Duke Haters looking for an analogy for how the Blue Devils seem to march toward the Big Dance with high expectations and a loaded lineup year after year need look no further than the hair of the man who leads them.
Mike Krzyzewski turned 66 on February 13. He’s in his third decade at Duke. He has rebuilt the Team USA basketball program since 2005. All that hoops is bound to be stressful. Yet Coach K’s hair is as full and as dark as it was when the Blue Devils introduced him as their new head coach in March 1980 at the age of 33.
As evidence of how improbable Coach K’s hair is, just look at President Barack Obama. During the stress of being President of the United States over the past four years, the 51-year old has grayed dramatically. At this rate, there might not be any colored hairs on his hair left when he leaves office in 2017.
A simple Google search for “Mike Krzyzewski hair” produces the following suggestions (mostly from anti-Duke fans) as to why Krzyzewski’s hair and hair color are as permanent as Duke’s place at or near the top of the college basketball world:
- He either dyes his hair or wears a tupay
- It contains traces of a newly-discovered element, Krzyzewskium
- It’s a “fake roadkill hair piece” that witnesses claim has moved “once or twice as if it had eyes”
- He uses “spray on hair” to cover a bald spot as well as “Just For Men” to make it jet black
It’s all folly, say those who are closest to Coach K.
“Whoever says it’s a piece or a wig, that’s not true,” said former Duke star Trajan Langdon over the phone from his home in Arlington, VA, where he works as the Eastern Regional Pro Personnel Scout for the San Antonio Spurs. “I’ve been around the man so much where I know it’s not.”
Krzyzewski’s wife, Mickie, has said in the past she actually wishes her husband didn’t have jet-black hair anymore.
“I’ve read things that he dyes his hair which isn’t true,” Coach K’s wife told WRAL Sports in 2010. “I wish he’d go gray so I could go gray.”
Even those who despise Krzyzewski are willing to concede that the hair is real. Take Andy Bagwell, a 1992 graduate of North Carolina and the author of a book released last February simply called “Duke Sucks.”
“That was one of the most stunning things that came out of writing the book for me,” Bagwell told the Raleigh News & Observer. “I was convinced that a man that’s over 60 years old could not have jet-black hair. But the person that we talked to, who had written a book on hair coloring, looked at hundreds of photos of him. And his verdict was, you know, I don’t think he does.”
Which isn’t to say that Krzyzewski is completely immune to the effects of age.
“The only way that you can tell that he’s older than 50 is his gait,” said two-time NCAA champion Christian Laettner, who runs an eponymous basketball academy in Jacksonville, FL, and is also organizing a promotional ski trip to Telluride, CO, in March. “But he still looks great and healthy. He’s got a lot of energy and passion left in the game, and that helps you feel young.”
Langdon and Laettner both said that in the right setting, Krzyzewski would probably be open to joking and being joked about his much scrutinized ‘do. Laettner also mentioned that ESPN analyst and former Blue Devil Jay Bilas has made passing references to it in recent years while serving as emcee to the campers at the K Academy basketball fantasy camp in Durham.
But during the college basketball season, Krzyzewski is all business. Any jokes about his hair — from fans, the media, whomever — aren’t paid any heed, ignored along with all the other criticisms he and his program face year after year.
Perhaps the best explanation for Coach K’s ‘do isn’t a hair-raising one. Perhaps it’s something as simple as what Langdon suggests: “I’ll just say he has good genes.”
Photo Credit: Mark Dolejs/USA Today Sports