Coach Your Own Players, Mike

Coach K shouldn't get to sidestep leaving a college student out to dry by lying

Brooks Krzyzewski

By Larry Bisagni


This past Thursday, the Duke Blue Devils were eliminated by the Oregon Ducks in the round of sixteen, 82-68. As the shot clock and game clock wound down, Oregon’s Dillon Brooks launched a 3-pointer that went in with just seconds left, and the outcome long since decided.

Seconds later, Brooks was confronted by legendary Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski, and told reporters in the postgame press conference that Krzyzewski said to him that he was “too good of a player to be showing off in the end.” However, when Krzyzewski was on the podium and asked about the incident, he recalled something different, and reached for the Roger Clemens handbook. You see, he seemed to have misremembered what happened.

“I didn’t say that,” said Krzyzewski. “You can say whatever you want. Dillon Brooks is a hell of a player. I said, ‘You’re a terrific player.’ And you can take whatever he said and then go with it, all right?”

Former Piston great Isiah Thomas frequently says that the tape doesn’t lie.

Roll the audio from CBS:

Krzyzewski: “You’re too good of a player to do that.”

Brooks: “I’m sorry, coach.”

Krzyzewski: “You’re too good of a player.”

My, oh my, how someone’s nose must have grown on the flight from to Southern California to Durham.

This morning, Krzyzewski released the following statement.

“Today, I spoke with Oregon head coach Dana Altman and apologized to him for my remarks to Dillon Brooks following our game. It is not my place to talk to another team’s player and doing so took the focus away from the terrific game that Dillon played.

“In the postgame press conference, I reacted incorrectly to a reporter’s question about my comment to Dillon.  Clearly, the story that night was about Oregon advancing to the Elite Eight, and the outstanding game they played. I sincerely hope I did not create a distraction for Coach Altman and his team at this critical time of year. Certainly, I have the utmost respect for the Oregon program and their tremendous accomplishments.”

Acted incorrectly?! Are you kidding me?

A couple of cardinal sins were committed here, and to call it acting incorrectly is insulting.

Acting incorrectly is berating an official, or getting T’d up with the game on the line. Acting incorrectly is interacting with and confronting another team’s player, which Krzyzewski did. His confrontation was out of line, and if anyone should have said something to Dillon Brooks about shooting a 3-pointer in garbage time, it’s Dana Altman. Altman is Brooks’ head coach, and that’s his responsibility to have that conversation with his player. Again, inappropriate, but at the end of the day, not that big a deal.

The big issue here is this: Mike Krzyzewski lied. Twice. He lied by denying what he said, and through his repudiation, Krzyzewski accused Brooks of lying. By doing so, he hung a college student 49 years his junior out to dry.

And that is classless.

If Krzyzewski wants to give lectures on sportsmanship, perhaps he should begin with his own Grayson Allen, who has tripped at least three players this season according to my count, including one last weekend. From there, he can move on to Gerald Henderson, who broke UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough’s nose in 2007. And once that is squared away, he can set the way back machine to 1992, when Christian Laettner stomped on Aminu Timberlake and bloodied Carolina’s Eric Montross with an elbow nearly a quarter century ago.

All of these were teaching opportunities for Krzyzewski, and not once did he pull a player for dirty play (although Henderson was ejected and suspended). In fact, at the end of the Kentucky game, Laettner hit one of the most famous shots in college basketball history. So much for life lessons. While Duke supporters are quick to say that this is jealousy over a legendary program, I have a one-word response: Hardly.

Duke isn’t polarizing because they are a great program with an iconic tradition. UCLA isn’t universally hated. Neither is Kentucky, Indiana, or Duke archrival UNC. Heck, even big bad Georgetown in it’s heyday under Big John Thompson wasn’t this polarizing. Duke is where it is in the national conscience of college basketball fans because of this type of arrogance, and it is becoming increasingly clear that it stems from the top.

To me, the timing is telling of the sincerity: Krzyzewski didn’t apologize until after CBS released the audio of the encounter. With evidence in hand, it’s hard to make a case that Krzyzewski is sorry for his actions; he’s just sorry there was a microphone that picked it up. If any other coach approached a player on the opposing team, then lied about it, he would have been hammered. From Calipari or Izzo down to a D-3 coach, the vultures would have been circling, and rightfully so.

Krzyzewski does not deserve a pass on this one, because there is no way in hell he can plead ignorance. Including Olympic competition, he has been through this roughly 1,400 times according to my count, and knows better. He is supposed to be the adult; the role model at a school that prides itself in academic integrity and service, and is charged with setting an example.  It is clearly intelligible what Coach K said to Brooks, and that seems like the only reason Krzyzewski “corrected” himself. If the tape didn’t exist, Brooks would have been ridiculed for attempting to tarnish the throne of royalty.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Krzyzewski has offered counsel to an opposing player. In 1989, he went after UNC center Scott Williams.

“Hey, 42, that was a dirty foul!”

Carolina head coach Dean Smith immediately enraged, yelling at Coach K, “Don’t talk to my players!”

Krzyzewski responded, “Hey, Dean! F*** you!”

Perhaps the next time Coach K wants to offer counsel on how one should act, he may want to start by looking in the mirror.

He’s too good of a coach to do that.

Larry Bisagni
About Larry Bisagni 26 Articles
Originally from Washington, D.C., I have an extensive background in marketing, media, and communications. My career began with WTEM (ESPN Radio) in Washington, and went from there to an NBC News affiliate in Virginia to produce “Virginia Tech Sports Today.” After returning to WTEM to produce talk shows and live game broadcasts, I accepted an offer to become executive producer/director of operations for a major non-profit in San Francisco, where I established a strong lineage of guest speakers for a weekly talk show. I am a passionate follower of many sports, including baseball, basketball, football, Italian soccer, boxing, and college sports. My favorite teams include the San Francisco Giants/49ers, Washington Redskins/Wizards (BULLETS!!!), and Capitals. My favorite sportswriter is Michael Wilbon, whom I would occasionally provide updates to as the overnight guy at Sports Talk 980 in the days before .coms. I am a summa cum laude graduate of the University of San Francisco, and can be found sitting courtside at many of my beloved Dons home games. I holds an MBA from Babson College with an emphasis in entrepreneurial marketing, where I engaged stakeholders, and executed planning strategies for business growth. Given my career trajectory, I have a list of favorite coaches to go along with favorite players, including Joe Gibbs, Vince Lombardi, John Wooden, John Thompson the elder, Earl Weaver, Bruce Bochy, and Mark Jackson.
Contact: Twitter

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