Real Hoops Villain
Don't hate Duke, hate Coach K
Hating Duke is the equivalent of riffing on The Jonas Brothers' lack of musical talent. It's so easy to do and comes so naturally to so many that you rarely have to think about why you actually despise Blue Devils.
One of the greatest gifts Houston received in the NCAA South Regional that's going on right now at Reliant Stadium is getting Duke. When Mike Krzyzewski's team advanced, the Bayou City hit the jacktpot — in hating interest. Good luck getting this type of villain when the really big show of the Final Four arrives here next March.
Duke basketball is almost as universally despised as AIG these days — and Krzyzewski's program has enjoyed a much longer run as the bad guys than anyone on Wall Street. Heck, Bernie Madoff is probably telling fellow inmates right now that it's not like he's former Duke gunner J.J, Redick.
Redick is arguably the most hated college basketball player ever — with his only real competition being Christian Laettner, another former Dukie. But before you start heaping that type of venom onto another Blue Devil (forward Kyle Singler is the most obvious choice) this weekend, it might be time to step back and see if they actually deserve it.
Is it really Kyle Singler's or J.J. Reddick's or Christian Laettner's fault that Duke is the most sanctimonious program in America? No, it's on one very grown man — Mike Krzyzewski. The Duke players aren't any better or worse hypocrites than other major college athletes.
Coach K is the one who tries to paint his program with this aura of sainthood that couldn't be further from his own truths. Krzyzewski is the big phony at Reliant, the guy who claimed to be an educator in those American Express ads that fattened his bank account, the guy who uses interest from pro teams (remember the Lakers several years ago) to up his own power and level of fiefdom in Durham. Please, the only thing Krzyzewski is interested in educating people on is his own legacy.
The holier-than-thou attitude starts fall apart if you get close to Krzyzewski's program at all (and he's worked extremely hard to make sure few reporters do). While covering the Jimmy V Classic (one of the big early-season showcases in college basketball) at the New Jersey's then-Continental Airlines Arena several years ago, my press row seat put me mere feet from Duke's bench and Coach K. All game long, Krzyzewski berated his players with a flurry of blistering swears and outright venom seldom seen since the days of Bobby Knight (who happened to be one of Saint K's early mentors).
His players largely live in fear of him — and that's one of the reasons Blue Devil stars so rarely turn out to be great NBA players. They've been brow beaten and over controlled to such a point that when Krzyzewski isn't there to scream at them, they can't react. Coach K doesn't build men. He leaves college kids shell shocked.
Mike Krzyzewski is Bobby Knight with a good publicist.
Few sports fans know just how cloistered and guarded Coach K is. A fellow reporter who covered Krzyzewski for the Raleigh News-Observer would describe the secret codes required to enter Duke's basketball building and the how Krzyzewski would often make the Blue Devils' beat writers interview him by telephone even though they were in the same building. All college coaches are paranoid, but there is nothing quite like Duke paranoia.
While covering Tommy Amaker (a Coach K-playing and coaching disciple) at Seton Hall University, I experienced this thirst for excessive control, this need to make people feel like they're your inferior firsthand. Amaker tried to turn Seton Hall's basketball facilities into a mini Fort Duke. He made the only gateway to the basketball offices be an elevator that required a special code to enter.
Of course, Amaker soon flamed out at Seton Hall, managing to turn the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in America into nothing but an NIT team that literally fought itself. Like most of Coach K's assistants turned head coaches, Amaker hadn't been allowed to think for himself enough while at Duke to know what to do when the Blue Devils' tried and true bullying methods failed.
There are other coaches who are almost as out-of-control controlling as Krzyzewski (step right up, Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer!), but few of those try to paint themselves as a learned coaching scholar and none do it with the degree and utter fakeness practiced by Coach K.
So know who to boo later tonight and Sunday if the Blue Devils advance. Leave Singler and the rest of the players alone. Direct the vile at the fraud in the fancy suit.
Coach K is the only good reason to hate Duke.