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Volume 21 No. 1
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Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University

Coach K told us why leadership changes, why Cameron shouldn’t, and what’s wrong with realignment


when things are going right, I still think things can go wrong. I’m always, as a leader, not being pessimistic, but watching everything so that what you think is going right, will end up right.

I think part of being very successful is the analysis, like an after-action report, quickly about what’s been done. And then you move on. It’s like having a car without a rearview mirror.

Leadership evolves. It’s constantly evolving. For any leader, it has to constantly evolve because society is evolving. Cultures change, who you’re trying to lead is different.

Even with your own team in one year, they change. You might have the same team back next year, but it’s a different group.

What human beings do to connect now is different than what they did 10 years ago. They’re very different than they did 20 years ago. Some are the same. People still want to trust, they want to believe, they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, they want to be loyal.

USA Basketball gave me an opportunity to work with as good a man as there is in this country, Jerry Colangelo — business-wise, character, passion for the game, I’ve loved my relationship with him.

Jim Tooley [executive director], Sean Ford [national team director] … now you throw in [coaches] Jim Boeheim, Nate McMillan, Mike D’Antoni. … Who do I share ideas with, as one of the top coaches? People aren’t going to share ideas with me. Which clinic do I go to? I don’t go to clinics, I give clinics. Now I have a chance to work with these great minds.

Jason Kidd, Kobe, LeBron, their training techniques. Holy mackerel, I hit a bonanza, really, of learning and leadership styles.

When I first started [with USA Basketball], people would say, “You’ve won three national championships, you’re in the Hall of Fame. You know it.” No, you don’t. There’s always something to learn. To think otherwise would be arrogant and narrow-minded, and not very smart.

[Young players are] harder to teach than they used to be. They’re different to teach. They’re very visual, there’s not as much face-to-face talking, they don’t listen for long. We have to connect with them differently.

You want to recruit not just talent, but you want to recruit character. Part of character is understanding that there’s a teacher and you respect the teaching, you respect the leadership and that you’re part of something bigger than you.

I don’t know who the leaders of college athletics are, to be quite frank. Who runs college athletics? I don’t think anybody. … The conference commissioners, the NCAA president, they run sections of college athletics.

What upsets me about realignment is that there’s not a goal. If somebody were running college athletics, you’d have a vision for an end. There’s not a vision for an end.

College sports is not as big as college. College sports is a part of college. Sports has to be interwoven into the academic mission.

Nothing against the president or chancellor making the decision to change conferences, but they probably don’t understand what’s been there before them. They don’t feel it, and they won’t be there long enough to understand the negative about that in the future. That’s sad.

For Maryland to leave the ACC — they were here for 60 years. I don’t know what price they’ll pay. … For a school having financial problems, we as a conference should try to help in that regard. That’s what you’re in a conference for, to help one another.

Everyone says our conference is solid. Well, they said that before Maryland left.

When a move is made, you don’t just look at throwing a rock into a lake and seeing the splash. You want to pay attention to the ripples. We’re not paying attention to the ripples, and that’s wrong. It’s irresponsible, really, for the total of college sports. We’re just throwing the rocks.

There’s something about [Cameron Indoor Stadium] that is priceless, that produces good feelings. OK, if we add three or four thousand more seats, it would produce this much more revenue and over 10 years it would look like this on paper. That’s great. But it doesn’t say what you would lose.

The experience of the students, where they come in here and actually feel like it’s theirs, it’s their spirit, it makes them love our university forever. That’s what college is about. This isn’t about following the Bears or the Cubs or the Yankees. This is their university. This is where they became men or women. This is their home.

We’ll never change this place as long as I’m here. But we do need to enhance it.