“In 1969, right after I graduated from West Point, I was assigned to Fort Carson, CO. One of the first things I did was begin to work out and play in my off-duty hours with the post basketball team. But my direct superior, a colonel, called me in and told me that I could not participate. He didn’t like the thought of me fraternizing with the enlisted men. “”No officer of mine is going to wasting his time playing basketball,’ he said. “There are other things you should be doing.’
“Shortly after that, I received a call from Major General Bernard Rogers, the new division commander at Fort Carson. General Rogers had just received that assignment after having served as the commandant of cadets at West Point, where, of course, he knew me as the captain of the varsity basketball team. The general had just been to a post basketball game and he called to ask why I wasn’t playing with the team.”
“Sir my colonel would rather that I not play,’ I responded. ‘He feels it’s not a good thing for officers to do.’ The general then went to the colonel.
“Why isn’t Lieutenant Krzyzewski not playing on the post basketball team?” he asked.
‘When the colonel responded that he just didn’t think it was good for an officer to participate, General Rogers replied: ‘Well, Colonel, the question is not, “Should Lieutenant Krzyzewski be playing on our team,” the question is, “Should we have a team?’’ If the answer to that question is, “Yes, we should have a team,” then we should have the best damn team we can possibly have.”
“’Well, Colonel,’ said the general, ‘then Lieutenant Krzyzewski will play basketball. And not only that, he will coach the team.’…
…”But that’s not why I’m telling you this story,” I’ll say in conclusion. “There’s already been a decision made here at Duke that we’re going to have a basketball team. So we’re going to have the best damn team we can possibly have. That’s why all of you are here today. You were recruited specifically for this purpose. Each of you is special. I don’t want you to ever forget that.”
- Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University; Author of Leading With Your Heart