An Afternoon with Joe Paterno and Mike Krzyzewski

June 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

Steve Manuel captured this candid image between segments of ESPN's taping on Monday.

If you’re a veteran Joe Paterno watcher and/or a Penn State fan, when you tune into the ESPN special Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski, you’re going to recognize a lot of Paterno’s material.

Reading the Aeneid in high school. A couple of Rip Engle references. A salute to his wife, Sue Pohland ’62, whom he jokingly called “bossy,” before praising her involvement with Special Olympics and their church (with a shoutout to the student Catholic center, under construction, that will bear her name).

And the explanation for why he turned down a lucrative offer to coach the NFL’s New England Patriots: “I stayed where I thought I’d be happy. … But I didn’t take the vow of poverty.”

Paterno grinned, slyly, and the 900 or so people who attended the taping Monday afternoon in Eisenhower Auditorium laughed and cheered. Brad Young ’96 wrote in our 2009 coverage of an Evening with Joe event in New York that Paterno has “probably worked as many cocktail hours as he has sidelines,” and that Paterno was much in evidence, joking, laughing, telling stories, and generally appearing to be having a fine old time.

As was Duke’s legendary basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski. The two coaches—who have combined for 1,301 victories and six national championships—had never met before, but by the time they arrived on stage, they appeared as comfortable with each other as a pair of touring vaudeville comedians.

That was apparent from the first topic from host Rece Davis: characteristics of a great teacher. Paterno waxed eloquent about the need for convictions and empathy, and explained that various players needed to be treated differently: “some need a kick in the butt, some need stroking, some need a kiss …”

Krzyzewski broke in: “I watch Coach all the time, and I’ve never seen kissing.”

The coaches bantered back and forth a bit, although it was hard to hear everything over the laughter. Which was loud.

In the next segment, a discussion about the importance of family, Krzyzewski said that his three daughters were like sisters to his players, and with a perfectly timed pause, added, “They better be only sisters.” Amid laughter, he said that wasn’t a problem because he had told his daughters to go out only with “good-looking guys I trust,” which left out his players.

And left Paterno to respond: “I wonder what his wife’s father told her.”

There were serious moments, too, especially as the coaches talked about how they develop leaders and what they love so much about college campuses. But I think most people left the taping having enjoyed the camaraderie between the coaches.

Other hilarious moments:

Paterno, after Krzyzewski talked about dancing when the Blue Devils won national titles: “I like to dance. I can do the lindy hop.” (He made a few vaguely dance-like movements in his chair. You need to see it to appreciate it, so be sure to tune in to ESPN on Thursday, June 30. The first hour of the program will air on ESPN, and the final 30 minutes on ESPNU.)

Krzyzewski, when Paterno paused before answering a student question about what it was like to be an icon at Penn State: “Actually, I think your statue should be bigger.”

Paterno: “Tell me, What is an icon? If you mean it’s some good-looking, handsome … I like it!”

As did the live audience. And I bet the TV audience will, as well.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

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