Anti-Duke Manifesto

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Coach K: A Hypocrite’s Hypocrite

Why else is Duke despised? No essay on the subject is complete without extensive discussion of the coach. The man who models the haughty demeanor that his players so perfectly emulate is an egotist to no end. Although his name and mug are posted on anything and everything related to Duke, he maintains his own website at Its purpose? To promote K’s number one cause: himself. The site provides a menu that includes K-related news stories, his quotes, and, of course, loads of details about his recently published books.

Of course this is but the tip of the iceberg of Krzyzewski’s self-centered egotism. Consider the following classic examples.

The Lakers Saga

His egomania was best demonstrated during the summer of ‘04. Krzyzewski was approached by the Los Angeles Lakers and offered a coaching position. Admittedly, the story deserved news coverage in the sports world, but what followed was truly absurd. Coach K issued media statements on a daily basis to advise of his intent to continue with his deliberations. Local newscasts actually led with the story throughout the weeklong affair. At a time when American soldiers were dying daily and a presidential election was but weeks away, news outlets actually led one to believe that the latest in a series of K’s disingenuous flirtations with the NBA was front page news. In the end, Krzyzewski did what he has always done: chose to remain at his cherished college post, fully aware that he, like the overwhelming majority of his players, would enjoy zero success at the next level.

The egotism becomes clearer still when we realize that the Lakers actually offered the same coaching job to UNC head coach Roy Williams before approaching Krzyzewski. Most fans were surprised to learn this fact because Williams quietly, professionally, and promptly concluded the discussions. No day-by-day media releases. No news conferences. No demands for a new practice center from his current employer.

The best part of Coach K’s Lakers saga has been the aftermath. A master of illusion, Krzyzewski has actually painted his publicized deliberations as proof of his great loyalty to the university. To hear the man talk, one would think this was the only time that he has seriously contemplated leaving Duke. ‘It became apparent,’ K explained, ‘that this decision was somewhat easier to make because you have to follow your heart and lead with it, and Duke has always taken up my whole heart.’ It was an interesting statement coming from a man who flirted with three other NBA franchises during the previous decade. K spawned a similar media frenzy in 1990 as he entertained an offer from the Celtics. Four years later, he talked turkey with the Miami Heat. Also in 1994, he discussed a coaching position with the Portland Trailblazers – all in his usual public fashion. (Interestingly, 1994 is the same year during which Krzyzewski was ‘forced’ to take the season off because of his extreme ‘exhaustion.’) The simple fact is that – despite his claimed allegiance to Duke – K routinely bluffs his departure whenever he wishes to stroke his ego, pad his wallet, stymie criticism, or land a new practice facility.

And still the media has happily bought into this false take on the Lakers saga. New York Times writer Michael Sokolove, in his lovefest piece entitled ‘Follow Me,’ called K’s decision ’something extraordinary.’ The article proceeded to explain that Krzyzewski’s decision to turn down millions rendered him ‘even more worthy of admiration.’ Consider the man’s full history and decide which is the more accurate perception.

Leadership During Crisis: the 1994-95 season

A man’s true colors show during times of crisis. For K, it was the 1994-95 season. That was the year that Duke suffered through a 13-18 season. Knowing when to fold them, K sat out the majority of the season, citing an ailing back and extreme ‘exhaustion.’ (This mind you, from a man who writes the following in his book on leadership: ‘During critical periods, a leader is not allowed to feel sorry for himself, to be down, to be angry, or to be weak. Leaders must beat back these emotions.’) He delegated head coaching duties to assistant coach Pete Gaudet. Any standup guy would have accepted responsibility for the season that unfolded with his players, at his school, following his game plans. Classy Coach K, however, petitioned the NCAA to have the season’s win-loss record stricken from his career totals. It was another curious move for a guy who espouses the following philosophy: ‘A leader has to be positive about all things that happen to his team. Look at nothing in the past as failure.

Other seldom-publicized details about this incident bring Krzyzewski’s true nature into sharper focus. Coach Gaudet went back many years with Krzyzewski, all the way to K’s previous coaching days at Army. According to Sports Illustrated, Gaudet was the ‘restricted earnings’ coach at Duke when he was asked to assume the reigns during K’s extended vacation. Consequently, he was paid a little over $300.00 a week, which probably correlated to a minimum wage hourly rate. So, in the end, K continued to draw his six figure salary and seven figure endorsements, while sitting at home on his rear. (Funny how he did not feel the need to give Gaudet the head coach’s salary; just the accountability for the win-loss record.) He then returned to dump all over his long-time friend and assistant, while taking formal steps to ensure that the NCAA pinned all losses on his newly converted scapegoat. And exactly how does this jive with the following quoted philosophy, again taken from the great coach’s own website: ‘You have to work hard at staying in contact with your friends so that the relationships will continue and live on… Friendships, along with love, make life worth living.’

Truly, can anyone imagine Dean Smith having done this to his long-time assistant coach Bill Guthridge? Can anyone fathom Roy Williams taking this approach? Or Tubby Smith, Tom Izzo, Jim Calhoun, John Thompson, Bob Knight, Jim Boeheim — or any other college coach?

