You may have noticed a lot of criticism of Mike Krzyzewski over the past season over his so-called Farewell Tour (CBS’s Matt Norlander mocked this on a regular basis, lending support to our contention that he really, really doesn’t care for Duke).
But he wasn’t the only one.
A lot of people thought it was an ego trip, a way of forcing people to acknowledge his brilliant career and so on and so forth.
What a bunch of hooey.
It was never about that.
What it was about was something he said years ago. We’re so used to thinking of Mike Krzyzewski as Coach K and the G.O.A.T. and all that stuff that people forget he really struggled at first. And part of the reason that he struggled is that Bill Foster didn't leave much behind.
In his first year, K had Gene Banks, Kenny Dennard and, other than Vince Taylor, not much else.
It was worse still in his second year and while he had a great class in his third year, they were freshmen and in the 1980s, in the ACC, freshmen were shark bait.
Things didn’t start to really work until his fourth year.
At one point after he started winning, probably reflecting on how tough that was, he said he was not going to leave his successor with a bare cupboard.
This was either in the ‘90’s or naughts. Clearly he hadn’t forgotten and had filed away a lesson to apply later.
And now that he has retired, Jon Scheyer has dazzling talent on the way and every chance to succeed.
It was about as orderly a transition as you could have hoped for.
Now compare that to Jay Wright’s retirement.
We’ve seen comments that Wright was burned out and that’s easy to believe. It’s a 365/24/7 job. You never get a break.
It’s possible that he just came to the decision in the last few weeks. In his comments to the press after losing to Kansas in the Final Four, Wright said this: “Hoops is in the house. I get to say it one last time.”
It was a reference to Dick “Hoops” Weiss, a long-time Philly reporter. Weiss saw his first college game in 1959 in the Palestra, so Wright could have been referring to his retirement, not his own.
But he wasn’t.
We’re not saying he should have done what Coach K did. He has the right, no pun intended, to do it his own way, and if you’ve ever felt like you just can’t keep going, you’ll understand. If you can’t, what can you do? You just can’t.
But he may have put Villanova in a bad spot. He said he had an “impromptu” meeting with his players. Will they stay? What about recruits? What happens now?
Mostly likely Villanova will be fine. It was a great program before he arrived and will be great in the future. Obviously he has a lot to do with that.
And as we say, we’re not judging him. It does, however, underscore what Krzyzewski did and why.
For all the idiots who thought it was egomania, well, it wasn’t. It was about building something that could survive his departure.
That is not ego speaking. It’s about giving Duke the best chance possible to still be Duke.
We can’t say absolutely the plan will work but it’s very well thought-out and vastly preferable to the haphazard retirements we saw at Villanova and Chapel Hill.
We’ll say it again: we’ve been the luckiest fans in the world.