Oh, Koach K. Even deep in the off-off-season such as now, you still manage to deliver us the laughs. I’ll try to make this entry as interesting as possible to non-basketball fans, because Koach K’s recent spate of media interviews has read like a Please Don’t Do This handbook for anyone looking to change their public persona. Krzyzewski giving a mean-spirited lecture to reporters on how Dook has an image problem? Money can’t buy that kind of entertainment!
The Rohrs sent me this article from the Herald-Sun, which resets the bar for professional whining. In it, he wonders aloud why it’s okay for John Edwards to say “I hate Duke” (Edwards actually said he “hated Duke basketball”) and why vitriol usually reserved for opposing fans has made its way into the mainstream media.
Well, let’s stop right there. Edwards “hates Duke” because he went to Carolina, the same reason Giuliani hated the Mets, even when he was the mayor of all New York City. We all have our allegiances, and that was his. But Koach K fails to mention that he used his influence as Dook coach – as well as the stadium – to raise money for Republicans looking to defeat Edwards, so really, anyone could ask “why does Duke hate John Edwards?”
Of course, that leaves the million-dollar question: why do people hate Dook so much? K tried to situate himself beyond reproach, delivering his press conference from the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center and mentioning his work with the V Foundation, but really, where do you start?
Hell, you don’t have to look very hard to figure out why there’s so much opprobrium – a simple Google search will suffice. I wrote two manifestos myself, at the age of 21 and again at 39, and GFWD’s old RA Brian may have the ultimate compendium here. Picking just one offense would be too hard, and every college basketball fan has their own pet Dook Hatred moment.
But let’s go with the most recent episode, where Gerald Henderson assaulted Tyler Hansbrough at the end of the last game of the regular season, breaking his nose for the ACC Tournament and spattering blood all over the court. There are about fifteen people left who still believe it was totally inadvertent, and they all live in Durham. No matter what your belief, however, it was a deeply ugly incident and Koach could have marched over to UNC’s locker room and apologized for the way it played out, even while maintaining innocence.
Instead, he praised Gerald Henderson and hinted that Tyler deserved it because Roy left him in the game when they were up 12 points. It was the move of a practiced asshole, and every sports commentator spent a week raking K over the coals.
And now, at his press conference Sunday, he could have softened his rhetoric under the guise of “Duke’s new public image,” but instead, sounded as obstreperous as ever.
In fact, he’s pissed off about the crap he got for the Amex commercial that ran ad nauseum during the 2006 tournament, because Roy Williams didn’t get any shit for his Coke commercials this year. Well, Koach K, actually you were in a frickin’ Pontiac commercial too, but moreover, your Amex ads were sanctimonious, self-aggrandizing muses on sportsmanship and relationships that, frankly, rang immeasurably hollow to anyone who has seen you in action. Roy Williams held a Coke and told a true story about his mom. What did you expect?
The most hilarious thing is that Koach thinks he can fix this situation by having his players respond more aggressively to criticism and getting into the fray more, and getting Duke’s message “out there” more, rather than “shrugging it off.” Only a true narcissist believes that the solution to all your problems is showing more of yourself.
Another trick he uses is what I call “inward dissembling,” when you pretend to take a good look at yourself and still come away blaming everyone else. “I always think that the first people you investigate are you,” he says, “Are you being arrogant? What are you doing?” Which is fine, except that he immediately turned the conversation back to the media and, I guess, blogs, saying that nobody is being held accountable for their opinions.
I know inward dissembling well, as I have been one of its worst violators. I spent years pretending to take a fearless moral inventory of my own behavior, only to remain convinced I was always right. I’m sure some of it has spilled onto these pages over the last five years, but these days I do try to take criticism seriously, and make amends to people I’ve wronged. The comparison is deeply flawed, but Krzyzewski could likewise curry unbelievable good will just by speaking publicly about Tyler, Pete Gaudet, whatever… but he doesn’t seem wired for that kind of contrition. Even mentioning it just pisses him off.
Koach K shares a fatal flaw with other narcissists: despite all their behavior, they need to be liked. It has to be exhausting, because their elements are always at odds. He could have all the press conferences at the Family Life Center he wants, but it can’t cloud the fact that he is who he is.
Everyone’s legacy – especially those of college coaches – is an equal mixture of the behavior you exhibit in the heat of the moment, and the behavior you build over the decades. Both offer warped glimpses into a person, and K has a long list of both. You can’t trade one for the other, nor expect anyone else to treat those two impostors just the same. When you’re as tightly-wound as Koach K, it’s all about control, and his biggest fear might be that his entire body of work may soon speak for itself.