Sound bad enough? There’s more. Just review the timeline from that revealing season. First, realize that K did not pack it in until after the twelfth game. Apparently the pain and exhaustion were bearable as the team started out with a 9 – 2 record and a top ten national ranking. The early record was accomplished in usual Krzyzewski fashion, by trouncing various cupcakes, (e.g., mighty Brown University by 42, North Carolina A & T by 43, South Carolina State by 46, Northeastern by 23, George Washington by 30, and BU by 17). It was only when he tested the waters of the forthcoming conference schedule, with a home loss to Clemson, that our hero could no longer continue. Strange how the specter of a difficult conference schedule exacerbated that exhaustion and back pain.

But the best part to this story is how Mike passed his time during those medically essential days of rest and recuperation. As he closed his mind – and his record book – to his team’s nightmarish season, Coach K somehow mustered enough strength to entertain high school recruits – in his home no less – for future seasons. For example, he had Vince Carter over for a January visit, nine days after he advised his players of his need to sign off for health reasons. The punch line later came from Carter himself. Shortly after that visit, Carter was quoted in an SI article on Duke, (published well before Carter chose UNC over Duke by the way). ‘He was up and about,’ said Carter, ‘He didn’t seem like a guy who has had all these back problems.’

And if you think this was an isolated incident, think again. The man is a champion buck passer. When I attended the school during the 1989-92 time period, Duke squeaked by in a couple of regular season games, after which there was some question about the team’s leadership and direction. Always looking for a fall guy, Coach K, in a post-game press conference, actually turned on his own student body, who, he barked, had grown complacent in its support. ‘I think we need to understand what the hell is going on here at Duke University,’ was one of the quotes. This he said of the same students who camp out for weeks for the chance to support this team with their boorish displays. It has become a recurring Krzyzewski excuse, one that he resorted to even last year as his students remained as boisterous and obnoxious as ever in their game time antics. No doubt, there is plenty for which to criticize these students, but support of the team is not one. K’s tendency to turn on his fellow vermin is a testament to his amazingly self-centered, one-dimensional mindset. And let us not forget the man’s tendency to fault game officials for unfair calls – the same officials who regularly enable his team to make more free throws in a season than their opponents are allowed to attempt – more on that later.

Greed in countless forms

Then there is the man’s insatiable avarice. His greed surfaces in several forms. The man routinely allows his teams to humiliate undermanned teams with unnecessary three-point shooting in the final moments of blowouts. This year, for example, K let his team run it up against Seton Hall to the tune of 93 – 40. They drubbed Davidson by 29, Bucknell by 34. Against UNC-Greensboro, which is coached by a purported long-time friend of Krzyzewski’s, the final margin was 33. (In fairness, Krzyzewski did insert four seldom-used reserves for a generous total of two minutes each during that game.) Even during his worst season of 1994-95, Mike authorized 40+ point drubbings of Brown, North Carolina A & T, and South Carolina State before deciding to sit the conference schedule out. Putting aside the question of why mighty Duke feels the need to schedule such cakewalks, do classy coaches really deem it necessary to run the final margin up to these levels?

Then there is his endless quest for money. Duke refuses to disclose his annual salary, but this much we know: according to 2003 tax documents, Duke paid him $875,000.00 for his six months of work. The number increased significantly, as we know that Duke made ‘modifications’ to his contract to compete with the Lakers’ offer of eight million dollars a year. Again Duke refused to divulge details, but, according to the New York Times, he now lands $1.5 million from coaching alone. (Yes, apparently it took a near doubling of his salary to keep K at the school that has always been no. 1 in his heart.) His Nike shoe contract dwarfs his salary with a last reported sum of $6.6 million. He makes thirty speaking engagements each year. Handled through the Washington Speakers Bureau, each appearance is billed at a cost of $50,000.00. At least one of his published books was a best seller, which presumably produced another seven figures in royalty income.

Granted, these earnings are a product of his success, which, standing alone, should not spark resentment. But what is offensive is the unethical television advertisements that he adds to the mix. During the 2004-05 season alone, we saw Krzyzewski on multiple advertisements: driving a car, suddenly appearing to celebrate with the victors of a neighborhood game, and, of course, touting his virtuous coaching philosophy for American Express. The latter ad campaign clearly doubled as a recruiting tool for Coach K, as he explained how he wishes to see his players develop into well-rounded human beings fully equipped for life.

Finally, the man’s love of money brings us back to the hypocrisy issue. Witness the following Coach K quote: ‘I’ve never made a decision based on what will get me the most money.’ Oh really? Then one must wonder why he left his dream coaching job at his alma mater, West Point, in order to come to Duke in the first place. And exactly why does K star in multiple television commercials if not for the money and if not to gain unfair recruiting advantages? And why, if his love for teaching is so genuine, must the man charge $50,000.00 for a single speaking engagement?

– Chapter Three –