Respect for Coach K

One can’t adequately measure the depth or the quality of one’s loyalty as a fan of a sports team. True fans, we all seem to agree, are unyielding in their loyalty to and love for their team. Equally strong is our distaste for our team’s particular rival, its fans, and especially its coach.

Thousands of fans of the UNC Tar Heels, therefore, have taken special pleasure in raining on Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s parade, defeating his team in his final game before his retirement on his beloved home court. Not supposed to happen, not in front of so many adoring fans or countless TV watchers. Humiliating it was for the coach, and the embarrassment continued as UNC went on to defeat Duke in the Final Four game.

I can’t claim to be a Tar Heel born, as the fight song goes, but I became an enthusiastic fan the first day I set foot in Chapel Hill 45 years ago, and so I have remained. I yield to no one in the strength of my loyalty as a fan, and yes, I confess to occasionally feeling as much pleasure in a Duke loss as in a Carolina victory.

But something these past few days has brought me up short as I have joined thousands of my fellow UNC fans reveling in the Tar Heels’ victories over Duke and the dark cloud it has draped over the conclusion of Coach K’s 42-year career.

This man deserves the dignity and respect of a champion. He has proven repeatedly his excellence as a teacher, coach and leader. Consider the many lives he has influenced for good.

So when at the conclusion of two important basketball games that his team lost, I’m not joining in laughter or derisive remarks directed at him; instead I am applauding, respectfully and with appreciation, for his contributions and all the good he has accomplished.

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