Better The Devils You Know
By Michael Wilbon
Tuesday, July 6, 2004; Page D01
I was kind of hoping Mike Krzyzewski would take the Lakers job.
Wouldn't Kobe Bryant playing for Coach K have been a fascinating case of better late than never? Wouldn't it have been a test of everything Coach K has ever learned as a coach and teacher to try to persuade Shaq to give it one more go with Kobe? Wouldn't it have been great, in the middle of this sporting melodrama that the Lakers have become, to put one of the great coaches in the history of basketball right in the middle of it?
Okay, it might not have worked. Maybe the Duke NBA Jinx would have attached itself to Coach K, just as it has so many of his former players. But wouldn't it have been absolutely riveting to watch? Wouldn't it have been fascinating to see Krzyzewski try to get a player to practice who doesn't want to practice? I was all set to beg my editor to start a Washington Post Lakers Bureau just to follow the story day by day.
So I was hoping Coach K would wind up in L.A.
But I never thought for a moment he was leaving.
Anyone who has known Krzyzewski for any length of time knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the man loves what he does for a living. He loves the setting he works in. He loves going to work every morning in his office just off the basketball court at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He enjoys being the best in his field at what he does. And he must know, while never professing so publicly, that what he does is necessary and on some level, very worthy. He is where he wants to be, doing exactly what he wants to do, with people he respects and often loves.
So why leave? If you're over-the-moon happy doing what you're doing, why risk leaving that to do something you might not be so happy doing?
Warren Buffett, one of the richest and most successful businessmen in America, once said when asked to describe happiness: "Happy is what I am. I get to do what I like to do every single day of the year. I get to do it with people I like and I don't have to associate with anybody who causes my stomach to churn. I tap dance to work, and when I get there I think I'm supposed to lie on my back and paint the ceiling. It's tremendous fun. . . . I know I wouldn't be doing anything else. I'd advise you . . . to work for an organization of people you admire, because it will turn you on."
Mike Krzyzewski could have written those exact words. Happy is what he is, doing what he's been doing all these years. He's turned on every day.
Coaching the Lakers might have made him happy.
Coaching the Lakers might have made him unhappy -- or less happy than he already is.
So why leave to do it?
It had to have been tempting, because Krzyzewski loves challenges and he loves basketball at its highest level. And basketball at its highest level, despite the hype, is played by pros, not college kids.
Krzyzewski isn't just familiar with pro basketball; he's intimately familiar with it. He's as immersed in pro basketball as a college coach can be. Coach K was an assistant coach to Chuck Daly at the 1992 Olympics. He's fascinated by pro basketball and has been for a long, long time. And more important than that, while he has made his living coaching college kids, pro players respect him. They know he's a great coach, period. And many of them would love to play for him in the NBA, and wonder how successful he'd be doing it. Why do you think Bryant still wants to play for him after passing up the opportunity coming out of high school?
© 2004 The Washington Post Company