Coach K, Summitt: Sportsman, Sportswoman of the Year
Posted: December 6th, 2011
Time Inc. Sports Group editor Terry McDonell announced today that Tennessee’s Pat Summitt and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski are the 2011 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year. The NCAA’s all-time winningest women’s and men’s basketball coaches join an elite group of sports immortals, including Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, Billie Jean King, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Orr and Pete Rozelle to receive this award.
The magazine’s editors have chosen each honoree based on the principles established in 1954, when runner Roger Bannister was honored as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s first Sportsman: “While the victory may have been his or hers, it is not for the victory alone that he or she is honored. Rather, it is for the quality of their effort and manner of their striving.”
Says McDonell: “The voices of those who have been inspired by Pat Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski echo from everywhere and will continue for decades. What they have achieved through their coaching and, more importantly, their teaching places them among history’s transcendent figures. It is an honor to now include them in the select group of Sportsmen and Sportswomen.”
In this year’s Sportswoman/Sportsman feature, basketball Hall of Fame senior writer Alexander Wolff writes that the legacy of Summitt and Krzyzewski goes far beyond their record-breaking victory totals: “More than that-so much more-are the roads each has traveled over the course of careers that can be measured in Presidents Met on White House visits with Team (four in her case, three in his). For their endurance, for their adaptability, for their genius for hatching from adversity even more success, and for their willingness to take up causes beyond the comfort of their own campuses-indeed, for modeling what it means to be public diplomats as well as great coaches-we honor them as SI’s 2011 Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year.”
Summitt and Krzyzewski join UCLA’s John Wooden and North Carolina’s Dean Smith to round out a veritable Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches who have received this award. In 1972, Wooden, who had won his eighth national title in nine seasons, was selected along with Billie Jean King. Smith was honored in 1997, the same year he set the then NCAA wins record and announced his retirement. Other coaches named Sportsman include Joe Paterno (1986); manager Terry Francona (2004, with the Boston Red Sox); Herb Brooks (1980, with the U.S. Olympic hockey team) and Tony DiCicco (1999, with the U.S. Women’s soccer team).
In his story Wolff collected an array of perspectives from those whose lives have intersected with the coaches to weave a narrative that reveals several commonalities: Relationships, a willingness to evolve, deep parental influence and humanity. Wolff sums it up by concluding: “In the end it may simply come down to this: Pat Summitt is a woman secure enough to draw from her masculine side. Mike Krzyzewski is a man secure enough to draw from his feminine side. In their respective modulations, they’ve chosen not to overlook half of what it means to be human. And by doing so they double the chance that they’ll unlock what human beings are capable of.”
Wolff’s piece also includes a captivating tableau of anecdotes detailing factors that shaped Summitt’s and Krzyzewski’s legendary careers. For Summitt, much of her demeanor is traced back to her father, Richard Head, who raised Summitt with a tough-love approach on a farm in rural Tennessee. When Summitt was 10, her father “left her alone in a field with a tractor and a hay rake and orders to figure out how to use them.” For several years after taking over the Tennessee women’s program at the age of 21, Summitt ran her teams with a similar approach. But it wasn’t until she started channeling the gentler ways of her mother, Hazel, and made a genuine effort to understand her players’ emotions and vulnerabilities, that Summitt brought the Lady Vols-and women’s basketball as a whole-into the national spotlight.
Krzyzewski, meanwhile, has always believed in the power of imagery and metaphor in unlocking the full potential of his players. That approach has not only guided his Blue Devils to four national titles, it has also allowed the current cohort of American pros to reclaim ownership of their country’s national team program at a time when it was floundering. Krzyzewski says to Wolff: “I’ve always felt a kid needs to see things, not just hear them or read about them. People remember stories and examples better than words.”
The coaches will be honored in New York City on Tuesday evening, where they will be joined by fellow Sportswomen and Sportsmen Chris Evert (1976), Sugar Ray Leonard (1981), Wayne Gretzky (1982), David Robinson (2003) and David Ortiz (2004). The following is the complete list of Sportswomen and Sportsmen.