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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak talks with Utah Utes forward Jakob Poeltl (42), Jeremy Olsen, Jake Connor, Brandon Taylor and Kyle Kuzma, left to right, during the University of Utah's men's basketball practice at the Jon M. Huntsman Center before heading off to play Duke University in the Sweet 16 in Houston, Monday, March 23, 2015, in Salt Lake City.
Yeah, he’s the man — 1,000 wins. I’ve got 100. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski crossed paths last summer — out on the recruiting trail at a 7-Eleven store near Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.

Both coaches were loading up before spending the day watching basketball at the gym.

Krystkowiak kind of gave his coaching counterpart a high-five and said: “There’s the real Coach K” during the brief interaction.

“I don’t remember him laughing or stopping me or anything,” Krystkowiak said. “I thought it was funny, but I’m not sure that he even noticed who I was.”

As for the nickname, Krystkowiak gladly surrenders it to Krzyzewski.

“Yeah, he’s the man — 1,000 wins,” he said. “I’ve got 100.”

On Friday (7:45 p.m., CBS), the coaches will meet for the first time on the court when Duke (31-4) and Utah (26-8) meet in the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional semifinals at NRG Stadium in Houston.

"I don't know how many times two Polish coaches will go against one another, where both of us are called Coach K, but he's a good friend," Krzyzewski said in an Associated Press report.

Krzyzewski is a member of the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame and Krystkowiak is a 2015 nominee.

“My heritage is really important,” said Krystkowiak, who noted that he took his uncle back to Poland in 2000 to see where his family grew up and where relatives are buried. Krystkowiak explained that when his father was a child his family was awakened by the Germans at 2 a.m., one night, and given one hour to gather their belongings. His dad, one of seven boys, ended up spending almost two years in a German work camp as young kids.

“So I’ve always kept that in perspective compared to where I grew up,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s like, man, that wasn’t that long ago that there was some crazy stuff happening.”

Just one generation, he added.

Krystkowiak was a recent guest on Krzyzewski’s SiriusXM radio show — discussing it for about 20 minutes.

“It’s always been a high priority for me. I’m really proud of that situation,” Krystkowiak said. “I know a lot of Poles that work their butts off and do it the right way. So I’m really proud of that.”

Krystkowiak and Krzyzewski paid compliments to one another on the program.

“He said that our situation reminded him of his when he started,” Krystkowiak recalled. “But those early days he was at Duke, they often times were on ESPN and I can remember changing the channel and I told him that because they were bad. I’d find something else to watch. Now it’s hard to miss a game. When they’re on, I tend to watch them.”

It wasn’t all roses when Krzyzewski started, Krytskowiak continued, so maybe there’s some similarities with the programs.

“There is going to be whether we can maintain the level that they’ve done such a great job of maintaining,” Krystkowiak said.


NCAA Tournament: South Regional semifinals

Duke (31-4) vs. Utah (26-8)

NRG Stadium, Houston

Friday, 7:45 p.m. MDT


Radio: ESPN 700AM

Twitter: @DirkFacer