Culture

You Have to Know How to Wage War to Win the Final Four

The Duke basketball team sailed into the Sweet Sixteen. That may be ho-hum to Blue Devils fans. The hoopsters have been there 28 times before. Twenty-two — think about that for a moment. Twenty-two times the team has been to the regional semifinals under Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The first Division One basketball coach to win over 1,000 games, Coach K is no stranger to coming out on top.

His passion for winning b-ball goes back to his days playing as a West Point cadet. Later, he ran the program at the military academy. Coach Krzyzewski called the academy his  “leadership laboratory.”

Would Krzyzewski have ever become one of the game’s greatest if it weren’t for the foundation of discipline and excellence ingrained in him at West Point?

Great coaches and great generals have a good deal in common. They have to put together a team and a campaign plan. As my fellow West Point classmate General Rick Lynch wrote, they have to “adapt or die.”

In sports, as in war, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

West Point has produced many of America’s finest field generals—including most commanders on both sides in the Civil War.

Eisenhower and MacArthur were academy graduates, as were many senior Army offices overseeing battles from Normandy to Kabul.

But, not every great American combat leader passed through West Point. George C. Marshall, the “architect of victory” during World War II, graduated from the Virginia Military Institute.

Regardless of where they went to school, however, the best ones lived the ideals of West Point — the dedication to “duty, honor, country,” but also the passion never to finish further behind than first.

It is no different at the elite levels of sport. John Wooden may have gone to Purdue and John Thompson attended Providence, but they would have made smart cadets — and probably pretty decent field marshals.