Mike Francesa’s great man theory of honesty

As I’m sure most of you are aware, Coach K made a comment to Oregon player Dillon Brooks following Duke’s 82-68 loss in last Thursday’s Sweet 16 game. Brooks had shot a late three, after the game was already out of reach and, during a post-game interview, acknowledged that Coach K had told him, “You’re too good a player for that.” Notably, Brooks said he told Coach K that he was right. Now, as it turns out, Brooks was following instructions from his own coach, Dana Altman. Regardless, the story took on a life of its own not because of what Brooks did but because when Coach K was asked about it after the game, he categorically denied having said what Brooks attributed to him. In the post game press conference, Coach K brushed off the suggestion that he lectured another team’s player, insisting that he only told Brooks that he’s a great player.

A day later, audio surfaced that confirmed Brooks account and that Coach K lied when he denied the comments. Once caught red-handed, the Duke legend apologized for his conduct, admitting that he “reacted incorrectly” when he denied saying what he said. As far as admissions go, that would seem to fall short, but I guess it’s the best we’re going to get out of him.

This isn’t the worst transgression in the world. One can imagine that the all-time wins leader in division I men’s college basketball felt flustered and defensive in the moments after his team’s elimination from the tournament. And so he blurted out a flustered and defensive answer. It’s not his finest moment, but neither is it a war crime (and yes, I know some people are going to be mad at me for letting him off too easy).

One interesting reaction to the whole mess, though, came from WFAN’s Mike Francesa. Francesa criticized Brooks for taking the final shot, but saved his real ire for those who would question whether Coach K was telling the truth after Thursday’s game. Francesa really blew his top when a caller told Mike that USA Today had “proof” that K was lying. The story headline, which appeared during Francesa’s Friday broadcast, read: Lip reader agrees with Oregon player’s account.”

Let’s let Francesa pick up the action as he reacts to and then delves into the article, courtesy of WFAN:

“Now we’re using lip readers,” Francesa said. “That’s what this has come to. You’re telling me we’re using lip readers now.”

Francesa then tracked down the article, in which David Driscoll of Silent Eye Lip Reading Translator said Krzyzewski told Brooks: “Shooting for points and glory — that was a beautiful play.” The article suggested Driscoll’s video analysis supported Brooks’ account of the conversation.

“What does that mean? ‘Shooting for points and glory — that was a beautiful play’?” Francesa asked. “That’s not what (Brooks) said (Krzyzewski) said. … That is what the lip reader came away with?

“How is that that you’re showing off at the end of the game? Where are we now, on Mars?”

If anything, the lip reader’s interpretation seemed to back up Krzyzewski’s side of the story, Francesa said.

“The headline — ‘Lip reader agrees with Oregon player’s account’ — no, it doesn’t!” Francesa said. “Did you read your own story?”

You need to listen to the linked audio to fully appreciate how angry Francesa was (he really blows his top around the 6:30 mark).

In fairness to Francesa, there is a clear mismatch between the story headline and its content.  The tape that subsequently revealed the true content of the on-court exchange exactly matched Brooks account, but not that of the lip reader quoted by USA Today. So, as Francesa’s long-time former partner Mad Dog Russo might say, that’s a bad job by USA Today. But what’s not in the audio clip above is Mike’s anger that people would assume Coach K was lying. After all, Francesa repeated, Coach K is an all-time great and, by implication, worthy of deference and the benefit of the doubt. Though he can be plenty critical of powerful men in sports, Francesa also has a strong tendency to conflate success with character and rectitude, as if powerful and successful men like Coach K should be presumed above lying when it suits them.

As it happens, the smoking gun in the affair surfaced shortly after Francesa went off the air Friday. I don’t know whether he addressed it today.

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2 comments

  1. Not going to lie, I’m a bit disappointed at you letting him off that easily. For someone who makes millions on the work of others to just get away with such dishonesty is a better indication of the injustice of the system than almost anything else. Coach K is just as much of a hypocrite as any of the others.

    1. Jon,

      Fair enough. I was trying to think about his reaction in the moment. But the way he portrays himself, and is portrayed by others, means that he should be held to a standard consistent with his own lofty sense of himself. He lied, flat out. And it seems quite clear this wasn’t the first time.

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