In July 2012, Mike Krzyzewski and the U.S. men’s basketball team held their first official practice in Washington, D.C. The 12 team members, including household names like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant, practiced in front of a special audience: 3,000 members of the U.S. military.
While the team prepared that week – to eventually win their second consecutive Olympic gold medal in London – Coach K taught the core military values of trust and responsibility. General Martin E. Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to Team USA that day to echo what Coach K was teaching the group.
Dempsey joined Coach K on this week’s episode of Basketball and Beyond to reminisce and talk about the unique bond between athletes, such as Team USA, and the military.
“In our society, the sports figure, the professional or elite college sports figure is so revered that they become role models whether they want to or not,” Dempsey said. “As an all-volunteer force, we sometimes have a challenge reaching deep into America in a way that frankly, sports teams don’t have a problem. It allows us to stay connected to America.”
General Dempsey and Coach K also talked about the impact the military has on professional athletes and teams they work with.
“I think we bring something to those teams,” Dempsey said, “and those who lead athletes, to help them understand particularly that they have to understand what it means to represent America in a way that we accomplish every day. It’s a very effective marraige of common interests in terms of leadership, selflessness and teamwork.”
As the highest-ranking military official in the country, Dempsey’s job responsibilities include acting as the chief military adviser to the President, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council. With those great responsibilities comes great challenges. Dempsey and Coach K discussed why the image of today’s veterans is among the challenges he faces now.
The image of the veteran has to some extent been dominated by those who have suffered both the visible and invisible wounds of war. Clearly, we need to take care of them but the truth is, the veteran that has served sometimes a couple, three or four tours in the combat zone, actually brings back some other qualities. They bring back courage; literally they have been tested and have been found to have courage. They’re adaptable as hell […] and they do tend to be committed […] and they’re resilient.
Coach K takes to the airwaves Thursdays at 6 pm ET throughout the college basketball season on SiriusXM College Sports Nation. Basketball and Beyond with Coach K, co-hosted by Dave Sims, is in its ninth season, and is available live on Ch. 91, on the SiriusXM app and on SiriusXM On Demand.
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