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SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR: Mike Krzyzewski / SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR: Pat Summitt
Alexander Wolff
December 12, 2011
The two winningest coaches in Division I college basketball history (907 for him, 1,075 for her) have more in common than just extraordinary success. For reaching far beyond their campuses and refusing to be defined by their genders, SI honors them together
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December 12, 2011

Sportsman Of The Year: Mike Krzyzewski / Sportswoman Of The Year: Pat Summitt

The two winningest coaches in Division I college basketball history (907 for him, 1,075 for her) have more in common than just extraordinary success. For reaching far beyond their campuses and refusing to be defined by their genders, SI honors them together

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Nothing's the matter. It's just that, years ago, as Pat Summitt left the floor after coaching a game at Louisiana Tech, she spotted a girl in a wheelchair at the mouth of the tunnel. She dropped to one knee and told her, "Don't let the way you are now define who you will be. You can overcome anything if you work at it."

In a moment, that woman will get out of her jump seat and work this flight, serving the person who had prophesied it, and right now she's emotionally overcome by this opportunity to thank her. "Everybody else was, 'Oh, poor you.' You told me I could do it. And here I am."

FEELING WHILE THINKING

Mike Krzyzewski is showing a visitor around his upper office at Cameron Indoor Stadium. "I'm a big picture guy," he says, before catching himself. "Not a 'big-picture' guy—well, I'd like to think I'm a 'big-picture' guy too. But I'm a big picture guy."

Scores of photographs line these walls and those of a lower office. There's a wall of Duke Olympians, another of national title teams, still another of Hall of Fame coaching mentors Henry Iba, Pete Newell and Bob Knight. Just talking about Iba and Newell, whom he got to know through Knight, "I get chills," he says. To prove it he flashes a forearm, and sure enough, it's as pebble-grained as a basketball. "I'd just shut up and listen. They all told me, 'Don't ever try to be like any of the three of us. Don't try to be like anybody. Take what you like, but don't mimic.'"

And there is the players' wall. "Every picture tells a story or reminds me of a journey that I had with the player or a quality that player had, that I would like my current players to have." Here, his national players of the year, including Danny Ferry and Christian Laettner. There, Jon Scheyer, the unlikely floor leader of his 2010 title team—"His smile, his personality," he says. "Every day with Jon Scheyer was a good day." When Krzyzewski points out Hurley—the player the old West Point point guard secretly wished he had been—the nasal passages we've come to associate with his voice fill with moisture. "I'm sure a producer or director fantasizes that he's the actor," he says. "That was me with Hurley."

In his office Krzyzewski might settle into a recumbent bike and watch tape or listen to music. But often he's just thinking, and as he does, the pictures peer at him and might catch his eye. "There's a moment, and something you were creative with reappears," he says. "As you keep moving on, how do you remember the feelings you had at some other time? So there has to be something that prompts that. That's why I like all the pictures. They make you feel. If you're feeling while you're thinking you're going to get a different kind of thought. And the way I coach, I need to have those kinds of thoughts."

Few coaches rely on their instincts as much as Krzyzewski. In the dying seconds of the 2010 title game he played a hunch. From a sequence of missed shots and referees' whistles over the previous few minutes, he felt a dawning realization that the Blue Devils had been caught on the wrong side of destiny. They were playing, in Indiana, an underdog on whose campus the actual Hoosiers legend unspooled. "I could feel there could be a moment," he says, "and it wasn't going to be our moment."

In literary terms, he had to interrupt the narrative. So with Duke up by two with 3.6 seconds to play, he had his man at the free throw line, Brian Zoubek, brick his second free throw. By missing—by having Duke impose itself on the moment—the clock started, and with no timeouts the best shot Butler could get was a heave from half-court. It nearly went in but didn't, and the Blue Devils had confounded the story line. "In order to follow your instincts you have to feel, and not just in that moment," he says. "You have to feel on days you don't have competition, and the only way to do that is to be emotionally involved, to get to know people and get to know moods."

There is no "system" at Duke, with sockets into which players are plugged. Yes, the Blue Devils play man-to-man defense, but theirs has what basketball people call various "looks." And if Duke has a set offense, it's hard for outsiders to divine. "You really covered for K over there," a retired pro and college coach told ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla after Fraschilla returned from broadcasting last year's worlds. "Because you and I both know he didn't run a single play."

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