of wins, the four national titles, the Olympic gold medals, "before all of that," Schoenfeld said, "there was the Krzyzewski family of Durham. Mike and Mickie embraced our community as their own."
He and the Krzyzewskis mentioned the Emily Krzyzewski Center, a mentoring program begun six years ago and named for Coach K's late mother. It now serves 1,500 people a month, mostly young people in need of tutoring and other support.
Coach K everyone who comes there may not have economic advantages, "but every person has equal status as a human being," his voice catching again.
But the mood wasn't at all somber. Coach K, ever the jokester, caught himself saying "y'all," and the Chicago native took it as an opportunity to further establish his Durham cred.
"I say 'y'all' now, by the way," he said. "I've come a long way from 'youse guys.'"
In closing, he assured, "This is where we live. This is where we'll always live. And you'll always have our support."