I’m no fan of Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke University basketball coach who will apparently retire after the 2021-22 season, but only after a tour of adulation. I’m sure my dislike comes as no surprise.
But what might surprise a few is that I was a fan, albeit closed so that I could attend reunions of family and best friends. I have always appreciated excellence, and there is no doubt that Coach K is a great basketball coach, maybe the GOAT.
I say this fully aware of John Wooden’s accomplishments, and I understand that 10 is two times five. But Wooden was racking up his championships when a conference crown advanced his UCLA Bruins to the Sweet Sixteen, just four title wins, and came as the number of true contenders could be counted on one hand. The Five of K’s all came after a much longer path, often filled with landmines.
So what changed for me with K? It’s not that the 74-year-old’s hair remains jet black and mine is mostly missing, stubborn locks turning gray.
It’s not even that K has coached the only college program that can match the UNC record since 1980, when he was named head coach of the Blue Devils, with five national titles each and K having a record of 49. -48 against my Tar Heels. Have you ever noticed that in these highlights highlighting the greatest sporting rivalry, it’s always the players in Carolina Blue who have blood on their faces? At least none stumbled.
K racked up 1170 wins, the most ever and by a heap. He could have had four more, but that would have resulted in an additional 15 losses, the Blue Devils’ record when K came out early in a disastrous 1994-95 season, complaining of back pain and a exhaustion. K asked the NCAA to attribute those losses to Pete Gaudet, his assistant coach at the time, and it remains a first revelation regarding K.’s narcissism.
No I’m not a fan because I don’t think K is a good person which is aside from his coaching abilities.
The evidence is abundant, although largely ignored by a stingy media.
He’s a bully, once terrorizing staff at The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, because the coverage was too negative.
He was previously arrested for lying about what he said in a post-game talk he gave to Oregon player Dillon Brooks after Brooks sinned by leading the Ducks to a win over the Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament.
K is a layman, known for dropping F-bombs while working on the sidelines during a match, time spent mostly harassing the referees. I’m far from being prudish, but is it hard not to yell names for two hours when the kids and the TV mics are nearby? Remember when a reporter asked him about his salty language? Me neither.
He is the chief architect of “The Flop”, the practice of a defender feigning heavy contact and falling to the ground as if he had been shot in order to get a charge call, a spot on a large match. He was awarded for years, but far too late fell out of favor with referees, especially in the NBA.
Coach K is near the top of the highest paid coaches in the sport, pulling north of $ 9 million a year, a salary that was built not just by his victories, but by his penchant for flirting with the NBA and so very public. The NBA would follow, K would sequester and reappear with a raise. It was his prerogative, but it’s fair to point out the extortion of a university that gave him a chance and stuck with him in the early years when the losses piled up.
Coach K is also sold out, years ago abandoning the idea that players were on campus first for an education and to play basketball between classes. He adopted the Kentucky model, building a team of one-and-doners, which effectively tied loyal and veteran members of the program to the bench, and led many to be transferred. It was a win-win approach, which went unrewarded as recent Blue Devils teams not only didn’t embrace that ground defense that K was once famous for, but also took a spectator. approach when an opposing player is leading the way.
Another example is K’s impending Victory Tour, and it was easy to predict. Dean Smith and Roy Williams withdrew suddenly and unexpectedly, doing so with a bit of fanfare. K has gone for gluttony and will feed his ego for almost a whole year.
I only cleared my throat about it, but I’m going to end this here knowing that some dark blue blood is boiling. By the way, these are not nit-picking in dispute, but windows wide open on the real character of Coach K.
I know some will think it’s unfair, but being a good guy isn’t that hard, especially when you’re paid millions to coach a game and there’s really nothing left to prove. But K fans can rest assured knowing that those words will be defeated like a gnat in a hurricane by the slime party that has begun and will continue long after Coach K utters his final curse and leaves the pitch an last time.
I need to refuel Dramamine.