Coach Bob Knight and Coach Mike Krzyzewski are arguably two of the best coaches to have ever coached college basketball in terms of notoriety and success. Anyone can reference a stat book and realize how successful these two coaches have been, according to the numbers, but comparing their leadership styles and approach to the game is a whole other story. While the two coaches have completely different leadership styles, Coach K and Coach Knight have more in common than just developing future NBA All-Stars, winning NCAA championships, and becoming a legend in the sport of college basketball. It so happens that Coach K and Coach Knight began what would become a lifetime friendship at the United States Military Academy at WestPoint where, then freshman cadet, Mike Krzyzewski was a player on Coach Knights basketball squad. Coach K would later become Coach Knight’s graduate assistant coach at Indiana University, the school where Coach Knight made his mark on college basketball. Despite having different leadership styles Coach K and Coach Knight have some similarities in leadership as it pertains to coaching. The leadership skills found on the Kratz model are not huge factors in the success of the coaches.
However, Coach Knight possesses two of the skills proposed on Kratz’s model; those are technical skills and conceptual skills. As a matter of fact, one could say that he excelled at those two specific leadership skill sets. Coach Knight is known for having the inherent ability of knowing what will work and what the best course of action is to win the game. Referencing the Kratz model once again, Coach Knight undeniably lacks human skills. This is evident just by the fact that he has been reprimanded and even fired for physically and emotionally abusing his players, including his own son who played under him at Indiana University. (Snook, 2005) Coach Knight is definitely known for his on the court antics of being a rough-and-tough guy buy being ejected from games for cursing referees and throwing and kicking objects. According to Isiah Thomas, a former player at Indiana University and former NBA All-Star, “Coach Knight used fear and intimidation along with a high level of profanity while coaching”.
As opposed to Coach Knight, according to the Kratz model, Coach K possesses more human and conceptual skills. This became quite apparent when Coach K referenced himself not as a manager or dictator of his players but rather a leader. Coach K says, “A leader is adjustable, flexible, and dynamic.” While the human skills and conceptual skills are a priority for Coach K, other skills are lacking or lower in priority for him. On Kratz’s model the skills that Coach K is deficient are technical skills. By no means does this insinuate that Coach K did not excel on the court as a player nor does it mean he lacks knowledge of the game, it simply means he gave this area of leadership less focus. The capacity model by Michael Mumford has five components; individual attributes, competencies, leadership outcomes, career experiences, and environmental influences. (Northouse, 2013) Coach Knight’s success can be attributed to individual attributes, for his unique motivational techniques, and competencies, for his excellent problem solving abilities. In contrast, Coach K’s success can be attributed to environmental influences.
Coach K has always made establishing quality relationships a huge priority in life and treats his players and staff like family. (Snook, 2005) Coach K also possesses sound social judgment skills and the area of leadership outcomes on the Mumford model can also be attached to the reasons behind his success. Looking at the leadership styles of the two coaches on the Blake-Mouton leadership grid will reveal how their leadership styles differ even further. Coach Knight is more of the authority-compliance management style of leader who demands discipline, perfection, and most importantly playing his game to win. Coach K is more on the team leadership side of the grid which represents almost equal importance of winning and being people focused. The only similarity between Coach K and Coach Knight regarding the Blake-Mouton leadership grid is neither of them would be justifiably labeled as a middle of the road manager, as neither of the coaches accepts mediocrity.