Coach K: Paterno firing a 'real mistake'

acarter@newsobserver.comJune 16, 2012 

Mike Krzyzewski said Penn State made a “real mistake” in firing Joe Paterno after the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal became a national spectacle in November.

Krzyzewski, the longtime Duke basketball coach who became close to Paterno before the Sandusky case made international headlines, made the comments during an interview that aired Friday night on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight.

During one point in the interview, Morgan asked Krzyzewski for his thoughts on how Penn State handled the Sandusky case, and Kryzewski said “it was really not well done.”

“You had somebody who’d given six decades of service to the university and done such an incredible job,” Krzyzewski said of Paterno. “Somehow, you have to let – something has to play out and respect the fact that you’ve gone through all these experiences for six decades. And it doesn’t just go out the window, right at the end.”

Penn State fired Paterno, who’d been the Nittany Lions’ head coach since 1966, amid a national firestorm that erupted after authorities arrested Sandusky on numerous lurid charges. Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator, is now standing trial on more than 50 criminal counts of abusing 10 boys over a range of years.

Paterno died on Jan. 22 after a bout with lung cancer, and his death came less than three months after he was fired.

“I thought it was a real mistake by Penn State’s leadership,” Krzyzewski said.

Asked how he might handle a situation at Duke similar to the Sandusky scandal, Krzyzewski said he would consult with the university’s athletic director and president in effort “to have a solution.”

“And if that solution meant that I would step down, I would do it in a way which would be part of the solution, not like you’re just throwing [me] out,” Krzyzewski said. “You to understand that in leadership, you may be asked to step down, and that’s part of being a leader.”

Krzyzewski will coach the U.S. national team in the summer Olympics in London later this summer. He coached the national team to a gold medal in the 2008 summer games in Beijing.

Carter: 919-829-8944

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