Coach K Story, by RU Nick
By Nick Palmisciano
Duke University’s Grad School Camp-out is possibly the most ridiculous sanctioned event I have ever encountered. For 36 hours, thousands of people drink themselves into oblivion and every so often a tiny bell rings. When the bell rings, those thousands of drunk people, ranging in age from 22-40, sprint as fast as they can through the woods, over hills, weaving past RVs, dodging beer pong tables, and hurdling grills, and rush to the check-in stations so that they can stay in the running for a season ticket to Duke Basketball. If you miss two checks, you are out.
To make the situation more absurd, the entire event is run by law students and PhDs – in other words, this thing would run smoother if we got Bobo the neighborhood chimp to make decisions by flinging his own feces at a wheel with random words on it, than to leave these “smart kids” in charge.
As luck would have it, my ETS date from active duty (I had been on terminal leave) coincided with my first Duke Campout. I was now a civilian. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but I decided that a party was in order. I went to my “war chest” and pulled out the dozen or so super hero costumes that I had bought for John’s bachelor party and proferred them to my new found civilian friends.
Friend 1: Why would we wear super hero costumes?
Me: Because they’re 100% pure American awesomeness.
Friend 2: This seems a little juvenile.
Me: You seem a little juvenile.
Friend 2: Way to prove my point.
Me: Way to prove my point.
Friend 2: What to do you mean?
Me: What do you mean?
Friend 2: You’re seriously repeating everything I am saying?
Me: You’re seriously repeating everything I am saying?
Sam: This is fucking awesome! I’m doing it.
Sam is a 5’ 5”, 190 pound Jewish guy who genetically should have no chance with any woman, but yet married a 6’1” Irish Catholic redhead from Harvard. To call him fearless would be a gross understatement. Sam called dibbs on Wolverine. I grabbed Superman.
Friend 1: Seriously, why would we do this?
Nick: Because when you are just a drunk guy running around saying inappropriate things, it is offensive. When you’re a drunken superhero running around saying inappropriate things, you’re witty and fun.
Friend 1: I like what you are saying and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
Now that the two loudest, most annoying, and soon to be drunkest guys had donned skintight costumes, the rest of the crew was shamed into joining in.
Over the next few hours, many things happened. Some people passed out. Others were attacked by the Superfriends. The Superfriends may or may not have allegedly pretended to have super powers and started physically picking up random women and throwing them to each other or hurling chairs while making the sound from the Six Million Dollar Man. One Superfriend possibly climbed up on top of an RV roof and may have fallen through the sunroof and landed on top of a sleeping, and very scared Greek student. Later the Superfriends almost took a human (well a law student’s) life when the law student made me…err…I mean the Superfriends get rid of the 1200 gallons of Jello and the 12’ kiddie pool we had delivered so that the Physical Therapy girls could Jello wrestle the Nursing girls for charity.
Right when I was about to apply the Ranger Choke Hold that I learned from watching Scent of a Woman, the magical bell rang and Pavlov ruled supreme as Sam and I and the thousands of drunks rushed towards the check-in stations.
Upon arrival, I realized I was parched and took a pull off my Camelbak. Mmmm…Red Bull…
We would soon find out this was no ordinary check-in. Coach Mike Krzyzewski had come to pay us a surprise visit and give a motivational speech.
Most people know Coach K is a very successful basketball coach. Fewer know that he was an artillery officer and a West Point graduate. Fewer still understand that at Duke, this man is a God. Not a “popular coach”, but a God. He could (and might) have me killed for this essay.
Anyway, Coach K immediately launched into a series of self-deprecating jokes, as is his nature, and he started giving us an update about the upcoming season. He was half-way through a discussion about JJ Redick getting a lot stronger in the off season, when he noticed Sam.
We were drunk enough at this point to have forgotten we were in costumes, and in the rush to get down there, the Superfriends were spread far and wide. Sam, however, was dead center in the middle of the crowd, mere feet from Coach K. He had spilled some red liquid over the front of his yellow tights and had lost his claws somehow. Deciding that a Wolverine with no claws was unacceptable, he duct-taped plastic serrated knives to his hands.
Coach K: What the hell? I’m sorry, everyone. You, stand up.
Unphased, Sam stands up. He lets out a giant growl and maintains the Wolverine “fight” position. I am proud.
Coach K: What are you doing?
Sam remains silent.
Coach K: Seriously, does your mom know you’re out here?
Everyone laughs. Sam growls and slashes at the air with his plastic knives.
Coach K: Dude. You’re out here in yellow tights by yourself. Do you have any friends at all?
These are the moments I am made for.
I stand up sharply, put my hands on my hips, and calling upon Odin, God of Thunder, to grant me the biggest command voice the world has ever seen, I shout, “Well, he’s got at least one friend!”
Coach K looks up. Superman is staring him down.
Batman emerges from the shadows, and with a quick turn to Coach K says, “There are worse things out here tonight than basketball coaches.”
Spiderman cartwheels out, pretending to web the Coach.
As the entire Super Friends cast and Austin Powers emerge onto the scene, thousands of people begin laughing their collective asses off. We own this place. Coach K has an enormous smile on his face.
Coach K: I like it. I don’t know why, but I like it. I’m not talking anymore – I’ll take some questions.
Me (Superman): Sir, I’ve got one, but it is personal in nature.
Coach K (thinking I am about to be mean-spirited): Be careful.
Me: How’s the Cow?
The question “How’s the Cow?” is a piece of West Point Plebe Knowledge. At any point during any meal, a plebe can be asked “How’s the Cow?” which means “How much milk is on the table?” There is only one acceptable answer.
Coach K did not hesitate.
Coach K: She walks. She talks. She’s full of chalk. The lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the…wait one freakin’ second. What year did you graduate West Point?
Me: 98, sir.
Coach K (smiling): Well I graduated 30 years before you, and I swore a long time ago I’d never ^%$%^ say that damn thing again, so sit the %^&# down and do pushups!
I complied, amused at my lot in life.
There I was, on my first day as a civilian, dropped by a man who had been out of uniform for 24 years, in front of a thousand or so people that were wondering what the hell me and my friends were thinking.
Civilian life wasn’t that different after all.