not about sports. not about Duke.

Let me start with two statements:

One, this is not a sports post.

And two, I am not a Duke fan.

But allow me to humbly share with you what I actually am. No matter the arena, I am an admirer of someone who leaves a program or position better than what it was when they began. I deeply respect the person who cares more about those who follow than about any glorification of self. There is no prudent place for the mantra of “look at me.”

Much as I adhere to statement #2 above, one person who has clearly left his legacy by making his place of influence better is Mike Krzyzewski, the head men’s basketball coach at Duke University. First hired 41 years ago, year 41 is set to be his last.

No doubt he has collected his share of outward accolades…

  • 5 NCAA Division I Tournament championships
  • 12 Final Fours
  • 15 ACC Tournament championships
  • 12 ACC regular season championships
  • And 3 times named the Naismith College Coach of the Year

Acknowledging the impressiveness of accolades and success, years ago I learned there was something better. Something more honorable. Lots of us can be successful, but will we be something great? As learned under the expertise of Dr. Tim Kimmel, “A person can be successful without coming close to being truly great.”

Success looks inward; greatness focuses outward. Success is about receiving; greatness prioritizes giving. Success pays off for now; greatness pays off for always. So much of greatness is visible via its impact on other people.

I then think of the wisdom consistently offered by Coach K, pouring into hundreds of young men for the past many decades…

“Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.”

“To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless.”

“Making shots counts, but not as much as the people who make them.”

“A common mistake among those who work in sport is spending a disproportional amount of time on “x’s and o’s” as compared to time spent learning about people.”

“In leadership, there are no words more important than trust. In any organization, trust must be developed among every member of the team if success is going to be achieved.”

“I believe God gave us crises for some reason — and it certainly wasn’t for us to say that everything about them is bad. A crisis can be a momentous time for a team to grow — if a leader handles it properly.”

“We’re only going to win if we win together.”


“I don’t look at myself as a basketball coach. I look at myself as a leader who happens to coach basketball.”

Hear those words… communication… selflessness… learning about people… trust… managing crises… together…

Mike Krzyzewski has done more on the hardwood than win all those championships. He’s tirelessly poured into the next generation. He’s realized his position and profession are about more than him. 

Even though not nor probably ever a Duke fan, it’s hard not to deeply respect what’s far more than accolades and success in Coach K. 

Best wishes on your final season, Coach. Keep the faith.

P.S. Still cheering on those Boilermakers from here.