clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ken We All Just Get Along?

Ken Burgess, a grievance in search of an audience, has at long last found one,
in, of all places, Louisville
(there's a story there, but you'll hear it
presently and not from us). Having gone far enough afield to find
someone not wary of his reputation as a Little League Dad on steroids, he went
on to lay some heavy-duty charges, most seriously that Coach K is a liar. Let's
look first at what is public knowledge.

  • He says that Chris was ready to leave Duke after his freshman year. After
    his first season, Chris said this: 'People can say I was overrated, that I'll never be any good. They don't know how much I learned last season, how much I improved, all the coaching I got. I couldn't have gotten any of that anywhere but at Duke.''
  • Casey Jacobsen talked to Chris and said this: ''If he liked Duke and he didn't get much playing time, it must be a special place.''
  • Coach K said this between seasons: "Chris has had a tremendous spring. You could see him just kind of blossom. He's got a great attitude, he loves Duke, he's a team player -- all those things you think a big-time McDonald's All-American might not be."
  • After his second season, Chris said this: "I don't know how the rumors got out. For those people listening, I haven't said a thing or even thought a thing. I'm here at Duke University, and I'm happy."
  • We were told by a well-informed source that Chris Burgess allegedly told a teammate that
    "my dad is ruining my life."
  • Burgess says that Coach K promised him he'd start. To the best of our
    knowledge, Coach K has never promised anyone a starting position. In
    fact, we'd say that it's a principle of his program that competition among
    the players will produce the best starters, and to promise someone they'd
    start would undercut that very principle.
  • Mr. Burgess has never been particularly happy with Chris's coaches: in a
    controversial move, he withdrew Chris from Schea Cotton's high school,
    allegedly because he was not getting the attention he deserved in the
    offensive scheme. Feuding with his son's coaches is not a new thing
    with Mr. Burgess.

Petty K, Shane K, And Bragging About The Size
Of One's Wallet

Burgess, who calls Coach K petty, went on to show how well he
understand pettiness by ridiculing Elton Brand, his
rival-by-proxy, saying "I don't think (No. 1 draft choice) Elton Brand will make as much in a pro career as I do, OK?"
Burgess does well - he has several businesses - but if there is anything but
resentment driving this, it's hard to see what it is - particularly when his
son's comments inadvertently contradict his own.

We think highly of Chris and we have always lauded his potential, but he also
seemed to be very tightly wound, to put pressure on himself when there was no
need to. This was most evident at the foul line, of course, where he was
prone to airballs on a regular basis. We also took a
closer look at his stats.

The obvious thing you notice is, of course, his free throw woes: Chris
disqualified himself from being on the floor at the end of any close game,
meaning that he got limited minutes in the Final Four as both games were very
tight and the other teams would have simply put him on the line where he would
have choked.

But more subtly, you notice another pattern: against smaller teams,
like Fresno, he was dominant. Against tougher, more physical teams like Temple,
or Kentucky or Cincinnati, he doesn't do well at all.

Chris certainly had his chances. He started for part of the year, he
had good minutes against tough teams, but his skills and production didn't come close to
matching his talents. He had no concept of defense, which is why Shane
Battier played so much.

Speaking of Shane, Burgess Sr. quotes his son (who has never spoken publicly
on any of this) as saying "I'm not going to play ahead of Shane (Battier). There's a relationship he has with Coach
K." Burgess goes on to claim the other players call him "Shane Krzyzewski."

Nowhere does he say that both Brand and Battier are highly regarded, skilled
ballplayers. Maybe the fact that both are great defenders with solid fundamentals had
something to do with their moving ahead of Chris. That will endear a player to any coach. He goes
on to say that Coach K plays favorites, and there's no question that there are
players he loves, for various reasons, but usually the main reason is that he
can count on them, they play hard as hell, and they run until they drop - the
same reason the rest of us do, in short..

Coach Dad also says that if K had sat
Wojo, Duke would have beaten UK and gone to the Final Four in Chris's freshman
year. Not likely. At that point, William Avery was absolutely unpredictable, and
his defense was inconsistent to say the least. He was just as likely to shoot a 35
foot shot as to dribble. No one, if you'll recall, thought he could make the
transition to point guard as a sophomore (which he did, very well, and which one
would have to attribute, at least partly, to astute coaching - from the same
coaches who were coaching Burgess as hard as they could,in the gym, in the
parking lot, where we saw Quin working on post moves with Chris - whenever and wherever they
could, in short).
William wasn't ready, and Wojo took Duke as far as he could, and he was
magnificent: he deserved to be on the court at the end.

Amateur Psycho-Analysis

Coach Dad
goes on to psychoanalyze Coach K, saying that since he couldn't produce any
sons, like Coach Dad, he drafted surrogates, and the surrogates could do no
wrong.

