By Matt Norlander
In a year when the college coaching profession has taken arguably its greatest hit, Sports Illustrated has unprecedentedly picked two for its Sportsman/Sportswoman of the Year.
And since they're both involved in the sport we deal with here, the subject is naturally getting its own post. The winningest coaches in each of their sports, Pat Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski, earn the distinction that's kept a pretty high mark of class and esteem over the years.
The decision makes sense and is timely, considering K just became the all-time wins leader in men's college basketball. Summitt continues to press on with her recording, currently tallied at 1,075. You can easily make the argument K never catches Summitt, who is now and likely forever the face of women's college basketball.
(As an aside, I would've had no issue with Summitt getting the sole nod, as she's done enough in her career to warrant getting the standalone treatment. But the synergistic choice makes a lot of sense, too. )
Summitt has been in the news this year, sadly, because she was diagnosed with early onset dementia. She has pressed on and continued to coach. And it speaks to who Summitt is, what she's accomplished and the nearly universal respect she's earned that this choice doesn't feel like a pity pick -- Summitt could've received this honor a decade ago and it still would've been appropriate and deserved.
As for Krzyzewski, it does feel like a longtime coming. He's become the most recognizable coach in college basketball since Bobby Knight left the game -- and that distinction was true a good decade before Knight checked out. There are plenty of people that will roll their eyes at K getting this (Duke hate: a special kind of hate), but his win total, four national titles (which, by the way, is just half of what Summitt has achieved) and perpetual domination at Duke leads to a logical choice.
Not to mention, the sport was due for another Sportsman/Sportswoman. This is only the third college hoops-related SI Sportsman of the Year. The two previous: Dean Smith in '97 and John Wooden (with Billie Jean King) in '72. Per SI, the only other coaches to earn the distinction: Joe Paterno (1986); manager Terry Francona (2004, along with the Red Sox); Herb Brooks (1980, along with the U.S. Men's hockey team) and Tony DiCicco (1999, along with U.S. Women's soccer coach).
If you'd like to check the history of past Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year, you can do so here.