Less than a week after warning us about the dangers of lionizing coaches to the point where they were bigger than the institutions they represent, the media went ahead and lionzed a coach to the point where he is bigger than the institution he represents.
Mike Krzyzewski became the winningest men’s basketball coach in NCAA Division I on Tuesday night, and based on the tone of ESPN’s coverage you would have figured he cured polio and tore down the Berlin Wall along the way.
Coach K is not the first college coach to become a record-holder this year, of course. Joe Paterno became the all-time winningest coach in DI football history earlier this season before suddenly finding himself without a job last week. And I’m not here to rain on the parade and suggest that Coach K similarly turned his head the other way while one of his assistants engaged in some seriously creepy and/or illegal shit.
But as everyone delivers all these platitudes about how he did it the right way and is such a great man, let’s try and remember that no man is a saint. Even the greatest have flaws. Apparently it only takes like three days for us to develop amnesia in that regard.
And since no one is willing to discuss the ways in which Coach K can be less than saintly, let me throw a few logs on the fire:
- He’s extremely petty. The Sega Genesis game “Coach K’s College Basketball” did not include North Carolina as one of the teams but did have lesser Tobacco Road rivals NC State and Wake Forest.
OK, that’s a very petty definition of petty. But I’m sticking to my guns. How the hell do you have a college basketball game without North Carolina? And I don’t even like those guys.
- In his most infamously dickish episode, Coach K invited members of the Duke student newspaper sports staff for a private meeting with players after they published an article grading members of the team for their performance midway through the season.
Instead, the “meeting” was merely used as an opportunity to curse a blue streak at the reporters — a pretty hypersensitive reaction given that the lowest grade handed out to any player was a C+.
- There is probably no coach in college basketball who berates officials more profanely/effusively than Coach K — OK, maybe Bob Huggins — but rarely is he ever T’d up for it because of the respect he has earned. After all, he does it the right way.
- Chris Duhon and Carlos Boozer — from Louisiana and Alaska, respectively — each saw their parents receive jobs from prominent Duke boosters in Durham, N.C. when they committed. I guess that’s because Coach K just likes operating a family-friendly environment.
So there you go. Not a huge list when you consider the length of his career, though by no means was it meant to be comprehensive. And not meant to be a total slam-job, though it probably looks like it to any Cameron Crazy out there. I just think there needs to be a reminder that achieving greatness in one’s field does not equate achieving flawless human perfection.
Everyone’s human. Even the ones we try to make into gods.