After experiencing the departures of Messrs. Brand, Avery, Maggette, and Burgess, enduring the drivel of Ken Burgess, and then mucking through Curry Kirkpatrick's apocrypha, we braced ourselves for the next cannonade - Gregg Doyel's "unauthorized" biography of Coach K.
After opening the envelope gingerly, we began to wade through the galley proofs of the book. With each turn of the page, we were waiting for some slam on Duke or Coach K that we had come to expect in recent months. Guess what? Nothing.
Doyel, a sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer, has written a breezy, fast-paced account of Coach K's life. In fact, it's downright innocuous.
Indeed, many Duke fans may be left repeating the memorable statement of Corey Maggette, "Tell me something I don't already know." Granted, we DBR'ers tend to be a little twisted in our approach to Duke basketball, wanting to know in the extreme the most arcane details about Coach K and the team. Even those less fanatical about Duke, however, may be left a bit disappointed at the lack of depth in the biography.
In many ways, though, it's not Doyel's fault. He wrote the book without any cooperation from Coach K (who will be coming out with his own book early next year) and, as evident from the relatively few quotes of former players and associates, without their cooperation as well. It clearly hurts the book as many issues are left hanging. For example, in wrapping up a discussion on the parting of ways between Krzyzewski and Bobby Knight, Doyel writes: "Those are some of the facts, about the only ones out there for public consumption. Beyond that, Krzyzewski won't talk about what happened to his relationship with Knight, and Knight won't talk about it, either." Thud.
Doyel's book does excel, however, in its balance and fairness. The picture that is drawn of Krzyzewski is of a man whose emotions are fierce and honest and who is unwavering in his loyalty to his players and demands the same loyalty back. One of the best areas of the book is the chapter on the relationship between Coach K and Dean Smith. Doyel does an excellent job showing that they are two intensely competitive men with much in common even though their on-court personas may seem far apart.
It did strike us after reading Doyel's book how long Coach K has been on the scene and, in turn, how long we have been following him. In many ways, we still view him as that young coach from Army fighting to make a name for himself. For that reason, Doyel's book is probably more appropriate for recent fans of Duke who haven't been following Coach K for so long.
Even the more jaded Duke fans, though, may overlook the superficial treatment of several issues just to enjoy a refreshingly balanced examination of Coach K.
Coach K: Building the Duke Dynasty by Gregg Doyel. 224 pages, paperback. Addax Publishing Group. ISBN: 1-886110-86-7. $14.95 ($22.95 Canada).