So as long as amateur psychoanalyzation is going on, here's our
stab: Ken Burgess is a man who needs to project his uncertain masculinity as far
as possible in order to ease his own doubts and anxieties. That includes subtly insulting
men who have no sons, projecting his insecurities through his own son, who sadly
reflects this lack of masculine confidence himself, and using a strap-on green phallus
constructed of money to (impotently) stick it to the kid, Elton Brand, who has
earned
what he believes rightfully belongs to his son: Player Of The Year, First Pick,
and great wealth.

A Somewhat Different Situation

Terry Simonton and William Avery's situation is a bit different. Mrs. Simonton and
William had a very solid relationship with Coach K. Avery had made up his
mind he wanted to go to Duke and Coach K told him he wasn't up to it, that
unless he got his grades up, there wasn't any point in discussing it.
Avery told his mom after that, "I'm going to Duke."

When it came to recruiting time, when William had committed, and Baron Davis re-entered the picture, Coach K told them that he wouldn't go after Davis,
though Davis was from all accounts pushing hard to get recruited again (he was
reportedly dropped after Coach K's mom died, and Baron complained that K hadn't
called him. Coach K lost interest in him after that,understandably). K made a promise that William would be the point and
according to our sources, Simonton said she trusted Coach K.

Later, when William was benched for his first game for not going to class, a
friend of this site called her to ask why. She said she didn't know, but said
"whatever the reason I'm sure Coach K had a good reason and I support him
100%."

Later, though, apparently, things changed. There was a lot of
controversy over whether or not William was leaving early.

"I heard about it, and it's
nonsense," Avery said. He claimed he was staying. But at the NCAA
games in Charlotte, Arnie Schechter tells us he spoke to Ken Burgess, who said
that Avery and Brand were both already looking at the NBA, that they were both
gone. He saw this as a good opportunity for Chris (Arnie mentioned Boozer
coming, which didn't please Burgess much).

There was no comment on immediate financial need
in his family. In fact, William himself said this about the prospects of Elton
leaving early: "[t]hat puts a lot of pressure on that guy, whoever wants to leave. He owes that to his teammates. If Elton comes to that decision, of course I'm going to try to persuade him to stay, because I want a string of [titles]."
And he also said this on early entry and his own financial status: "I've been without money for awhile, so a few more years won't hurt."

Stuff Happens

Later, though, after he announced, Will painted a more troubling picture:
'there are two households -- my grandmother's house and my house. My mother is a single parent; she has me and my little sister. There are about five or six people living with my grandmother. Between those two households, only one person really works -- my aunt. I have another aunt who has trouble breathing at night when she sleeps. She has to wear a mask at night when she sleeps to breathe right...I looked at all that and said, 'I have to make this move. I can't take a chance on another year or two years. I have to step right in and do something about this
now. ''

There were also rumors about Will's grades and that he was skipping class.
"There's nothing wrong with Will's grades," his mom said about the
academic rumors. Furthermore, "he could do better if he stays another year,"
which hardly sounds like a family desperate for income, but rather one thinking
ahead, and it's also very similar to what Coach K said when Will announced: "I'm not in favor of William's decision at this time. We've done extensive research into the NBA for William, and my conclusion was that entering the draft now would not be in his best interests.
However, everyone is entitled to make their own decisions. I certainly wish him the ultimate success in his future endeavors."

According to the Blue Devil Weekly, "Krzyzewski offered to assist all three players in any way he could. Avery didn't take much advantage of that offer, dropping out of school and returning to his home in Augusta, GA after deciding to enter the draft. Duke associate athletics director Chris Kennedy offered Avery full support in finishing the spring semester academically or in officially withdrawing, as well as assistance in finding an agent, but Avery never pursued it."

Later, and we think we heard this on 850 The Buzz, K said "certainly William's an outstanding player and a great kid. I want to support him forever. I'm also not going to lie to him. They didn't come to Duke for me to lie to them. I don't think it's the right thing to do right now for
William, not for me." (italics added)

Mrs. Simonton had of course by this time changed her mind about Coach K, saying that
Coach K had told her that Avery would likely go between the 18th and 25th pick
(actually William said that but it's fair to assume that they agree on this
point). The family consulted with Brett Bearup, who is in Atlanta these
days, along with an increasing amount of baggage, and he said Avery would go
higher, as he in fact did.

But the suggestion that Coach K
deliberately lowballed the estimate to keep Avery around is unsubstantiated to
say the least, if not willfully stupid: when he made the suggestion, it was
still unclear who was coming out and who was staying in. A number of players who
had come out changed their mind by the deadline and quit the draft; Maggette
hadn't yet announced, and certainly it was reasonable to think that Jumaine
Jones would go in the lottery, and who knew who the next high school idiot would
be? Several flirted with the idea, including Jonathan Bender and Leon Smith, who
of course did come out, and who would have thought the Knicks would take a 7'
Frenchman with a bad back? Avery is a good player, but the draft, like the stock
market, runs on emotion and sentiment, and it could have just as easily been
Avery crying at the end as Jumaine Jones. Krzyzewski is absolutely right: if
you're not positive you're going early, you don't know what will happen (and
Maggette is additional proof of this), and therefore it's a dangerous gamble
with uncertain results. William won his wager, but it was no sure thing.

