You may have noticed a lot of criticism of Mike Krzyzewski over the past season during his so-called farewell tour (CBS’ Matt Norlander has regularly mocked this, backing up our claim that he really, really don’t care about Duke).
But he wasn’t the only one.
Many people thought it was an ego trip, a way to force people to recognize his brilliant career and so on.
What a bunch of hooey.
It was never about that.
It was something he had said years ago. We’re so used to thinking of Mike Krzyzewski as Coach K and the GOAT and all that people forget that he really struggled in the beginning. And part of the reason he struggled is because Bill Foster didn’t leave much behind.
In his freshman year, K had Gene Banks, Kenny Dennard, and besides Vince Taylor, not much else.
It was even worse in the sophomore year and while he had a great class in the third year they were freshmen and in the 1980s at ACC the freshmen were shark bait.
Things didn’t really start working until his fourth year.
At some point after he started winning, probably reflecting how tough it was, he said he wasn’t going to leave his successor with a bare cupboard.
It was either in the 90s or nothing at all. Obviously, he hadn’t forgotten and had filed a lesson to apply later.
And now that he’s 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 exhausted and it’s easy to believe. It’s a 365/24/7 job. You never get a break.
It’s possible he only made the decision in the last few weeks. In his comments to the press after losing to Kansas in the Final Four, Wright said: “Hoops is in the house. I have to say it one last time.
It was a reference to Dick “Hoops” Weiss, a longtime Philadelphia journalist. Weiss saw his first college game in 1959 in the Palestra, so Wright could have been referring to his retirement, not his.
But he was not.
We’re not saying he should have done what Coach K did. He has the right, no pun intended, to do it his way, and if you’ve ever felt like you can’t go on anymore, you’ll understand. If you can’t, what can you do? You can not.
But he may have put Villanova on a bad streak. He said he had an “impromptu” meeting with his players. Will they stay? And the recruits? What happens now?
It is highly likely that Villanova will be fine. It was a great program before he arrived and it will be in the future. Obviously, there’s a lot to it.
And as they say, we don’t judge him. It does, however, underline what Krzyzewski did and why.
For all the idiots who thought that was self-centered, well, it wasn’t. It was about building something that could survive his departure.
It is not the ego that speaks. It’s about giving Duke the best chance possible to still be Duke.
We can’t say for sure that the plan will work, but it’s very well thought out and vastly preferable to the random retirements we’ve seen in Villanova and Chapel Hill.
We repeat: we have been the luckiest fans in the world.