Does Coach K Get a Fair Shake?

Kyle Koster
Mike Krzyzewsk and the art of the handshake.
Mike Krzyzewsk and the art of the handshake. / Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
facebooktwitter

Duke was thoroughly dissected by a hungry North Carolina State team last night. It was the most lopsided loss by a ranked Blue Devils side to an unranked squad in Mike Krzyzewski's four decades at the helm. He was, quite understandably, displeased with it all.

And it's fair to say he didn't show much passion for the traditional post-game handshake line, breezing past Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts at top speed.

This predictably spawned a bevy of tweets and blog posts criticizing the coaching legend, who does seem to have a habit of being very chatty when he wins and far less engaged when he loses. That's not entirely unique as most competitors are in a better mood in victory than defeat.

But as with so many other things involving Duke, Krzyzewski's post-game tendencies are intensely scrutinized. College basketball's signature program is revered, but also fervently despised. There are countless fans who revel in every bit of Duke sadness available. The final moments of a heartbreaking loss -- or any loss really -- are savored like a fine wine. The public, in their thirst for comeuppance, swirls them around in their mouth trying to taste all the flavor notes.

The Coach K handshake is part of this. And he did himself no favors by lecturing Oregon's Dillon Brooks on the big stage back in 2016, then being untruthful about it. There's no putting that toothpaste back in the tube.

It's extremely understandable why the Coach K handshake is broken down like the Zapruder film. But what I'd suggest is that it's not entirely fair to immediately ascribe deep meaning to a brief interaction in the heat of battle.

For instance, after his media availibity last night, Krzyzewski went back on the floor to personally congratulate NC State's Markell Johnson.

A cynic would say he did this as an attempt and damage control. That assumes an extremely calculated customer. And hey, it's possible.

It's also possible that the full picture of Coach K can't be distilled down to how he shakes Person A's hand versus how he shakes Person B's hand. We're talking about an almost-universally respected icon who has managed to succeed in connecting with generations of both collegiate and professional basketball players.

If there were a legion of opposing coaches turned off by post-Duke game interactions, they've been surprisingly quiet about it.

Little things become big things when a person is in the spotlight. A handshake through gritted teeth is a shiny thing bound to get attention.

It's worth wondering if Coach K gets a fair shake himself in all this, though one shouldn't hold their breath waiting for anything to change.

facebooktwitter