And it's important to remember this: Avery misled Coach K twice: he
told him twice that he was coming back to Duke. The second time was reportedly the day of
Elton's announcement - the day before he announced, in short. Mrs. Simonton says
Coach K "knows what he said to me that night." We don't know what he
said, but our bet is it rotated around honesty and keeping one's word.
It's understandable that he would be upset after being misled. If Mrs.
Simonton is surprised, she shouldn't be.

An Unclear Situation & Our Opinion

What was Will's situation exactly? His AAU Coach, Norman Parker, said that, had William not been
offended by the unhappiness which had sprung up, he might have changed his mind
and returned to school. But Will said his family was in desperate,
immediate need, and then reportedly bought a 50,000 dollar car. So what are we to make of this picture?
Who's kidding whom?

As far as we can tell, there has been a lot of nonsense propagated about the
events of this past spring. Ken Burgess's comments are strikingly at odds
with his son's. William Avery's comments on dire poverty this spring were
jarringly at odds with his own previous comments on being poor - and his
AAU coach concurs! Why would Parker lie about this? To what end?

Having been around Duke for some time, we can say that a) not only is Coach K
not a
liar but he's an unusually honest man, particularly given his profession,
which is riddled with liars, cheats and hustlers, and b) if
anything, he is brutally honest. He comes from poor but proud and devout parents,
and he was coached by Bob Knight, who, whatever you think of him, and God Knows
we give him a hard time, is an honest son of a bitch, and what's more,
Krzyzewski inculcated the West Point code of honor, which is (or was in his day,
anyway), an absolute, something sacred. When you work that hard for
something, and West Point is incredibly difficult, you don't throw it away at 50 just to keep some asshole dad, much
less a 19 year old kid, happy. Nor do major character flaws, in
general, wait half a century to surface, much less in highly public figures.

We have, set against this, two people who are making
allegations against a man with a solid reputation, but the previously, publicly uttered comments by various people,
including their own children, makes it impossible to take them seriously.

Finally, at the banquet, Mrs. Simonton - and Mr. Burgess - somehow misunderstood the purpose
of the senior videos. Mrs. Simonton believed that Will was being punished by not
being featured more in the videos. For those of you who don't know, the videos
are gifts given to the seniors. The one of Trajan featured four years of
Trajan's career, and Avery only played extensively for one year, and no one told
him to hang close to Trajan so he could be in the show. The same was
true for the others, but Taymon Domzalski and Justin Caldbeck usually got their minutes
in blowouts -when Langdon and Avery were out of the game. This is one of
the stupidest comments she made, frankly. It was a senior video, and Will's time
was yet to come, and now he'll never have a senior video, by his own choice.
Will himself understood that this was a senior presentation and not about him,
saying quite wisely we thought, "you know how parents see things."

Mr. Burgess was upset that Chris was only featured twice. Well, tough: it
wasn't his video, and the other video shown, the team video, was a gift from
CBS, not a Duke production, so perhaps both parents should get mad at the
Tiffany Network for that perceived slight instead of Duke.

We should also mention this: the blanket assertion in the Louisville paper
that Duke is tarnished by these accusations is pathetically bad journalism.
We found a number of contradictions, fairly easily, and it's not like we have a
newspaper's resources; we'd like to think that a
professional journalist could do the same. Apparently, in this case, getting the
accusations out, and drawing the damning conclusion, was more important than
investigating thoroughly and reporting fairly. It took us part of an evening; it would
have been well worth the author's time to have done the same. There's a reason
why media scum are so widely distrusted, and this is a pretty good example.

We realize that there are those who will believe the worst, who in fact
fervently wish
to believe the worst, who are rushing even now to their keyboards, saying
"You see! You see! I told you he was wicked! He's behind world hunger! He's
behind El Nino! He's behind the Trilateral Commission!"

We're not interested in those people. They are dull and small
little people (yes you are), and best suited to filing paperwork along with their gripes and
suspicions. We are however interested in what the rest of you think, and we hope
that we have offered some balance and perspective to this "story". We hope
that the fair-minded will see the obvious contradictions.

We'll
also say this - there is more to this than we are at liberty to print right
now. Suffice it to say this: this is what happens when people throw
millions of dollars at teenagers. It's perhaps the logical extension of
money's corrupting influence in basketball, when parents are more interested in
justifying their own manipulative behavior by projecting it onto others than
they are in their children's ultimate welfare. Coach K, to his enormous
credit, is not engaging in a public argument, but if he felt like it, there's
plenty he could say about these two, and it's not flattering in the least.