"I have practice at 2:30!"
"I'm telling you now: It's me or basketball. If you're not at the doctor's at 2:30, I'll know what you chose."
Mickie's threat finally got Mike's attention. He showed up on time for the appointment, but John Feagin, his orthopedist, didn't even bother examining him. As soon as he saw Mike, Feagin dispatched him to Duke Medical Center.
"I've made a career out of not standing in Mike's way," Mickie says now. "To issue him an ultimatum is something I'd never done. It scared me to death. But he had no idea how bad off he was. Mike is so strong mentally he doesn't believe his body won't obey him. Last year his body said, Hell, no."
It's from the nadir of last winter that Krzyzewski has clambered up. "The toughest thing was when the team lost, because it made me feel guilty," he says. His reaction was that of the West Pointer he is: His men were out there taking bullets—that's the phrase he uses—while he was sitting home. In the Army a leader is duty-bound to relinquish command when he's not up to the job. Krzyzewski offered athletic director Tom Butters his resignation. Butters shooed him out of his office, and on Jan. 22, Duke announced that Coach K would take a leave for the balance of the season.
"It was like an out-of-body experience, like one of those movies where you can pull back and look at yourself, like A Christmas Carol" he says. "And you say, I can't believe I'm doing all these outside things that have nothing to do with coaching. I mean, how could you do all those things, and expect to have the same relationship with Jeff Capel that you'd had with Grant Hill and Tommy Amaker? It's impossible."
When not putting in his two to three hours of daily physical therapy, Krzyzewski underwent a sort of psychological rehab, reading press clippings about himself, and screening his instructional videos and Duke game tapes, all to better envision himself coaching again. "I'd watch a video and ask, Do I really believe in that? Is that who I am right now? And the Vegas [ NCAA semifinal] game in '91: Was I nervous? Was it good to be nervous? Does it give me chills again or not? And I found out I really love what I do."
The Krzyzewskis have taken several practical steps to help Mike home in on this thing he loves to do. They have consulted with experts on time management and installed a home phone line strictly for family use. A new parking space allows Mike to get to and from his office without encountering the public. He's doing no more big-ticket motivational speeches, limiting his speaking to a few choice charities, and he's scaling back his involvement with USA Basketball and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. The phone calls from the press are all being screened. "When I heard I was being called a dragon lady," says Mickie, "I knew I was doing a good job."
There are changes within the team, too. In addition to Gaudet's departure, assistant Mike Brey has left to become the coach at Delaware. For much of the summer, Amaker, suddenly the senior assistant at age 30, joined Krzyzewski in making the rounds of summer camps and all-star games, where they tried to be as visible as possible to minimize any damage to recruiting that Krzyzewski's absence might have caused and to put the kibosh on all the vicious rumors that arose when Coach K left his team last season: that he had AIDS, cancer, even an addiction to painkillers.
Shortly after Labor Day virtually every star from Duke's basketball past returned to campus for a banquet, a memorabilia auction and a legends game to raise money for an annex to Cameron. At halftime of the game, Krzyzewski emceed reenactments of some of the great shots in Blue Devil history, including the Gene Banks turnaround jumper that beat Carolina in 1981 and Laettner's shot that knocked off Connecticut in the 1990 NCAA East Regional final.