Mike Krzyzewski by Jack Lago

By in Celebrity Leaders, Sports Leaders, Uncategorized

“I don’t look at myself as a basketball coach. I look at myself as a leader who happens to coach basketball.” — Mike Krzyzewski

“Leaders have to give time for relationships. But more demands will be placed on their time as they become more successful. So if a person’s success is based on developing relationships, then they have to continually find new ways of getting it done.” — Mike Krzyzewski 

This two quotes really show who Coach K is as a person. They are both two things that he really believes in.



In the year of 1992 at the Barcelona Summer Olympics, Coach Mike Krzyzewski helped lead the United States of America’s National Basketball team to the Gold Medal. This team was better known as the “Dream Team”. This is consider the best basketball team ever assembled. It featured the best active NBA players at the time. Though they had the best players, the coaching is what really made this team so successful. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, better known as Coach K used his skills as a leader to coach this team to the full potential it had. Coach K used his leadership trait of Emotional Intelligence to help connect these players together to make them a team. Emotional Intelligence is” the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically” (dictionary.com). In other words, Emotional Intelligence is using empathy to connect to someone at a personal level. When he did this he would make the team closer as a whole. He often would have dinner with players such as Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. This would allow him to maintain a relationship with his players that is closer than most coaches. This might be the reason that the team achieved such greatness. Never before has an Olympic team be comprised of the world’s best athletes that have never played with each other before. He fixed the gap that all these players had with each other. 

Community Center and Community Service

In honor of his Mother, Emily, he established the “Emily Krzyzewski Center”. The center is a place for students who are disadvantaged to have a place to accomplish things that they never thought they could. The center was meant help them with who they are as a person by building up their character and help make their life better. It also would help them with their academics. School was a big thing for Coach K. If a student-athlete on his team was struggling, he would make sure that he personally helped them. The center was also a place for kids to make new friends that they previously would not have been able to have. It gives kids the ability to go to college, even though their families would not be able to afford it. The center has a scholarship program for kids that they believe deserve the ability to go to college.

Other than community center, Coach K is also involved with a lot of community service and charities. He is on the board for C-Change, and also involved with the Duke Children’s Hospital, as well as involved with the Jimmy V foundation for cancer research. President George Bush personally went to talk with Coach K to praise him for all the community service and donations that he does. 


When Coach K is not coaching Team USA, he is the Head Coach of the Duke Blue Devils. He uses the same technique of Emotional Intelligence that he used with the Dream Team. He used a couple different ways than he did with the Olympic team. Before he would offer the athletes a scholarship, he made sure he got to know them as a person. He made sure he picked people that he thought were like him. He wanted to make sure that he could trust them to finish school and play basketball as well. Coach K invited a player to his house every week to share a home cooked meal with him and to engage in one-on-one conversations. Through the conversations, he gains insight on how each player would be able to thrive at Duke. By him doing this, he only had two players on his team ever that did not graduate from the university if they stayed at the school all four years. Coach K’s use of Emotional Intelligence of getting to know who his players were helped him. No other coach really is like him. Coach K worked very hard to create an environment, in which every person establishes trusting relationships with others in the Duke basketball organization. Grant Hill, one of Duke’s best basketball players of all time said, “Coach K taught him to set the bar high, to build close relationships built on trust, to sacrifice and give of himself to others, and to enjoy the journey.”

 Leadership Skills

Emotional Intelligence  is the best leadership skill that Coach K has. It gives him the ability to connect to his players at an emotional level, almost coaches like girl. Not many other coaches have this ability to coach at this style. Another leadership skill that Coach K has is Constructive Criticism. It allows him to tell the players what they do wrong, but makes them just practice it until it becomes perfect. It connects to emotional intelligence because if he was not such a kind and connective person the constructive criticism might be taken in a mean way instead of a way of helping the players.

Criticism of Coach K

Coach K is a great leader but has one flaw. He does not have a mean side to him. This might be a turnoff to some players. The sometimes need that coach yelling at them and pushing them. I believe that he is too nice of a coach and he needs to be more strict instead of being so emotionally connected to the players.

Coaching Career Accomplishments

Coach K has achieved many accolades over his coaching career. He has gained a prestigious place in the basketball community. Only a few other coaches have awards even close to what he has. While coaching at Duke University, he gained the honor of being the National Coach of the year 12 times. He also won four national championships with a 912-247 career record with them. These accomplishments gained him access to be a member inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts in the year of 2001. Besides coaching at Duke, he coaches the United States National Basketball team and has won 4 Olympic gold medals. 


Coach K comes from a Polish family Background. His grandparents were born there and immigrated to the United States. His family was also very religious. Being so religious he was sent to Catholic grammar school and also a private Catholic High School. This is a huge reason that he is the man he is today. From being raised in a Catholic family it made him a very well mannered and acted man. For college he did not gain much recruiting popularity so he attended West Point. He played basketball for them and was also enlisted in the service.  


Not many people know this, but Coach K had a very prestigious mentor for him. While he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, his coach was the legendary coach named Bob Knight. Coach Bob Knight is one of the best coaches, if not the best coaches ever in college basketball. Knight took Coach K under his wing at Army. He was one of the only coaches who wanted Coach K to play basketball for them in college. He taught Coach K a lot of what made him a great leader. He gave Coach K his first coaching job ever at Army after he was done with his service. This is what really paved him into the great leader he was.

 Primary Source

 This link here talks about what Coach K accomplished over his coaching career. It talks about his time on and off the court. It is a great source if you are looking to learn a lot about what he has done over the years at Duke. It mentions of how accomplished he is of a person. It mentions most of his community service and almost all of his career records and accomplishments. This article also talks about how his past players and him still have a connection at a personal level because they are still in touch. This is because of his leadership skill of emotional intelligence. It made the past players and Coach K very close and connected. 


About Me

My name is Jack Lago, I am from Newtown, Connecticut. I am a 18 year student that is currently enrolled at Wagner College. I am a football player and have been playing ever since I was 8. Outside of playing football, I coached a youth football and basketball team. I helped them over the four years of my high school career. 



 In the photo Coach K is talking to the Team USA players. He is sitting down with the players because he wants to make them feel more connected to him. Most coaches would be standing up talking to the players. He is trying to connect to the players better by saying that he is one of them.







“Class of 1951 Leadership Chair,” United States Military Academy, http://www.usma.edu/bsl/sitepages/coach%20michael%20krzyzewski.aspx.

Hackman, Richard J,  “Developing Team Leadership,” Academy of Management Learning and Education.(2011). 494-501.

Krzyzewski, Mike,  “The Gold Standard: Building a World Class Team,” Hachette Book Group. (2009) . 

Krzyzewski, Mike, “Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life” Grand Central Publishing. (2010). 

Tarapacki, Thomas M, “Chasing the American Dream. Polish Americans in Sports”, Polish American Studies. (1996) 84-86.

Zauderer, Donald G, “Leadership Lessons from World Class Coaches”, Public Manager. (2006). 20-25.