Coach K’s latest honor

Aug. 14, 2013 @ 05:39 PM

Living here in the center of the basketball universe as we do, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that not everyone does.

If we lived in almost any other area of the country, we’d have nothing like the attachment to – and the caliber of – college basketball we see here. Oh, there may be pretenders – Kentucky comes to mind, as does Indiana or perhaps those folks around East Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.

But we know where basketball’s magnetic north is – here in the Triangle and, more specifically, the western Triangle tandem of Durham and Chapel Hill.

What further proof do we need than the accolades that have, just in the past two weeks, come to two of our most towering icons of basketball accomplishment? Close on the heels of the announcement Dean Smith will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom came news this week that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski will receive the John Wooden Leadership in Coaching Award.

We know some of our enthusiasm for those two commendations reflects hometown zeal. But we think it’s undeniable that those two men occupy a rarefied level of accomplishment – on and off the court.

Krzyzewski already is the all-time leader in men’s Division I coaching wins – and he’s still going strong. At 66, he shows little sign of hanging up his coaching whistle anytime soon; indeed, after having led Team USA to gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games, this past spring he signed on to coach that team for three more years through the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Assuming he’s likely to remain at the head of the Blue Devils for at least that long, too, he should easily blow past the 1,000-win mark. At Duke, he’s led the team to four NCAA championships and has won 884 games. With 16 wins next season – a number he’ll fall short of only if there is unforeseeable cataclysm – he’ll become the second Division 1 men’s coach to top 900 victories at one school.

The leadership skills Krzyzewski has honed on the basketball court he has imparted in books, at conferences and in lecture halls. He has lent his name and appeal to civic causes – often in fairly discreet and little-noticed ways. He has, like Smith, proven that you can coach and win at the highest level and retain the academic integrity of your university.

The Wooden award Coach K will receive at a gala event in Washington in September was named for legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.

In announcing Krzyzewski’s selection Tuesday, Bob Geoghan, the award’s executive director, had high praise.

“Coach K represents exactly what the Nell and John Wooden Leadership in Coaching Award is all about,” Geoghan said. “Whether coaching the Blue Devils or Team USA, he is passionate and inspires his team to win.”

We’ve been lucky (or unlucky, perhaps, depending on your shade of blue) to have witnessed and experienced that passion these past three decades, and congratulate Coach K on this latest honor.