Speaking in front of an audience of military officers, defense contractors and Army supporters at an Association of the U.S. Army conference on Oct. 15, Krzyzewski said that the practice of saying troops won't be deployed overseas, thus revealing U.S. strategy, "upsets" him.
Krzyzewski's criticism appears to be directed at the idea of publicly revealing military strategy, not necessarily a decision not to deploy troops in a specific situation. Krzyzewski said "it's up to the coach" whether or not to use "our best players."
The Duke basketball coach attended and played for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1969. He coached Army for five years before taking over at Duke in 1980. Krzyzewski was at the conference to receive the 2014 George Catlett Marshall Medal, the highest award given by the AUSA.
According to The Daily Beast, Krzyzewski was making his comments in reference to President Obama's handling of radical Islamic militant group ISIS, criticizing the fact that Obama has said troops won't be deployed. On Tuesday night, Krzyzewski said that he never specifically mentioned Obama or ISIS in his speech, according to Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer. (In the available clip, neither entity is mentioned.)
“I know it’s upsetting to many of you when you hear ‘no boots on the ground.’ It upsets me, too, because that’s like saying I’m not going to play two of my best players,” he said in his speech accepting the 2014 George Catlett Marshall Award, AUSA’s highest honor. “Because that’s what you are trained to do. And for decades and decades, the fact that we are a free country and we don’t play home games here is a result of having boots on the ground. That’s the problem.”
Krzyzewski went on to expand on the coaching metaphor, comparing pronouncements about not deploying troops to the Duke coach informing an opposing team that he wouldn't use a star player such as Grant Hill, or Krzyzewski as Team USA's coach informing an Olympic opponent that he wouldn't play LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.
The U.S. and its allies have been conducting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria to "degrade" and "destroy" ISIS, a radical militant group that grew out of the Syrian Civil War and has taken over swaths of land in the region.
Krzyzewski finished his remarks by complimenting and thanking the U.S. Army.
- Ben Estes