Great men must stick together. Their greatness unites them—especially if, like Mike Krzyzewski and Joe Paterno, they've recorded a 90-minute nationally broadcast television special celebrating their mutual greatness.
The hour and a half long TV special is essential to the bond between great men and their greatness; it is the adult version of being blood brothers. Krzyzewski and Paterno made that pact this past June, in an ESPN segment with Rece Davis called Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski. They sat in easy chairs in Penn State's Eisenhower Auditorium and discussed their greatness together. Sometimes, Davis discussed their greatness for them; other times, emotional montages and taped interviews with members of their families discussed it for them. At the end, people in the audience had the opportunity to stand and ask further questions about what made these two men so great.
USA Today reported at the time that the program focused on "the similarities between Krzyzewski and Paterno, and how the coaches have built clean, model programs in their respective sports." We reported at the time that Paterno had said "other times you gotta stroke 'em," completely out of context.
The general point of the show was that the men were great. It also, according to ESPN's release at the time, intended to explore "ethics, integrity, friendship, legacy, pressures and issues associated with intercollegiate athletics, working with student-athletes, and more." The ethics, issues, and pressures under discussion did not include those surrounding child rape.
But that's something we can't ignore today, and neither can Krzyzewski. So on Monday he was asked about Paterno's dismissal and the scandal unfolding in State College. He responded:
"Well, I think, unless you're there, it's tough to comment about everything,'' Krzyzewski said. "I just feel badly for him and whatever he is responsible for, it'll come out and hopefully it'll come out from him.
"I think one thing you have to understand is that Coach Paterno's 84 years old. I'm not saying that for an excuse or whatever. The cultures that he's been involved in both football-wise and socially, have been immense changes and how social issues are handled in those generations are quite different.
"But as we judge, remember that there's just a lot there. There's a lot, lot there. I think he's a great man and it's a horrific situation."
To boil it down: When great men get old, the culture around them changes, and that can create horrific situations for the great men in question. Old great men are not as responsible for their "ethics and integrity" as younger great men. So take heed, young great men of the world, of these "horrific situations," as you age. They tend to threaten greatness.