As college basketball continues to be the live-action version of the cartoon dog sitting at his breakfast nook amongst an inferno, it is screaming for someone, anyone, to act like an actual adult. For a group of people that claim to be leaders and shapers of men, no one seems to be acting like either.
The man at the forefront of this campaign of faux concern, as always, is Mike Krzyzewski. It would be easy to lambaste Coach K for complaining and calling for at least a pause of the college basketball season after his Duke squad got its ass waxed by Illinois in Cameron Indoor last night, as it seems awfully convenient. But he’s been on this campaign all year to be fair to him.
And yet it’s still all a load of horseshit.
It’s one thing for Jay Bilas, who is merely an employee of a broadcasting company, to bemoan the lack of leadership, or plan, or sense among the powers that be in college hoops. He can only comment, not actually pull any levers. It’s quite another for Coach K to sit there and pearl-clutch about the dangers and burden of carrying out this season in such a dangerous setting, when there is perhaps no bigger voice in the game than his.
Coach K’s act of, “Boy it’s a shame we’re being forced to do this!” is just a form of buck-passing and finger-pointing and a glorified “Don’t look at me!” It’s hardly being a leader or molder of men, as Coach K is happy to tell you he is right up until the point the director yells, “Cut!” on his latest American Express ad, when your excuse is that you got peer-pressured into sending your indentured servants out amongst a pandemic. Do you really have your players’ backs, which you assuredly told them and their parents during the recruiting process, when you lament the unyielding mental pressure of playing in a pandemic without a break ... but then shrug your shoulders at actually giving them one? Are those games you’d have to miss during a quarantine really so important? You seem to be saying they aren’t, Mike, but aren’t actually doing anything about it.
This is Coach K, the definitive figure of coaching in college basketball, if not college sports overall. If anyone could pull his team from the schedule, tell everyone this is simply too dangerous and not worth it, and have others follow suit, it’s him. If anyone can tell his players that their NBA prospects would only take a minor hit, and that’s worth the trade for safety, and the pursuit of another NCAA title can wait another year, it’s Coach K.
It is no sign of leadership, and it has to be repeated just how often Coach K uses that word to describe himself, to simply look around you and say, “Boy, there sure isn’t much leadership here!” It’s right out of a scene from Spin City (look it up) where the mayor says, “Somebody should do something,” after being informed of yet another drug shooting in NYC.
If Coach K was the leader and voice he keeps telling us and his players that he is, he would actually grow a spine and do something. Leadership is going against the grain when it’s the right thing to do, even if you’ll get yelled at for it. It’s taking the unpopular, harder stance in the tsunami of stupidity that this has been. But Coach K can only seemingly locate his spine and/or balls when it’s time to yell at students who worship the ground he walks on anyway.
This is all performance. It risks nothing, and accomplishes nothing. It gives Coach K just enough of an air of maturity or concern to get all his sycophantic media cultists to proclaim what a beacon of dignity he is without actually doing anything. It’s something he can call upon in the future to get his following to drop to their knees once more. “Remember when I said how wrong that was? Aren’t I something?” And then watch everyone swoon.
Kids are risking their lives for what? To pad the ego and bank account of people like Coach K. He can’t pull his team from their season because the thought of missing out on an ACC schedule or an NCAA tournament is too scary for him. It’s not that his coffers need it. It’s debatable whether Duke’s really need it (current out-of-state tuition: $58K). If he really is the protector of young men’s fortunes, isn’t their health and safety right at the top of the list? Apparently not. But why should it? Coach K has become obscenely wealthy and famous on the backs of their bodies for three decades now. How much of a leap is it really to do so on their very lives now?
It’s certainly the easier path. Because true leaders always take the path of least resistance, right?