Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski appeared on "Piers Morgan Tonight" on Friday and discussed topics ranging from USA basketball and the upcoming London Olympics to former Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
While Krzyzewski's revelation that USA Basketball expects to win gold will hardly make a ripple, his statements about the dismissal of Paterno may strike a nerve. Not long after becoming the winningest coach in Division I college football history, Paterno was dismissed by the Penn State Board of Trustees. The ouster came in the aftermath of the arrest of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges of sexually abusing young boys. Paterno was widely criticized for not doing more to prevent the alleged abuse despite reportedly hearing an eyewitness account from another assistant coach, Mike McQueary, several years earlier. Sandusky maintains his innocence but is currently facing 52 charges of sexual abusing 10 boys. Paterno passed away in January 2012.
"You had somebody who's given six decades of service to the university and done such an incredible job," Krzyzewski said of Paterno while speaking with Morgan. "Somehow, you have to let - something has to play out and respect the fact that you've gone through all these experiences for six decades," he insists. "It doesn't just go out the window right at the end. I thought it was a real mistake by Penn State's leadership."
On Nov. 15, 2011, Coach K notched the 903rd win of his career -- which began at Army in 1975 -- to become the winningest hoops coach in Division 1 history. The achievement moved him into an elite fraternity of coaches who could claim to be the "winningest" in -- as well as, on -- their respective fields. Among others, Krzyzewski joined Connie Mack, Don Nelson and Paterno, who had been fired days earlier.
In the immediate aftermath of Sandusky's initial arrest and the controversial end of Paterno's coaching career, Coach K was asked about Paterno's role in the scandal by Viv Bernstein of The New York Times.
"I think one thing you have to understand is that coach Paterno's 84 years old," Krzyzewski told the Times. "I'm not saying that for an excuse or whatever. The cultures that he's been involved in both football - wise and socially, have been immense changes and how social issues are handled in those generations are quite different. But as we judge, remember that there’s just a lot there. There’s a lot,lot there. I think he’s a great man and it’s a horrific situation."
Krzyzewski is not the only prominent college basketball figure to recently speak out against the firing of Paterno. On Saturday, former NCAA and NBA coach and current ESPN announcer tweeted his view of the Paterno's ouster.