Lessons from Two Great Coaches


On Tuesday, November 15th 2011 history was made. Mike Krzyzewski (affectionately known as Coach K), the coach for the Duke Blue Devils became the winningest coach in the history of NCAA’s Division 1 Men’s Basketball with a win over Michigan State in New York.

In the midst of all the celebration and congratulations, one scene caught my attention. The coach who held the previous record, Bobby Knight was broadcasting the game. Right after the win, Coach K went over to Knight and the two of the greatest coaches embraced and exchanged some words with one another.

For those of you who are not familiar with the history of their relationship, it was a mentoring relationship that had a lot of ups and downs. Coach K was a player for West Point as Knight was the head coach. Coach K then went on to be an assistant coach for Knight. In essence, it was a mentoring relationship. This is why the surpassing of Knight’s record of 902 wins was very special. The best part was watching them embrace one another in light of everything they went through in the past.

Here are some lessons we can learn:

1) The importance of RELATIONSHIPS. According to Sports Illustrated (SI) columnist, Seth Davis, the relationship between Coach K and Knight was a complicated one. Not only did Coach K play for Knight at Army, but Knight became like a father figure for Coach K when his father passed away from a brain hemorrhage. Knight even gave Coach K a great recommendation to Duke’s athletic director when they were looking for a new coach. After getting the head coach job at Duke, Coach K would often times contact Knight for advice and they continued to build their friendship. Things got a bit sticky when they began to face each other in the NCAA tournaments. It all came down to the 1992 Final Four, when Knight’s team (Indiana) was playing Coach K’s (Duke). Whether it was their pride or jealousy or the need to prove themselves to each other, the relationship ended badly. It is interesting how a mentoring relationship can turn sour very quickly. This is why we always have to keep our pride in check. A great mentor and leader should always want their children and their spiritual children to do better than them. This is the heart of the father. The children or the younger leaders need to always honor and respect those above them who have invested in their lives. Another thing to keep in mind is that relationships change over time. This is why there needs to be continual investment. It takes time and effort. Whatever is important to you, you will make the time.

Photo by U.S. Military Academy
2) The importance of RESTORATION. It is noted that sometime in 1993 steps were taken to restore the broken relationship. Both men were proud men; therefore the relationship was not an easy thing to restore. Even though things seemed friendly, there were still some scars from the past. But the critical moment occurred in 2001. Coach K was voted into the basketball Hall of Fame and he needed to find someone to introduce him during the ceremony. After some thought, Coach K asked Knight to participate and he accepted. It was during that speech that Knight honored and lifted up Coach K for all his accomplishments; and as Coach K came up to the stage, Knight said that Coach K was “the best coach that I’ve had a team play against.” Coach K hugged Knight and cried. It was a completion to the healing process and the relationship was restored. It is amazing how many people go through life without having important relationships restored. We live with the pain and the bitterness rather than reconciling and living in freedom and joy. Sometimes the breach of the relationship might have been caused by a misunderstanding or even words that should not have been spoken. It just takes a person to humble themselves and take the first step towards repairing the bridge that was broken.

Photo by Bettmann/CORBIS
3) The importance of RECOGNITION. Honor is something that is lost in our generation. But there was a glimpse of it after Duke’s win, which gave Coach K the record of being the winningest coach in NCAA Men’s Basketball history. After the final buzzer went off, Coach K went over to the broadcast table and embraced Knight, who was an ESPN analyst for the game. It was later discovered that Coach K said to Knight in their embrace, “I know a lot of people don’t tell you this, Coach, but I love you.” Then Knight responded in a way that only Knight could respond, he said, “Boy, you’ve done pretty good for a kid who couldn’t shoot.” In the post-game interview, Coach K responding to what Knight said to him, he said to the media, “I think that meant he loved me, too. I’m going to take it as that.” I don’t know why but it reminded so much of the relationship that many children have with their parents, who are from the old school. The parent thinks that giving a compliment or showing weakness is a bad thing, therefore they end up saying nothing or something that might be inappropriate. But the crazy thing is that the child understands and they just want their parents to keep their dignity. This is when we come to understand that honor is a two-way street.

Photo on nbcsports.msnbc.com
Spiritual ENTREPRENEUR, Church EQUIPPER, Leadership EDUCATOR, Ideas EXPERIMENTER & Global EXPLORER who is trying to transform lives and transform the world.
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