For an hour Wednesday, the Venture 2003 conference was transformed into “A Night at the Improv,” as Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski entertained a standing-room only crowd with his own stand-up comedy routine.
Krzyzewski lampooned everything from University of North Carolina basketball and his Polish heritage to Charles Barkley’s behind and his own nose while providing messages about leadership and teamwork.
“You join a team to be part of something that is bigger than yourself,” he said, telling investors and entrepreneurs that joining forces simply for financial reasons will never be a successful a match as a pairing to achieve something more.
Krzyzewski said transforming five individuals into a basketball team is like getting your fingers to form a fist, and five things are necessary for that to happen:
- Common responsibility
Drawing on his 2001 national championship team at Duke and his experience coaching the “Dream Team” of professional players assembled to compete in 1992 Olympics, he shared several examples of players checking their own egos and personal desires for the good of the team.
The same principles apply in business, where people are usually more interested in covering themselves and pursuing their own agendas, he said.
Here is a sampling of Krzyzewski’s one-liners during the talk:
“Never in Chapel Hill did I ever imagine to be called a treasure, at least not without some other words in front of it.” – referring to Council for Entrepreneurial Development Chairman Steve Nelson’s introduction, in which he called Krzyzewski “a state and national treasure.”
“When Dean (Smith) and Jimmy (Valvano) and I used to meet, we had to get a bigger table because of our noses. We had three of the biggest schnozzes in the history of basketball.”
“I looked at David Robinson and said, ‘God he’s tall. How did he ever get into the Naval Academy? As a former West Pointer, I always knew they cheated.'”
” … I looked at Charles Barkley’s rear end, strictly for coaching purposes, and said, ‘God that’s big. No wonder he’s the best low-post player with an ass-et like that.'”
“I looked at Michael Jordan and said, ‘God’ and I was right.”
“Every time I get on a plane to (my hometown of) Chicago, I have to practice saying, ‘youze guys.’ My buddies would beat me up if I asked, “How are y’all?'”