(PHOTO, Army West Point Athletics): Bob Knight (first from left, top row) with his 1965-66 Army basketball. Bob Seigle, Hubert Davis’ father-in-law, is second from left in the front row wearing No. 31 playing his senior season. In that season, Mike Krzyzewski was on the freshmen team in the era prior to the NCAA granting freshmen varsity eligibility. Krzyzewski and Seigle were friends in their year together at West Point.
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By TOM SHANAHAN
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski likes to bring everything back to West Point in his charmed life. His training as a U.S. Army officer shaped his career beyond Army coach Bob Knight influencing his basketball development.
As Coach K prepares his No. 9-ranked Blue Devils (18-3, 8-2 ACC) to face unranked North Carolina (16-6, 8-3 ACC) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Dean E. Smith Center, he was naturally asked about his last trip to Chapel Hill. Krzyzewski announced last off season his 42nd season is his last one upon retirement.
Another question was about his relationship with first-year North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis. Coach K, 74, revealed a little-known fact that traced his connection and respect for Davis, 51, to West Point.
Davis’ father-in-law is Bob Seigle, Krzyzewski’s teammate at Army West Point, although Seigle was a senior when Coach K was a freshman in 1965-66.
“We have a great relationship,” Krzyzewski said. “Hubert is one of the really good people on this planet. He and his family are great. His father and law and I were teammates at West Point, Bobby Seigle.
“I’ve known the Seigle family for a long time. Hubert is not only a great player, he’s an outstanding coach. His guys should look up to him to what it means to be a man. He’s got it all. I feel honored to say he’s been a friend for a long time.”
Coach K mentioning Davis’ father-in-law wasn’t likely meant as much more than a piece of trivia. But it represented more, particularly these days with America’s struggles to accept enlightenment and racial progress in a modern world.
Krzyzewski has been outspoken defending the Black Lives Matter movement and has encouraged his players to take stances for progress. Although he likely was merely mentioning his friendship with Seigle and Davis as a happy coincidence, he shed some light on a seemingly innocent comment Davis made at his introductory press conference in April about his wife Leslie that was viewed in some corners with raised eyebrows.
“It’s significant that I’m African-American and I’m the head coach here,” Davis said. “It’s significant. I know that in terms of Division I head coaches all around the only 26 percent of the head coach for Division I men’s basketball are composed of minorities, specifically African-Americans.
“I know it’s significant. I’m the fourth African-American head coach in any sport in the history of the University of North Carolina. I’m very proud to be an African-American. But I’m also very proud that my wife is white, and I’m proud that my three beautiful, unbelievable kids are a combination of both of us.”
He was criticized for the suspicion he was trying to inform North Carolina’s fans he’s not “too Black.” It’s a curious conclusion. What does Davis have to prove to the fan base after starring for the program four seasons, playing 12 NBA seasons and serving as Roy Williams’ assistant the past nine seasons until he was promoted.
In the past quarter-century since Davis and his wife married, no doubt the subject matter of Americans accepting interracial marriages came up in family gatherings. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
The Civil Rights movement that took place when Seigle and Coach K were in college was met by President Ronald Reagan’s elections in 1980 and 1984. Barack Obama’s elections in 2008 and 2012 as America’s first Black President, a time when Seigle and Krzyzewski grandchildren were born, were met by the backlash election of President Donald Trump.
Seigle enrolled at West Point in 1962, a year before King’s “I have a Dream Speech” in Washington, D.C. Krzyzewski enrolled in 1965, the same fall Gary Steele was Army’s first Black letterman in football. Seigle finished his career in the spring of 1966, mere months before the Boston Celtics named Bill Russell the first Black head coach in any major sport with the start of the 1966-67 season.
Davis’ “white wife” comments quickly blew over, an indication the story was over blown. But his comments about Black heads coaches remains relevant in current sports news.
The NFL has been embroiled in controversy the past week for its failure to hire Black head coaches. Brian Flores, the former Miami Dolphins head coach, filed a class action lawsuit he was discriminated against when the Dolphins fired him despite a winning record, and he accused the Denver Broncos and New York Giants of conducting sham interviews. The problem is nothing new. The lawsuit bringing attention to the problem is what’s new.
Maybe recognizing progress was all Davis meant to say last April.
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