Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski showed his tail on Saturday when addressing a question from a student reporter after the team’s loss to Louisville.
During the postgame press conference, a student reporter from Duke’s newspaper, The Chronicle, asked the legendary basketball coach a fair question about the next steps for his 5-5 squad — one of Duke’s worst starts under Krzyzewski since his early years at the Durham institution.
“I’m just curious as to what the next step forward is for the team,” the reporter asked.
In what seemed to be a very condescending tone, Krzyzewski responded to the young journalist.
“Yeah, why don’t we just evaluate this game,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m not into what our next step forward is right now. We just finished a hard-fought game. I don’t know when … What’s your major?”
There was an awkward silence that followed the question from Krzyzewski. It was like the student reporter didn’t know if he should answer right away cause the coach is an “authority figure” or ignore the coach’s question completely since it had nothing to do with the question the reporter asked first.
Yet, Krzyzewski asked again. “What’s your major at Duke?”
There was no response.
Krzyzewski then asked, “What’s your hardest class?”
“Econ,” the reporter answered.
“Say you just had the toughest econ test in the world,” Krzyzewski said, “and when you walked out, somebody asked you, ‘What’s your next step?’ See what I mean? Do you have some empathy?”
“Just give us time to evaluate this game,” he proceeded, “and then we’ll figure out — just like we always try to do — what the next step will be. The next step, obviously, will be to prepare for Georgia Tech. How we prepare for them, that’s what we’re going to have to figure out.”
While Krzyzewski wasn’t abrasive or overly demonstrative with the student reporter, his approach to the question was still very problematic. The condescending approach that Coach K took to answer the question belittled the reporter as a way for the longtime coach to “teach him a lesson” about empathy.
First of all, the question was completely fair, and it should be one that many Duke supporters might want to hear Coach K answer, considering the team’s slow start to the season that could result in them missing the NCAA tournament.
Second and most importantly, it is disrespectful to treat any reporter in that manner, but especially student journalists who struggle to gain respect on college campuses from administrators and coaches daily. Student reporters are sometimes given limited access strictly because they are a student, yet they still must produce good work for their audience. They are overlooked and downplayed continuously on campuses and often are not even compensated. They don’t deserve people in these spaces to try to minimize them even more.
It would have been completely fair for Krzyzewski to say that he just wants to focus on the game against Louisville as a response to the reporter’s question. That is treating him like every other reporter on that zoom call who may have had a question he didn’t want to answer. But taking the time to try to teach the student reporter a lesson in “empathy” was out of bounds and unnecessary.
The championship coach is not the reporter’s mentor, professor, or superior. It’s not his responsibility to teach lessons to young journalists. He’s simply a part of the story.
Krzyzewski dropped the ball on this one and he should issue a public apology to that reporter.