DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Former Duke men’s basketball coach Bill Foster, whose leaving led to the hiring of Mike Krzyzewski, died Thursday, Duke said. He was 86.
Foster led Duke from 1974-80, leading Duke to a 113-64 record, one regular-season ACC championship, two ACC Tournament titles and three NCAA Tournament berths, including the 1978 national championship game. He coached three All-Americans to a total of six honors and three Academic All-Americans to six total honors, and was named National Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) in 1978.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Bill Foster, who was such a vital part of this program’s rich history,” Duke head men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “His Blue Devil teams from the late 1970s were among the best to ever play at Duke. As accomplished as he was as a basketball coach, anyone who knew Bill would agree he had one of the uniquely exuberant personalities in the sport that he loved so much.”
Foster took over a Duke program that had slumped in the early 1970s and fallen behind N.C. State, North Carolina and Maryland in ACC prominence. But with Gene Banks, Mike Gminski and Jim Spanarkel leading a resurgence, the Devils reached the 1978 NCAA title game, falling to Kentucky.
Foster also coached Duke in the strangest Duke-Carolina game ever on Feb. 24, 1979 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. UNC coach Dean Smith, knowing the Blue Devils had a stronger team, held the ball the entire first half and Duke actually led at the half, 7-0. The Blue Devils won the game 47-40 after Carolina picked up the pace in the second half.
Duke won the ACC Tournament in 1980 but Foster, in a surprise move, left to become the head coach at South Carolina.
Duke then hired Krzyzewski, then an unknown head coach at Army, to lead the program.