• Coach K reveals his true character

    Posted: November 30th, 2005

    Having long been a fan of Coach K and Duke Basketball, I am honored to play a small role in the organization by designing and maintaining this site. I am a Coach K fan for many reasons but the following anecdote stands out in my mind as a perfect example of what a coach can be.

    In 1989, Duke was playing a close game against Arizona. With one second left, and Duke down by two points, freshman Christian Laettner was fouled and sent to the free throw line to shoot one-and-one. Laettner missed his first shot and Duke lost the game. But what happened next was remarkable.

    From Coach K’s book, Leading With the Heart:

    "As the buzzer sounded, our senior captains, Danny Ferry and Quin Snyder, rushed over to Laettner and put their arms around the dejected freshman. And then the rest of the team went up to console him… there was no selfishness at that moment from any member of our team. As a matter of fact, I distinctly recall Quin Snyder saying, "Laett, don’t worry about it, man. We win and we lose together." Coach K describes his players’ actions following the loss as "one of the best examples of collective responsibility that I have ever witnessed."

    In addition to Laettner’s teammates consoling him, I recall Coach K going right over to Laettner to offer his advice and encouragement, even before shaking hands with Arizona Coach Lute Olson. Was Coach K upset about the loss? I am sure he was disappointed, but he saw an opportunity to impart to his players something more than just how to play basketball. In that moment, Coach K revealed his true character. He showed he cared more about the player than he did about the outcome of the game. He showed himself to be a leader…a teacher…a coach in the best, truest sense of the word.


When you are winning, your commitment is never challenged. But loyalty and dedication during difficult times can be tough. When commitment doesn’t waver, that’s when you have the greatest chance of winning. You can never give up.

- Coach K

Take care not to allow one aspect of your life to so consume you that you neglect the others. Balance can put things in perspective, can bring you joy even when you are down, and can allow you to be at your best in all aspects of your life.

- Coach K

You can possess countless good qualities as an individual, but if you don”t have the courage to proceed, you may never see those qualities come into fruition. It takes courage to put what you believe to be best of you on the line, to test it, and to see how far it takes you. Courage means daring to do what you imagine.

- Coach K

Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication. Communication does not always occur naturally, and must be taught and practiced in order to bring everyone together as one. The most crucial element of communicating is telling the truth.

- Coach K

Belief can mean the difference between a fear of failure and the courage to try. On a team or in a family, belief makes each individual stronger and also fortifies the group as a whole. The basis of belief is in individual relationships.

- Coach K
Collective Responsibility

We win and we lose together. Handling the responsibility for wins and losses together removes the burden from one individual’s shoulders and distributes it among each member of the team. That atmosphere is conducive to high-level performance and places you and your team in the position to be bold and unafraid, and if you should lose, you are not alone.

- Coach K

Adversity can teach you more about yourself than any success, and overcoming an obstacle can sometimes feel even better than achieving an easy victory. Through adversity, you can discover things about your endurance, your ability to turn a negative into a positive, and your personal strength of heart.

- Coach K

No matter how successful you believe yourself to be, you can never feel as if you’ve reached the absolute pinnacle. There are always new and wonderful challenges out there, and part of maintaining success is knowing when you need to accept them.

- Coach K

You have to adapt what you do based on who you are. In teaching, you must remember that no group or individual is the same as who you taught the day before, the year before, or the decade before. Your plan has to suit who you and your team are right now.

- Coach K

When you care about someone or something, you show genuine concern for that person or thing, in good times or bad. When you care about one another and about your purpose, you are compelled to put your feelings into action. Care creates an atmosphere that breeds success and gives you the confidence to try again.

- Coach K
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