The Kansas City Star’s Joe Posnanski is perhaps the best-regarded sports columnist (and blogger!) in the country, which is why his latest column from Beijing is relevant–that, and it’s the sharpest rebuke of Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski yet. Posnanski’s column, “Give Coach K an F for diplomacy,” criticizes Krzyzewski for belittling a foreign reporter who asked the Duke head coach why Team USA felt the need to dunk even in garbage time of its 101-70 win over China Sunday.
“There was no showing off,” Krzyzewski said before glaring at the reporter. “You dunk when you have to dunk. They have 7-footers. If you don’t take it hard, Yao would block it. He did block one…. I don’t know your definition of showing off, to me that’s hard basketball. I thought we played very hard. I thought we took it to the basket hard. Don’t confuse hard with showing off.”
Posnanski offers four ways, of many, that Krzyzewski could have maintained the humble approach Team USA has favored:
Example 1: He could have said that the United States has great athletes, and they love to perform. This is absolutely true. Dunking is an act of joy in American basketball, and frankly if I could dunk like Dwyane Wade, I would probably never leave the playground.
Example 2: He could have said the players were obviously motivated and pumped up by the amazing crowd. This is absolutely true, too. Krzyzewski could have said the arena was electric and alive, and the players certainly meant no disrespect when they dunked, they were simply responding to the spirit and passion of the people in the stands. This has the added advantage of praising the Chinese fans, which certainly would not hurt the team’s standing.
Example 3: He could have said, “Personally, I wish our players would show off by making a few three-point shots.” Or, to play off the theme, he could have said that his players were dunking so ferociously because they could not hit anything from outside 5 feet. The U.S. missed 11 of 12 three-point shots in the first half, and this was the one downer of the game. This team, like pretty much every American team of the last few years, does not have great outside shooting – what happened to our outside shooters anyway? Did someone tear down the driveway goals in Indiana, Kentucky and Carolina? Did they stop playing HORSE on playgrounds in the city? Doesn’t anyone have Reggie Miller’s phone number?
Example 4: He could have said that fans want to see those dunks. And it’s true. The NBA is enormously popular in China – the word is that there are several jerseys in China (beginning with Kobe Bryant) that now outsell Yao Ming jerseys. The fans finally have a chance to see some of their heroes play live and in person. You think they want to see underhand-layups? Uh, no. They want to see LeBron James throw down his dunks.
Of course, glares from Krzyzewski after tough questions (and particularly tough columns) have become relatively commonplace for Chronicle reporters, so we can sympathize with the journalist in question. But what do you think: Was Coach K wrong for snapping at this reporter? Should he have simply deflected the question? Or was he in his rights?
–by Ben Cohen