Coach K's Advice to the U.S. Olympic Team

Krzyzewski recalls advice in commencement speech
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Coach Mike Krzyzewski gave an online commencement speech as part of an iHeart Radio podcast project. Luminaries from various fields, including Hillary Clinton, Eli Manning and John Legend gave advice to the Class of 2020 in the “Commencement: Speeches for the Class of 2020” podcast event.

Coach K gave advice from his mother and from his college experience at West Point.

“They put you through the ringer and changed your limits. In order to get better, you have to change limits. You’re going to fail. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to get knocked down. I did a number of times. Even though I was golden boy in in high school, I was not that golden boy at West Point. It taught me to get up. Failure was not your destination. It was a little stopover on your way to success. Don’t get up alone. Allow somebody to pick you up. Be on a team.”

To emphasize that, he reflected on his speech to Team USA when he took over as head coach of the U.S. Olympic team.

“When you’re on a team and forming a team, you don’t play for that team,” he said. “I can remember the first meeting we had before trying to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. In the audience are LeBron (James), Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, some of the greatest players in the world. We always had a picture of gold medal up in the meeting room. I told them, ‘I want you to understand one thing: You are not on the U.S. Olympic team.’ They looked at me, puzzled. I said, ‘Look at that gold medal. We will not win the gold medal if you play for the United States Olympic team. We will win if you are the U.S. team. If you own it, you will win. If you own it.’ Get into an organization where you’re allowed to own it. You’re allowed for it to be yours. If it’s yours, you’re going to make it the best it can possibly be.”