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Mike Krzyzewski to his future wife on their first date — ”You're the third option”

Honesty is great, but some things are better left unsaid.
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his wife Mickie

Mike Krzyzewski and his wife Mickie

Coach Mike Krzyzewski is regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time. Perhaps what made him great is his unflinching honesty towards his players. Whether he’s talking to someone like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, he’s not afraid to tell them the truth. 

This attitude extends to Krzyzewski’s personal life. So much so that on the first date with his future wife, Coach K told her the cold and honest truth — “You’re the third option.”

The third time's the charm

In an interview with Graham Bensinger, Krzyzewski clarified what really went down on that infamous first date with wife Mickie Marsh. Bensinger heard of the story that Coach K was blunt in his declaration that Mickie was her third option during that time.

It’s a longer story than that. I mean, I didn’t come out and say, “by the way Mickie you’re...” Coach K started his explanation.

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“I was a cadet. We have our honor code. You don’t lie, cheat, or steal. There is what they call social honor where you know, if you’re at someone’s home and it’s not a good meal. You don’t say, “Ma’am that was a horrible meal.” You say “Thank you very much for the good meal.” But as we were on the date I felt guilty for some reason. I just said it. Wasn’t like in bravado or anything like ”you’re the third option.” [I said] “I just want you to know this is how this happened.

Mike Krzyzewski, In Depth with Graham Bensinger

Honorable, but a very risky move when you're on a first date. We all know recruiting is a major part of being a good NCAA coach, and hopefully, Coach K's game developed.

“But the third option was the best option. In other words, it didn’t mean she was third best. It took me until the third to get to the best. I think got out of that all right.”

On-court honesty

Coach K’s blunt attitude has found its way to the hardcourt on more than one occasion. He related that he told LeBron James to look into his eyes when they converse. At first, it was uncomfortable. James and other members of Team USA were not accustomed to consciously making eye contact with someone they were talking to. But not long after, Coach K said that it became standard behavior within the team.

Everyone became honest with one another. Yes, the team was stacked with franchise players left and right. But for everything to work, all players had to leave their egos behind when they entered the gym.

It is difficult to argue with Coach K’s methods when he has several Olympic gold medals and NCAA Championship rings on his shelf. The only thing to do is to follow his lead. 

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