By Pete Grimm
As a class we were all proud to see Mike tapped to coach Army and, for what seems now only a moment, sorry to see him go to Duke. I recall one classmate saying if our dear Alma Mater had paid and quartered Mike like the great basketball coach he was instead of like a captain in the army, he might have stayed at West Point.
My family was the ACC Basketball “house divided.” My father-in-law graduated from NC State. My mother-in-law graduated from Duke, and my wife graduated from UNC. ACC basketball was and is a BIG thing at home. I was proud to have Mike coaching Duke, representing all that is good about the leadership lessons taught at West Point, and I joined right into the interfamily rivalry on the side of Duke.
Here we are 42 years later, and the ride has been magnificent. The joy and heartbreak, learning about wonderful new young men on both teams each year, watching them play their hearts out and losing, but mostly winning, has been uplifting. Through it all, Mike’s steady guiding hand on the tiller, steering Duke with the values of his religion, his family and our alma mater was inspiring. His lessons spawned the success of many of his players in the NBA and as coaches of big time college programs, living good lives and inspiring other in turn.
He didn’t do it for us. He did it for his kids. He did it because, as a leader, it was his responsibility. He did it because he had to. It was and is who he is. Nevertheless, we and West Point basked in a reflection of his success, an important connection.
It is a tribute to how much he influenced us that my dyed-in-the-wool, rabid UNC supporting wife rooted for Duke in the final minutes of the NCAA semifinal against Carolina last week. There are no losers when the players and coaches leave it all on the court. for 42 years, Mike left it all on the court. I know he will miss it dearly. We will miss him in that role almost as much.
by Suzanne Rice for Bill Rice
I had no connection to Duke, but I do love basketball. My high school has been the winningest high school basketball in the country, so it is in my blood. Bill was a basketball star (he would challenge that saying he was just a “clean-up player” scoring most of his points with rebounds.) so it was also in his blood. For many years the only way to watch Coach K was to hope the Blue Devils would be named on March Madness Bracket Sunday. In 2004, the regional finals were in Atlanta, so we met Dale and Colleen Smith there to cheer Mike and his team on to victory in both games. What a thrill. Most of the time, however, it had to be at home in front of the television. We would spread a tablecloth on the floor, make a bunch of snacks and enjoy them picnic-style – all of us munching, watching and cheering. One year, Chick-fil-A had a promotional: little stuffed animal Chick-fil-A cows of favorite teams; ours was the Duke cow. After the picnic on the floor was over, Bill would go to his favorite chair with the Duke cow nearby. Whenever the game got close, the kids would say, “Dad, where is the cow?” He would grab it and place the cow on his head – that seemed to do the trick – Duke usually won the game!
Why was this time special to us? I think it was because Mike brought his West Point leadership lessons to the game; his focus was his Duke players, but his love for them as people showcased the values he learned at home in Chicago and at West Point. Bill was proud to be his classmate and we were glad to be a part of that extended family.
Ray Dupere says
I was no different than the rest of you all I’m sure. Whenever the opportunity presented itself I bragged about Coach K to anyone who would listen and one of those people was my own son, Jeremy. I had gone to UNC for one year before getting into West Point so of course I trained my son to be a UNC basketball fan. When UNC and Duke would play we would sit in our TV room cheering on Carolina … but if it was Duke playing anybody else then we would cheer on the Blue Devils. My most memorable time was during the 1992 NCAA tournament when Duke played Kentucky. We were sitting up on the edge of the couch absolutely screaming for Duke to do something to pull out the win when Christian Leattner did the impossible. I will never forget that long court pass and the turnaround jumper and the joy Jeremy and I experienced when Duke came out on top and were heading to the Finals. The irony of it came home 14 years later in 2006 when my son married a Kentucky grad which means that from then on he had to root for Kentucky.
Doug Jeffrey says
Years ago, the ten year old son of a friend of mine was stricken with a life threatening form of cancer. The child was a huge Duke Basketball fan. I called Mike to ask him for some Duke swag that I could pass along to the boy who was in a hospital bed. According to his dad, when he received the autographed gifts, the room lit up with an unforgettable smile that was on the boys face. Sadly, the boy did not survive much longer. The family and I will never forget Mike’s kind and selfless gesture. Says it all!
William J. Bahr says
Always amazed at Mike’s achievements, I included him in my latest book, “Strategic Advantage: How to Win in War, Business, and Life.,” along with two other Class luminaries (McDonough and Dibella). The book covers the winning ways of 85 master strategists throughout history. Go, Mike!
Jerry Morelock, E-4 says
Bill’s book is a terrific read! I highly recommend it!
