Coach K discusses character during 11th annual ceremony

Story by Michelle Eberhart Assistant Editor

May 11th, 2017 | News, News and Features
Legendary basketball coach and U.S. Military Academy Class of 1969 graduate Coach Mike Krzyzewski gives his address at the 11th annual Teaching Character Through Sport ceremony Monday.
Cadet winners and finalists for company athletics, competitive club and corps squad categories stand with Coach K at the Teahcing Character Through Sport wall at the Arvin Cadet Physical Development Center Monday.

Legendary basketball coach and U.S. Military Academy Class of 1969 graduate Coach Mike Krzyzewski visited West Point Monday for the 11th annual Mike Krzyzewski Award for Excellence and Teaching Character Through Sport ceremony.

The annual “Coach K” Award recognizes West Point athletes, coaches and sport educators for their outstanding commitment to the development of noble character through athletic participation and leadership. Its recipients exemplify the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage both on-and-off the “fields of friendly strife.”

Acting Department of Physical Education Master of the Sword Col. Kevin Bigelman took the time to acknowledge the 12-time National Coach of the Year’s accomplishments including five NCAA national championships, six gold medals in international Olympic competitions as head coach of the USA Men’s team and 1,043 career wins, the most in NCAA history.

“The list goes on and on, but what makes Coach K a legendary coach and why we are here to recognize our athletes and coaches tonight, is his emphasis on character and teamwork in the pursuit of academic and sports excellence,” Bigelman remarked. “Coach K has always emphasized character over talent, truth and trust over results and the process over the product… he’s a true leader of character who exemplifies the values of duty, honor and country.”

Upon Krzyzewski’s opening remarks, he mentioned that he couldn’t be at the ceremony last year due to a knee injury.

“Since leaving West Point, I’ve had my hips replaced, my knee replaced… So I’ve done research, why is this happening? And it all traces back to the obstacle course,” he started, breaking the ice with the Corps.

Throughout his address, Krzyzewski discussed the importance of character.

Coach K told the cadets how he had been named coach of the National Basketball Team 12 years ago, however, his team didn’t win. Soon after the loss, Krzyzewski came to West Point to deliver the first award for Teaching Character Through Sport; then it clicked, his team needed character.

“As a result, it started with coming here and hearing the words, ‘character in sport,’” he said. “So it started with the military, you all and this award are responsible for what we did to create a championship level environment.”

After showing video clips of his athletes, Coach K explained how to build character in a team.

“We do things to build character and ownership on our team. What we try to do also is own words. Character is about owning words, fortitude, integrity, courage, honesty, trust. How do you get to own those words? Well, you talk about them, you share your ideas about them,” he added.

Krzyzewski went on to discuss how sharing ideas and team building are important tools for the future Army officers to use as well.

“A number of you who are First Class (cadets) are going to be out there real soon and you’re going to find that in your units a couple things you should remember,” he started. “That is that everybody’s important and everybody’s equal, although not everybody has equal rank. Everybody has a chance to share their idea and what you have to create is ownership.”

Due to character training throughout his team, Krzyzewski said that his national basketball program has become the most respected in the world.

“Not just because we won, but the manner in which we won,” he said.

During his concluding remarks, Coach K advised the cadets as both athletes and service members.

“My wish to all of you is that you carry the character that you learned through sport, through this great institution, the best one in the world, and take that to the units that you will so proudly serve.”