Men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski will be Duke's 2016 commencement speaker May 15, President Richard Brodhead told The Chronicle Thursday afternoon.
“Duke has been my home for more than 35 years,” Krzyzewski said in a release. “During that time, one of my greatest joys has been sharing time with our students, who are amazing representatives of this university. They are the lifeblood that accentuates the excellence for which Duke University is known throughout the world. It was humbling to be asked to address the students, and I consider it a tremendous honor to able to spend time with them at such an important event in their lives.”
Krzyzewski became the first men's basketball Division I head coach to win 1,000 games last January en route to leading the Blue Devils to their fifth national title. Brodhead noted that Krzyzewski's tenure at Duke—he is entering his 36th season patrolling the sidelines—was one of the main reasons the decision was made.
"He is a teacher," Brodhead said. "He takes people with talent and he inspires them and challenges them and drives them to learn how to live up to a far higher level of their ability. For me, that's really an emblem of Duke itself."
Brodhead noted that the University has had a variety of speakers in recent years—global health expert Paul Farmer last May, Melinda Gates in 2013 and journalist Fareed Zakaria in 2012, to name a few—but explained that Krzyzewski's sports background will add another unique perspective to the 2016 commencement ceremony.
"I've been thinking about it for awhile. Through the years, we've had very different people, and there's not one model," Brodhead said. "All I want is someone who cares that they're at Duke rather than some generic university. I once heard a very fine commencement speech but I later learned it was given at 12 other universities—I'm not having that."
Some members of the Class of 2015 were unhappy with Farmer's speech in May, but many members of Duke's next graduating class are enthusiastic about the decision to have Krzyzewski speak.
"Coach K gave a Blue Devil Days speech [before I matriculated] and I'm pretty excited to hear what he's going to say about us going off into the future," senior Cody Parrott said. "It was pretty much his speech that convinced me to go here over other places I got into."
"He's a pretty inspirational individual—he can get Team USA all the way to win in the Olympics and has won multiple national championships," senior Aashna Saini said. "He inspires a lot of his players to be more than just players on the court and off the court, so I think he could be a great inspiration for us going into the real world."
Other seniors were more reserved. Senior Eric Lakey noted that the speech could be an indication that Krzyzewski's career at Duke is coming to a close.
“I am very excited that Coach K is giving the commencement speech,” Lakey said. “I am a little bit worried about the timing, though. Because he recently announced that he would be stepping down from the U.S. Olympic team, and I wonder if this might be an indication of his upcoming retirement from Duke."
"Part of me is really excited about it, but I feel like I have the opportunity to hear him speak a lot and it would be kind of nice to see someone new," senior Brendon Colbert said. "But I'm not saying he was a bad pick at all, and I'm going to love to hear him speak."
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Samantha Neal and Grace Wang contributed reporting. This story was updated at 6:05 p.m. Thursday to include students' reactions and at 4:10 p.m. Thursday to include Krzyzewski's quote.