When he was at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski always taught his teams to respect every opponent and never to underestimate anyone.
This was because of Wagner: in 1983, when Coach K was still struggling to build his program, Wagner came into Cameron and took Duke out, 84-77. It was possibly the lowest point in Krzyzewski’s history at Duke, at least until 1995 when he nearly walked away from the sport.
Years later, he ran into the man who coached Wagner then, Neil Kinnett. Kinnett approached Coach K saying “you probably don’t remember me...” Coach K cut him off, saying “I remember you very well. Because of you I never took an opponent lightly again.’’
It’s a lesson a lot of people could benefit from including, in this case, Muhammad Ali.
In this clip, Ali is playing around with legendary trainer Cus D’Amato, who, even then, was an older guy. He is goofing around but D’Amato is not: he’s looking for an opening and when Ali lets his guard down, D’Amato pops him in the lip.
The man must be at least 60 in this clip, certainly no younger than 55. But he lets the champ clown and when he clowns too much, he tags him.
It’s not like it was a real fight, but you have to think Ali was furious with himself, the best fighter in the world, letting an old man get the best of him. It’s the same lesson Coach K learned in 1983: respect your opponent. Always.