Former Duke coach says Krzyzewski should enter politics

A former Duke coach says politics should be next step

lkeeley@newsobserver.comAugust 16, 2012 

Mike Krzyzewski’s list of basketball accomplishments is legendary. To refresh: in his 37-year coaching career (32 at Duke), he has become the all-time winningest coach in men’s college basketball, reached 11 Final Fours and won four national championships. Internationally, he recently finished overseeing the revitalization of USA Basketball and brought home a second consecutive gold medal.

What’s left?

Bucky Waters, a former N.C. State player, Duke head coach from 1969-73, national announcer and fundraiser for the Duke school of Medicine, thinks Krzyzewski should start competing in another arena.

“If I were the king, the absolute ruler, I would make Mike Krzyzewski stop coaching because he’s already proven everything, and all he is doing now is piling on more numbers,” Waters said. “Here’s what I’d like to see him do: I’d like to see him go to Washington. We desperately need leaders. Desperately.”

Waters has not shared this with Krzyzewski, a man he described as a friend with whom he shares a mutual respect. He does, though, make an interesting case.

For one, Krzyzewski has handled the spotlight. As a graduate of Army, he has the required discipline. And, thanks to his involvement in the Coach K Leadership Conference at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, he is well-connected in that world.

“I can’t think of a person more qualified, even with all the things the national politicians deal with, than him,” Waters said. “He would be controversial. I think he would say ‘no,’ and, ‘What don’t you understand about no?’ but I think that’s what we need.”

Former N.C. Gov. Terry Sanford said that 90 percent of a politician’s time is spent with people he or she doesn’t particularly want to be around but might need in the future. That could be a challenge for Krzyzewski, Waters said, but his recent Olympic experience in uniting a group of NBA superstars shows he could be up to the challenge. If he wants it, that is. Krzyzewski couldn’t be reached for comment.

While Krzyzewski held a fundraiser for Republican Senate nominee (and Duke graduate) Elizabeth Dole in 2002, he’s a registered independent.

“It would be inconvenient in many ways, with a whole new set of circumstances that would be unpleasant,” Waters said. “The key would be, of course, for him to step back from this stage of adoration, and I don’t think money is an issue anymore with all his success, but to step back and say, ‘I owe this to my country, and if I can make a difference, I’ll take on that role and what comes with that stage.’ ”

As far as his electability in North Carolina, Waters said that he hopes people could put aside any basketball issues for a national concern. But, barring that, maybe people would vote for him for another reason: “Even if you are anti-Duke and anti-Mike Krzyzewski, …. some might vote for him just so he would get out of basketball and stop beating their brains out,” he said. “But I would hope that this aspect would be a much higher level of decision-making.”

Keeley: 919-829-4556

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