Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is not known for his lighter side. He is known for being, well, Coach K: laser eyes, furrowed brow, temples that look like they're going to burst, hair that hasn't moved in decades, that stare. The man whose basketball career was born under Bob Knight at West Point only rarely breaks into comedy, and even then the humor comes drenched in subtle, caustic restraint. After so many years coaching and so many wins, Coach K has been in the public eye so long -- and has been so reliably unchanged -- that we feel like we know everything there is to know about the guy.
After all these years, you certainly don't expect to hear Coach K fawn over a celebrity pop singer. And you definitely don't expect him to describe said fawning in the manner of a 10-year-old One Direction fan.
“I really love Jay-Z, I do, I love Jay-Z,” Krzyzewski said. “But I'm madly in love with Beyonce."
What ... wait?
“I admit it. My three daughters, my wife of 44 years knows it; they're not worried. Just because I'm still competitive, I think there's a shot in hell, at least, that something might happen. If I stop thinking that way, then I stop coaching. You have to always think you can win.”
Those aren't real quotes, are they? Is this some sort of parody? Coach K? Hello?
Nope. Not a parody. Those are real quotes taken from Krzyzewski's speech to Duke graduate students who "tented" outside Cameron Indoor Stadium last weekend in the hopes of scoring tickets to Blue Devils basketball games this season. (Duke graduate students don't line up on a game-to-game basis the same way as undergrads; their legwork comes all at once during the preseason.)
And those aren't even the best bits! Coach K launched into an entire heartfelt story about the time he met Jay-Z and Beyonce and just how aflutter Queen Bey set his heart. Seriously!
"So anyway, I go up on stage and do 10 minutes and say really nice things about LeBron, Jay and of course Beyonce. The event's over, and this is where my street cred, like, was bouncing all over the world. I'm asked to come up on stage and take a picture with LeBron and Jay. So it's LeBron, Jay and K. It's on Twitter, Instagram, I don't know, was Vine going then? It's on all that crap. I mean in Hong Kong, Beijing, Moscow. [It's] going all over the place. I am the coolest 65-year-old [inaudible]. However, however, what I want has not happened yet. I want to meet Beyonce."
"I go up to Beyonce. You know how guys think they have a lot of good lines? And, so I go up and I'm nervous as I can be. I'm like a teenager. And I go to her with a great line. I say, 'Hi, I'm Coach K.' And she said, 'Coach, I know who you are. I just listened to you for 10 minutes.' Like, patting me on the head. Little boy."
"So now I feel like I'm 11. So what's my next line? I come up and I say, 'You're my favorite.' My face is red as can be, you know, I'm like 4 feet tall right now. And she says, 'Well, that's nice.' And I asked her -- and I don't usually do this -- but I said, 'Would you take a picture with me?' So she takes a picture with me and I look, really, like I'm 12. But my street cred, as big as the other one was, goes everywhere. So, tonight, it's not like being with Beyonce -- it's as good as being with Jay-Z."
The photo Coach K is referring to was taken nine months ago, at a gala honoring Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year LeBron James:
Which, all things considered, no one would have thought much of. I would have assumed Coach K was at the Sportsman banquet, and I would have assumed he would have had his photo taken with Jay-Z and Beyonce if only to improve, as he says, his "street cred." What makes this story so great is how human it makes Coach K seem. It's like finding old love letters your stern, inscrutable father wrote to his high school sweetheart 30 years ago. It is confusing and scary and potentially world changing. Coach K has feelings, too? Coach K has feelings, too!
Anyway, after Krzyzewski finished his adorable story of schoolyard love, he wrapped up his talk with a special message for the assembled graduate student ticket hopefuls:
"And, look, if we're playing the school you went to undergraduate school, don't come to the goddamn game."
Now that's more like it.