DENIS GULAKOWSKI says
Since my name also ended in “SKI” I had an ethnic association with Mike even before we met at school. Being in the same regiment, we’d often run into each other during our daily activities. As upperclassman, we often found ourselves together in pick up basketball games in the North Gym. Also as an upperclassman, I’d often broadcast Army home basketball games, and unlike professional sportscasters who did nationally televised games, (typically the National Invitational Tournament [NIT] in which Army sometimes participated) I never mispronounced his name. We also played intramural flag football against each other, during cow year, as I remember.
We too had a family conflict, when my son attended NC State on an ROTC scholarship. In fact, during one game when Duke played at NC State, my son had usher duty as a cadet, during which time he took the opportunity to introduce himself to Mike. Since he was in uniform and had his name tag, it might have been easier for Mike to make the association. We also played intramural flag football against each other.
Gary Lynn Cantrell says
Like everyone, I have always been a BIG Mike/Duke fan. I felt some attachment because my roommate for 3 years, Wade Urban, was the shooting guard. When Mike won his 3rd NCAA National Championship in 2001, I sent Mike a note of congratulations. A week later Mike called my house to acknowledge, and short conversation. My youngest son, Adam, was an above average point guard on his HS team during this time and also avid Duke fan. Furthermore, I told him when he can “dunk”, that I would call Mike to take a look. Well, whenever I showed Adam our home caller ID with Mike’s name completely spelled out, he had all his teammates come to the house to witness our phone caller ID. In summary, Adam could never dunk and went to TTU without BB scholarship. Thanks for the great memories Mike!
Chuck anstrom says
My Coach K story.
Whenever I have met someone who is a fan of Duke, UNC, ACC or college basketball, my story goes like this:
“Do you know the Bob Knight? Do you know Mike Krzyzewski? You have just met Chuck Anstrom. Same Army basketball team 1965,66, and 67…
…But different roles. Bob Knight was youngest Division 1 basketball coach. Mike Krzyzewski was an all-American from Chicago, and Chuck Anstrom picked up towels and kept stats for the Army basketball team.
I have told this yarn 100’s of times. However, once in Virginia, I shared this story on a golf course with Glen Combs (I had no idea who he was at the time) from Virginia Tech who played in the ABA. He knew Mike Silliman, USMA 66, very well. Mike participated in the 1968 Summer Olympics and won a gold medal as captain of the United States national basketball team. Glen was a close friend of Mike.
I still tell the yarn.
Second ACC basketball story.
My son swam at Syracuse. UNC hosted a swim meet in November for 10-12 teams. My wife and I went to the natatorium (big swim pool) several times. The natatorium was connected to the UNC basketball arena. One day, between swim heats, I walked the arena and walked into Dean Smith, the UNC basketball coach icon. The typical “excuse me, pardon, etc.” followed. Later I googled (verb) his name and discovered he grew up in a community about 25 miles from my home in Kansas. Later, I shared this with a high school teacher who grew up in the same town. I asked her if she knew Dean Smith. Her reply: “We were next door neighbors. Dean’s father was a junior high coach and painted homes in the summer for additional family income. I baby set Dean for a month when his father painted our house.”
It is a very small world…
Pete Mirakian says
Just a brief comment about Mike, recalling a chance meeting I will never forget. I was stopped at the WP gas station on Thayer Road near the back gate one afternoon in late summer 1979 or 1980, and Mike drove up to the pump next to mine. Just making conversation, I asked him how the Army team was shaping up for the upcoming season (he was in his second or third year as head coach, as I recall.) He informed me he had just resigned and was taking the head coaching job at Duke. I recall thinking at the time: what a professional step backward! So much for my basketball smarts. The rest is history! Well done, Mike. Your classmate and friend, Pete
Paul Kessenich says
So my second son, Joe, grew up a huge Duke fan, not so much because of me, but because Duke was always so darn good! I, of course, had related to him that Coach K was my classmate and being in the same regiment, knew him well. He never really bought it, figuring everyone who was anywhere near West Point from ’65-’69 claimed they were Mike’s “friend.”
Then one year in the early ’90’s, Duke was assigned to play in Chicago for the NCAA tournament regionals.
Naturally, I got tickets, and when I arrived with my 11 or 12-year-old son, I told Joe I wanted to go to where the teams arrive, say hello to Mike, and wish him well. He rolled his eyes, like THAT was really going to happen.
When team began walking into the building, Mike saw me, and before I could say anything, said, “Oh, hi Paul, glad you could be here.” Joe’s mouth dropped open in disbelief. Typical Mike to be so cordial even at a tense time.