When it came time for Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski to hand down a judgment on President Obama’s strategy to combat the Islamic State, Coach K stuck with what he knows best.
Via Josh Rogin at the Daily Beast, here’s the winningest coach in the history of big time men’s college basketball comparing national security to hoops last month at the Association of the U.S. Army conference:
“I know it’s upsetting to many of you when you hear ‘no boots on the ground.’ It upsets me too, because that’s like saying I’m not going to play two of my best players,” he said in his speech accepting the 2014 George Catlett Marshall Award, AUSA’s highest honor. “Because that’s what you are trained to do. And for decades and decades, the fact that we are a free country and we don’t play home games here is a result of having boots on the ground. That’s the problem.”
That line drew some applause, so Krzyewski continued the metaphor:
“It’s about letting your opponent know we are going to use our best players. And whether we use them or not, that’s up to the coach. You never tell your opponent you are not going to use [them], like I’m not going to play Grant Hill, J.J. Redick, -Christian] Laettner,” he said, rattling off the names of some of his biggest stars at Duke.
The former Olympic coach then turned the metaphor to international play, comparing Obama’s words to saying, “‘Hey Spain, I’m not going to start Lebron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] tonight.’ I don’t think you do that. Now how much I play them? Let the guy try to figure out how much I’m going to play them.”
Krzyewski has needled Obama before. After the President (correctly) picked Duke’s arch-rival North Carolina to win the national championship in 2009, Krzyweski joked that Obama should be more focused on the economy.
Krzyweski quickly followed up the quip with praise for Obama, saying he thought the then-first term President was “going to be great.” When Duke won the title the following year, Obama made light of his recent history with the coach.
“I know that all of you remember last year, when I filled out my bracket I picked North Carolina to win it all. It wasn’t anything personal,” Obama said. “Just trying to win some money. I was right. Coach K wasn’t too happy. He basically told me to stick it. Or stick to my day job, is what he said.”
Those lighthearted moments notwithstanding, Krzyweski’s comments last month reflect his ideological leanings. He is politically conservative, yet another contrast with his former coaching adversary Dean Smith, the North Carolina legend and Obama supporter.
In 2002, Krzyweski was criticized a bit for hosting a fundraiser for former Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole on Duke’s campus.