Drop a pebble in the water; just a splash and it’s gone; But there’s half a hundred ripples circling on and on and on, Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea. And there’s no way of telling where the end is going to be. -- James W. Foley Tom Butters won’t even pretend he knew the ripple effect he would create when, 34 years ago, he hired a little-known Army coach coming off of a 9-17 season to be Duke's next basketball coach. Aside from admitting to a "gut feeling" that the young, relatively inexperienced man sitting in front of him was the right man for the job, Butters won’t take any credit for the decision, either. Yet as we examine the what-ifs of college basketball this week, Butters’ brazen option -- naming Mike Krzyzewski head coach at Duke in 1980 -- surely goes down as perhaps the smallest pebble that made the biggest splash in the sport. Butters’ trust in his gut has spawned a career that includes 983 victories, four national championships, four gold medals and international recognition not only for a university but also for a guy whose surname has as many Z's as vowels. But the question isn’t so much the obvious one: What if Butters hadn’t hired Krzyzewski? Or even all the ramifications included: Would Duke have any national titles? Would we have The Shot, or even know who Christian Laettner is? What of the Cameron Crazies? Would anyone slap a floor on defense? With no Krzyzewskiville, would there be any other InsertCoach’sNameHere towns, boroughs, hamlets or other campout sites? No, the real question is: What if Butters had hired Krzyzewski three years ago instead of in 1980? And what if Krzyzewski had gone 38-47 in those first three years, as he did in his coaching infancy at Duke? Would Butters have kept him aboard or would Krzyzewski, like so many present-day coaches with comparable records, have been fired? “Even in those difficult times in the first three seasons, I not only knew I had the right man, but I knew I had to keep him," said Butters, who retired in 1998 after 20 years as Duke’s athletic director. It looks and sounds simple now, what with the hindsight paved by Krzyzewski’s exemplary résumé. But it wasn’t then. Though they lacked the public-venting forum of social media, the critics nonetheless squawked plenty at Butters.
What if ... Duke had fired Mike Krzyzewski?
ESPN | Aug 12