There’s no denying that Coach Mike Krzyzewski is one of the preeminent coaches in men’s college basketball. Under his reign at Duke, the Blue Devils have been quite dominating and down-right frightening, winning an impressive five NCAA Championships, as well as appearing in twelve Final Fours in the past thirty-seven years. Despite the success, Krzyzewski had to adapt both his coaching style and more importantly his recruiting efforts to match Kentucky’s John Calipari–one of his fiercest rivals–who ushered in the one and done phenomenon, which is being showcased in the upcoming 30 for 30 documentary One and Not Done on April 13th. For years, Coach K didn’t do much to hide his anger, demonizing Calipari’s system and tormenting anyone who refused to believe that Cal’s process, was doing anything but ruining college basketball. But after seeing highly talented kids choose Kentucky over Duke again and again, Coach K, who for years shunned the method, finally embraced Cal’s strategy, finding an eerily similar but uniquely bizarre and infernal recruiting practice that’s rarely been talked about–until now.
Krzyzewski is a polarizing figure to say the least. Fans adore him, while his opponents, and maybe even his players, fear and despise him. Yet, as we see in the documentary about him, it’s that very hate and vitriol which feeds him towards his relentless pursuit of perfection. Little is known about how hard he recruits, that’s because he’s extremely guarded about what transpires during these in-home meetings. Apart from a few individuals within his inner circle, no one really knows the one big secret he shares with every family that ultimately gets them to commit to Duke and not Kentucky. The new 30 for 30 documentary on Netflix, provides a very intimate look at the man, myth, and legend of the prestigious coach, taking audiences behind the curtain, revealing never-before-seen footage, exposing that he’s not only a master recruiter, but also that he’s actually a shape-shifting demon known simply as The Babadook.
As strange as this may sound, many simply scoff at the notion that Coach K is a Jungian-type shadow monster–the man is considered by many as “The Father of Duke Basketball” winning five championships after all. But there’s some evidence in the movie that proves otherwise. In fact, as we learn from the film, Coach K relishes in this moniker and asks families to affectionately call him “Papa Duke”. Because of his odd manner of speaking, this is often misheard, as “Baba Dook”, hence the name. Also unusual, during each official trip, he patiently stands in the doorway of the home and won’t enter until being explicitly asked inside. This is key, he MUST be invited in. Once inside, though, he never really leaves. After dispatching with the normal pleasantries and impersonal chit chat, Coach K abruptly asks the family if they’ve prepared his bowl of worms. While many families find this unusual, it’s actually tame compared to the demands of other suitors, so most oblige. Interestingly enough, on the other hand, Calipari is brutally honest with his recruits telling them emphatically: “You’re going to work harder than you ever have in your life. If you don’t want that, don’t come to Kentucky!” Nevertheless, once satisfied with the offering, Coach K presents the coveted Duke recruiting packet, which includes a customary campus map and some history on the program and school, various pamphlets on student services and financial aid, and finally a small booklet with a weird figure on the cover. It’s this booklet which always intrigues families the most. Many if not all, fixate on it. Sensing this, Coach K leans back in his chair and encourages the family to open the tiny book and recite the poem aloud.
“If it’s in a word or it’s in a look
You can’t get rid of Papa Duke
If you’re a really clever one,
And you know what it is to see,
Then you can make friends,
With this special coach,
A friend of you and me.
His name is Papa Duke
And this is his book.
A whistling, rumbling sound then,
Three sharp knocks,
pa-PA-pa DUKE! DUKE! DUKE!
That’s when you’ll know that he’s around,
You’ll see him if you look.
This is what he wears on top,
He’s funny, don’t you think?
See him in your dorm room at night,
And you won’t sleep a wink.
I’ll soon take off my funny disguise,
Take heed of what you’ve read…
And once you see what’s underneath,
You’re going to wish you were dead.”
It’s at that moment when Coach K reveals his true form to everyone in the room! As they scream AAAAHHHHHH DEAR GOD!! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU?!? PLEASE DON’T KILL US!! and recoil in terror, he seizes on the opportunity to use their fear against them and in their panic they sign their soul–I mean, commitment letter to Duke–and before the ink dries he turns back into his normal smug looking self. He immediately stands up, shakes hands, bids his adieu and leaves without another word. Could this ritual explain the reason why he’s recruited sadistic players who exhibit sociopathic behavior and the fact that former players rarely talk about him after leaving the program? The Babadook is a terrifying look at a complex and driven man, hell-bent on winning. Before the credits fade, Coach K says, “I think you’re not a human being unless you have doubts and fears.” Fear, that may sum it up, but that still doesn’t explain why parents and players continue to leave bowls of worms in their basements.