Today’s Profile by Bermuda Bob
I have long been unpopular with fans outside of Duke for taking the stance that Coach Michael William “Mike” Krzyzewski is the best College Basketball Coach of all time. I say that to the exclusion of each and every one of the acknowledged greats.
The problem I usually have is that this is where people want to bare their fists and debate vociferously … and they stop listening. My purpose here is to try and finally be heard on why I make such a seemingly outlandish claim.
My logic says that each of the previous greats were only great in their day and age, which is plenty to accomplish. Let’s just think of:
Phog Allen beginning in the early 1900’s … to Adolph Rupp beginning in the 1930’s … to John Wooden beginning in the late 1940’s … to Jim Phelan beginning in the 1950’s … to Dean Smith and Bobby Knight beginning in the 1960’s, right down to Coach K and Jim Boeheim beginning in the 1970’s.
Each coach has had to win within the confines of what the game was during their tenures. They also had to deal with how college basketball evolved.
Unfortunate as it might seem to comprehend, there were programmes led by renowned racist coaches who not only refused to recruit black players, but also refused to play against schools that did.
Going back to my earliest personal recollections, there was Lew Alcindor and Elvin Hayes. Both would have been so heavily recruited today that it might cause the NCAA’s Oversight Committee to have a nervous breakdown. They were not though. It was because there were only a handful of “major” programmes then.
Those days saw no Three Point Shot, and there were coaches still active today that opposed the “trifecta.”
Unbelievably, there were coaches who had players who could dominate via dunk, but voted to rule it out. Thankfully, cooler heads eventually prevailed and reinstated what might very well be the most exciting, and surely a crowd favourite, score of all time. It can also be a momentum shifter !!!
Then there were coaches who so mastered control of the clock, with a mind numbing number of passes before shooting, that the Shot Clock was introduced.
There was a time when Referees called infractions such as “Palming,” “Back Court,” a “Moving Pick,” or even “Walking.” When two (2) players held the ball at the same time, they were whistled and a “Jump Ball” was executed on the closest Foul Line. There was no “Possession Arrow.”
These great coaches of over 100 years, and all those others I didn’t mention because of space restrictions, had to deal with seemingly Neanderthal players, uncomfortable venues, and little or no physical training. They went from games on radio, to black and white television, to taped games broadcast on the weekends, to colour television, to internet streaming. They usually travelled everywhere on a bus.
Their situations were as different as the style of uniforms from then to now. There was no Spandex, no moisture-wicking undergarments, or the extra padding of today. Back then, there were knee-pads, which also were used on elbows. Mouth guards were for football players. “Sneakers” were called “Cons” and came in only two (2) styles and colours.
So, here’s my claim. None of the teams or these coaches of yesteryear could hold a candle to today’s college basketball. It is an existential impossibility for each era.
Players of yesteryear were not in the type of shape today’s player is. Yesterday’s player would not have been exposed to the level of play today’s players have been by the time they get to college. Freshmen, or “Frosh” were not allowed to play on the “Varsity.” Players would not be as game savvy as today’s players either.
Yes, John Wooden won an incredible number of games (80%) and is loved for his wit and wisdom, and his refusal to allow his players to curse. Today’s acceptable “trash talking” by both players and coaches would have made him blush. That’s why some say he was too much of a “Goodie Two Shoes.” For my money, he ought to be in a category of his own. It was his stewardship of the college game that got us to today’s game.
My problem is that comparing yesterday’s programmes to those of today is simply not accurate nor faire. So let’s quit comparing statistics because numbers only tell a modicum of the story, and since each is unique unto itself, any comparison is mere uninformed conjecture.
I’ve been known to say that not even an All-Star UCLA team could hold a candle to the same bunch of players in each of the last 30 years. I know, I know … that’s considered some type of sacrilege, but it’s the truth.
Today’s players are as different as the uniforms of yesteryear. They are in better shape because of better conditioning, coaching, and facilities. They are sharper shooters. They are also tougher, more motivated, and even bigger.
Then there’s Coach K … A guy who has led four (4) teams to National Championships. He did so with players who were not always the highest ranked. What set them apart was that each and every member of those teams had accepted his vision for them. A vision of how to win and being everything you can be.
Then there’s Coach K … A guy who places a premium on matriculation and expanding one’s horizons by giving back to society, and he leads by example.
Then there’s Coach K … A guy who has seen so many of his former players go on to coach that the list seems endless, because it keeps expanding every year.
Then there’s Coach K … A guy who has brought back the dignity of Team USA back to where it belongs.
Then there’s Coach K … A guy who is proud of his West Point background and the discipline it instilled in him. I consider him a Patriot, and so does the Association of the US Army. They just bestowed their highest award, the 2014 George Catlett Marshall Medal upon him. That’s General George Marshall, the Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense of World War II and afterward.
Then there’s Coach K … A husband, father, grandfather, and patron of children’s charitable efforts right down to the (Jimmy) V Foundation.
I doubt that there has ever been a better standard-bearer and “Godfather” of College Basketball” than Coach K.
So, instead of making empty and unfaire comparisons to predecessors, why not let’s just recognize those former greats. Acknowledge them with high kudos for who and what they were when active, and by era.
That then allows me to say that Coach Michael William “Mike” Krzyzewski, AKA “Coach K” is the greatest active college basketball coach.
It is not because he has a plethora of wins and needs only 17 victories to reach 1000 wins. It is because he has learned from the greats, and shepherded the evolution of the college game. He has risen above some of the regrettable trends the college game has seen, and been vocal about the need for change.
The past few seasons have not been as illustrious as some of the preceding ones. Some have wondered if it is for a plethora of reasons, some with credence and others just circumstantial. I agree that I’ve scratched my head on more than one occasion.
Some have postulated about the number of years he will remain at Duke, if he has changed his approach to the game, and who might be his successor. They are all great topics for debate, and I have weighed in on many occasions, enjoying the hypotheses of others.
The more important thing for Duke fans is that for now and the foreseeable future, he calls Duke his home and where his heart is.
That’s good enough for me !!!
Rock On, Coach !!!