Ian O'Connor is a journalist, a sports columnist for The New York Post, and the author of the new book, Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski.
During our conversation, Ian talks about Coach K's early life and career, the lesser-known, darker aspects of his personality, the juxtaposition of his love and loyalty towards his players with the fear he engenders and the rage he could exhibit, his relationship with Bobby Knight, his marriage to his wife Mickie, the love and respect Coach K has from his former players, the importance of relationships in his life, his daily habits, and whether Coach K is the greatest basketball coach of all-time.
Coach K has had a profound influence on my life. I read books about him in middle school, and his message of excellence and hard work resonated with me at an early age. I was obsessed with going to Duke, and as a student in Durham, in close proximity to his program, I was exposed both to his many admirable qualities and the fundamental humanness and flaws of an amazingly successful head coach. Ian perhaps put it best: while Coach K is not a nice guy, he is a good man.
(02:22) What fascinates Ian about Coach K
(04:54) Signs of leadership from an early age
(07:25) Mickie Kryzyzewski’s pivotal role as the co-head coach at Duke and Mike’s wife
(09:41) Coach K surviving as head coach despite a poor start at Duke
(12:24) Recruiting at Duke
(14:41) The keys to the rise of Coach K: excellent communication, motivation, and relationship skills
(17:59) Coach K’s reputation: his public open-heartedness and emotionality
(21:27) The darker aspects of Coach K’s personality: his thin-skinned nature, non-acceptance of full responsibility, assigning blame
(27:32) Competitive rage and the why being a not-so-nice guy was instrumental to Coach K’s success
(32:38) Coach K navigating a working class upbringing and environment
(35:45) Fear as a crucial component of success – in life and sports
(38:59) The integral role of Bobby Knight in Coach K's life and what caused their relationship to rupture
(44:02) Why Bobby Knight couldn’t see Coach K outgrow him
(46:04) How Coach K prioritized personal and professional relationships in his career
(49:43) Coach K’s impact on his players and the people he helped
(51:41) Coach K’s habits and work routine
(55:26) Lessons to imbibe from Coach K’s life: exceptional work ethics, attention to detail, vulnerability, and public open-heartedness
(59:45) Is Coach K the best coach in the history of college basketball?
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