J. Frank Parnell: Mercer and Coach K for the Win


Mercer and Coach K for the Win copy

By J. Frank Parnell

Winning never gets old but it sure can change people.

No one’s more familiar with victory than Duke University Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke, a 3 seed, appeared to have a cakewalk with 14 seed Mercer Friday but this is March Madness and it didn’t turn out that way.

You’d think Coach K would be dejected after the 78-71 loss, and maybe he was. He could have done the minimum, met the press, then high-tailed it home after the season-ending and, to some, embarrassing defeat. But he wound up in Mercer’s locker room.

This game was a big deal to both schools. Just take a look at Mercer’s home page — not the basketball page — the school’s home page: “MERCER WINS!”

OK, Duke didn’t mention it on its home page, which is understandable.

Beating Duke in basketball is a huge win for any school, and Coach K made it that way. His teams won all four of Duke’s national championships, finished second four times and reached the Final Four 11 times. After 33 years at Duke, he’s a legend.

So why did he visit the winners after the game? He just dropped by to let them know he liked the way they played the game — and with a weary smile on his face.

Here’s what Coach K had to say: “You guys have a hell of a basketball team. I mean, I love the game and you guys play the game really, really well and your coach coaches it well. If we had to be beaten, I’m glad that we got beaten by a hell of a basketball team. So good luck to you.”

For a Mercer player, could the day get any better?

Mercer’s Daniel Coursey, who scored 17 points in the win, said, “That’s huge. Coach K is one of the most famous basketball coaches ever. For him to just come in here and tell us that we’re a great basketball team, that’s pretty unbelievable.”

Yeah, it is. But Coach K is pretty unbelievable, and — after all these years — he knows competition is about more than winning.

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