I am going to do something this morning that will leave you in shock and awe.
I am going to write a column in support of Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
I realize that some of you might need a moment here, so put the paper down, breathe deeply and come back when you can.
In case you missed it, Coach K is getting killed in the media for how he handled a situation last weekend with Oregon basketball player Dillon Brooks. In the closing seconds of the Oregon-Duke game with the outcome assured, Brooks launched a long 3point shot and did a little dance directed at the Duke bench. After the game as the teams shook hands, Coach K spoke directly to Brooks. What he said was reported as telling Brooks that he was too good of a player to showboat. If you watch the video exchange, it seems that Brooks took the message as intended man-to-man. Afterwards Brooks shared Coach K’s message with reporters while adding that he had always wanted to shake the coach’s hand. It was then that the story went off the rails.
Since then, every sports commentator with a microphone or a column has criticized Coach K for speaking to a player that is not on his team. Some have called him hypocritical and have dug up every discretion committed by his players from Christian Laettner to Grayson Allen. All of which is fair game, but I ask you, which coach is perfect? No one. Not Coach K, Dean Smith or John Wooden. This is not about perfection, however. Coach K is the winningest coach in college basketball history. He has won five NCAA championships and two Olympic gold medals. If with that record, he cannot give you unsolicited advice or constructive criticism, who can?
My bigger issue is that it increasingly seems we are not allowed to criticize. Very few individuals in general, and young people in particular, seem to not be able to take constructive advice. I think we are so busy with being everyone’s “friend” that we fail to help those closest to us. I am fortunate that at several points in my past people cared enough about me to pull me aside and tell me I was either in the wrong or show me how I could improve. I am not saying that each time I received the advice in the spirit it was given, but upon reflection, in almost every case a deeper look showed me that they were right. As I say, it appears Brooks took the advice in the spirit it was intended. It was everyone else who lost it.
I would ask you, can you improve if you don’t change? Maybe we should be just a little less sensitive and a little more contemplative.
Roger Aiken is vice chair of the UNC Board of Governors. Email email@example.com.