Coach K. Could Use A Swift Kick

RamFantic Note: The wall of silence surrounding Coach K's behavior towards game officials has been broken. It was totally predictable that when the wall was broken that it would not be by a local writer. It was too dangerous since someone who covers Duke basketball on a regular basis could be punished for writing negatively about Coach K and I don't think it is a stretch to say that the writer's livelihood could be at stake.

The writer who dared to put into print what many have been saying for some time is Bill Livingston, sportswriter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper. In his newspaper on the first day of the current NCAA playoffs, Bill posted a story entitled "Coach Krzyzewski Could Use A Swift Kick", hence the title for this article. I saw the article on a message board, and I have learned later that the article stirred up quite a bit of activity on Duke message boards which I don't frequent.

So, I contacted Bill Livingston and asked if he objected if I posted his article on He graciously granted me permission to do so and his article appears below verbatim and in its entirety. In my conversation with Bill, he indicated he had received quite a bit of organized e-mail from Duke supporters, in response to the article, not all of which has been complimentary. He said he probably couldn't buy a drink in Chapel Hill or College Park and at first I didn't understand. I initially thought he was saying he could not buy a drink because people in these two towns were so upset at him they wouldn't sell him one. I asked him if Maryland and UNC people were upset at him and he said they were not. It was at this point that I "got it." Bill was saying that he couldn't buy a drink because someone else in these two towns would be perfectly willing to pay for his drink. Makes sense to me. Were he to experience any difficulty in this regard, he could come to Richmond, and I think I could scrounge up enough cash to show my appreciation for his article.


Coach K. Could Use A Swift Kick

Not content to be hailed merely as a supercoach, Mike Krzyzewski now has morphed into a superhero, apparently acquiring the power of invisibility during games.

How else to explain the power of invisibility the Duke coach acquires when ruthlessly berating referees? Late in the regular season, Krzyzewski was watching his team lose to Georgia Tech, at home, and not liking it much. Billy Batson used to say "shazam" and become Captain Marvel but Krzyzewski's magic words, an interested television viewer noted, could best be transcribed, in true comic book style, as "#"$?!".

He called time, with his team eight points behind and 11 seconds remaining vs. Georgia Tech, solely to ream veteran referee Ray Natili. So ferocious was the tirade, you recalled that Coach Krzyzewski learned the ropes years ago at West Point, as a player for Coach K, as in 'Krakotoa,' " Bobby Knight. Maryland's excitable Gary Williams could get kicked out four or five times and not do anything half as bad as Krzyzewski, who had already gotten one technical foul in the game.

Since Krzyzewski, for all intents and purposes had dematerialized, Natili perhaps thought he was being insulted by one of those zany "Cameron Crazies." You know, the students majoring in "Elitist, Quasi-Ivy League Snot Nosing ." Either that, or he looked the other way. So did ESPN broadcasters Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale. This is a tradition in sports casting dating back at least to the night when Keith Jackson missed Woody Hayes punching the Clemson (player).

The irony is that Krzyzewski came into the Atlantic Coast Conference, complaining about the double standard of former North Carolina (coach) Dean Smith's treatment by the refs compared to that of his peers.

Coach Krzyzewski loved to twit Smith about what he saw as a weak will, and what others saw as human frailty. Krzyzewski would say with a smirk, "Maybe Dean can come by and smoke some cigarettes." But Smith kicked the habit years ago, long before Krzyzewski, apart from the tobacco jokes, turned into the man he once envied and ridiculed.

Smith did bait refs. A few critics correctly pointed out John Wooden in his UCLA days rode the refs hard, too. But no dynasty in this country gets a pass as often as Duke does. George Steinbrenner needs a flak jacket with the New York Yankees. Not Coach K.

You would think Duke is the only school in the country with academically qualified players. Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Princeton, all teams in the NCAA Tournament that starts today, must not count.

In Duke's 2001 championship season, the Blue Devils benefited from a ridiculous fifth foul against Maryland's Lonnie Baxter in the semifinals. It amounted to the brush of a butterfly's wing, given the contact between Baxter and current Cavalier Carlos Boozer all game. "How bad do you want Duke in the finals?" Maryland's Williams shouted at the NCAA officials.

In the Duke-Kentucky regional final in 1992, so great was the game that many reporters glossed over the appalling performance of the refs in ignoring that Duke's Christian Laettner had deliberately stepped on the chest of Kentucky's Aminu Timberlake as the latter lay on the floor. Perhaps Kentucky did not realize that it was not worthy, and Laettner was merely making the point.

He should have been tossed as far as that Vancouver hockey goon. But he wasn't. Maybe he too was invisible. Or maybe none is so blind as those who will not see.