SDBB: 2016-17 Profiles – Coach K

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Tonight, we finish our annual Player’s Profile marathon on the eve of Countdown to Craziness, with Bermuda Bob’s Profile of Coach K …

A few years ago, I wrote a long piece, profiling Coach K that we have not updated since then, and since then, there has been plenty water that has passed under his “bridge” !!!   I started this way …

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 that:

Phog Allen began it all in the early 1900’s …

Then, in the:

  • The 1930’s: Adolph Rupp, Hank Iba, & Joe Lapchick …
  • The 1940’s: John Wooden & Pete Newell …
  • The 1950’s: Jim Phelan & Guy Lewis …
  • The 1960’s: Dean Smith, Bobby Knight, Louie Carnesecca, & Pete Caril …
  • The 1970’s: Coach K, Jim Boeheim, Denny Crum, Eddie Sutton, & Gary Williams …
  • The 1980’s: Rick Majerus, Bo Ryan, & Roy Williams …
  • The 1990’s: Tom Izzo, Bill Self, & Billy Donovan …

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.   Believe it or not, there were coaches, still active today, that opposed the “trifecta.”

Unbelievably, there were coaches who had players who could dominate via the dunk, but voted to rule it out. Thankfully, cooler heads eventually prevailed. The “Dunk” was reinstated. It is surely a crowd favourite score of all time. It can also be a momentum shifter !!! Today, dunks are considered to often be stylistic scores too …

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.” (aka “Travelling”) 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 silly “Possession Arrowenacted because it seemed so wrong to see a Center have to “jump” against a pint sized Guard. Poor Babies !!!

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. Now programmes often have their own plane, shared by different school sports.

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. Sweat Bands were worn on your wrists and one your forehead because they were meant to be functional as opposed to a style statement.

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, but he ought never be compared to today’s coaches.

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.

So, while we’re speaking of sacrilege, please allow me another…

Pat Summitt was yet another formative personality in Women’s College Basketball, but to compare Men and Women’s Basketball is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG !!!

Pat Summitt won during a time, like John Wooden, when there were a handful of comparable college teams. Pat Summitt’s coaching career begins in 1974, when Women’s College Basketball was not even an NCAA sanctioned event.

It was not until the 1981-82 season that Women’s College Basketball had a National Championship Tournament, so THAT season is where her comparative career counting ought to begin !!! That is not to detract from her lifelong accomplishments, but just because, Title IX was enacted in 1972. There were few competive programmes in those days, and not enough to hold a meaningful Championship for another 10 years.

For Your Information:

Title IX was that dubious law that contains so much more than forcing colleges to “just let girls play sports” and was not enacted until 1972.

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 5 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, I like to believe, still places a premium on matriculation and expanding one’s horizons by giving back to society, and he leads by example. As a late-comer to today’s “one-and-done” environment, Coach K has often rationalized that those kids leaving early are simply taking advantage of a job offer.

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 have 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 during 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. Let’s acknowledge them with high kudos for who and what they were when active 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, surpassing 1000 wins in 2015, or because he has won more games than anyone else in NCAA history. 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.

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 !!!

**********************************************

Thanks for reading !!!

Watch for our next article after “Countdown to Craziness” …

We welcome your comments, either here or on our Twitter site:

@SimplyDukeBB

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