We have moved again. In the process of moving and purging, I found a copy of a letter I wrote to the men’s basketball coach of Duke University, Mike Krzyzewski, in 1992, during one of Duke’s National Championship years. I lived near Durham, NC, at the time and had been a student at Duke. I was young, recently married, not yet a parent, and full of dreams. On the afternoon before this evening’s Final Four National Championship game in Atlanta, I thought I’d share this historic letter…
April 8, 1992
I guess I’m feeling sentimental about all that has happened for you, your team, and the Duke fans over the last year and, particularly, the last few weeks. I have thought about writing to you before to say “thank you” for being the kind of coach and man you appear to be and for representing our school and college basketball with such class. “Class” is a word my dad has always used sparingly over the years to recognize a special and admirable way certain persons at particular times conduct themselves. (Lucky for me, he often uses it in reference to my mother.) It is the word that comes to mind for me on a regular basis when thinking or talking about you.
I grew up in Atlanta, went to college and my first graduate school in Atlanta at Emory University, long before that school had an intercollegiate basketball team. But I played on the winningest intramural women’s team there, and played before in high school and later in recreational leagues. Throughout those years, as I recall, playing basketball was the most rewarding and frustrating and exhilarating and emotional thing I did. It framed my existence. I can’t imagine growing up without thinking of my coaches and teammates and many of the speeches and words of both praise and criticism given during those years. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to play intercollegiate ball and wonder what I missed. But I know that even in my low profile games I learned a lot about teamwork, compassion, leadership, hard work and overcoming negative feelings that interfered with success, and even about love – brotherly (yeah, I played on a men’s team too) and sisterly love. Those are some of the more important lessons I’ve learned in my life. I’m not saying anything new, or anything you haven’t heard dozens of times before, I’m sure. But when I think about Duke’s team, I’m grateful that those young men have a coach like you at this time in their lives.
I came to Duke four years ago to go to law school and graduate school here and, partly, to be in a place where I’d heard they played good ball. At least with respect to the last reason, I made the right choice. I stayed at Duke this year after graduation last spring to be the interim Coordinator of Sexual Assault Support Services while my husband finishes his M.B.A. before we head off to Palo Alto, CA next fall to a law firm job that will hopefully help me pay off my loans to Duke. I am going to miss Duke basketball a lot; but I’ll watch the games we get out there; and I’ll keep playing one way or another. And someday when I have paid off those loans and started my own practice doing some kind of legal work related to violence against women and children, I’ll fulfill that dream of mine to start a camp for sexually abused kids. And I know I’ll coach basketball with those kids. When I do, I’ll remember you. I’ll remember your class and many of the things you’ve said publicly with dignity and emotion and honesty.
Thank you for giving me memories and contributing to my dream. You probably reach many more people than you’ll ever know.
Rebecca P. Falco
My claim to fame is that “Coach K” actually called me after receiving my letter to tell me how much he appreciated it. I’m still in shock about that.
I haven’t fulfilled the dreams I mentioned in my letter over 20 years ago. Time and circumstances changed my dreams. But I would like to think that I’ve used – and will use – what I learned from Coach K in how I conduct my life.
The letter reminded me that particular dreams don’t always come true. But we never lose the opportunity to appreciate the people around us who make a difference in our lives. All it takes is the willingness to stop and say “thank you.”