Thank you Coach K, a letter from a Maryland fan

Dear Coach Krzyzewski,  

My name is Eric Arnold, and I am a lifelong Maryland fan. I am in my late thirties, and I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to write about my Maryland Terrapins for some time now. Just yesterday, news broke that you were retiring from coaching. I have anxiously awaited this moment for decades.  However, when the news echoed through my ears like the final buzzer, the feeling was not what I expected.

I have cursed your name as well as many of your players every year that I can remember. There are only two teams I ever root for in college basketball. Maryland and whomever is playing against you. My own son is not allowed to utter the words of your university by name like it is a Harry Potter villain. As a boy, watching games with my own father, I was convinced that you were cheating to get your victories. The referees were relatives, the games were fixed, and the odds were always in your favor. I watched you whine, your players flop, and I watched your fans celebrate year after year. I hated the emotions that your teams forced me to feel, but now, as a man I am beyond thankful for those memories.

Without you, I would not be the same Maryland fan that I am today. I can recognize that UNC is your historic rival, but not when I started watching. Former player Jason Williams admitted in his book that Maryland was your true rival during his playing days which coincided when my passion for college basketball was at its peak. I remember watching Greivis Vasquez score twenty points on Senior night against your coach in waiting Jon Scheyer to claim a share of the ACC title…with of course…you. I also remember watching the “Miracle Minute” as Williams, Battier, and Boozer broke my heart in the longest ten second, profanity laden effort get your team to overtime.  

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” and you sir have made lots of enemies here in College Park. I am not sure the new students will ever understand just how intense the rivalry was, but I do. While I understood the move from the ACC to the Big 10, I cannot pretend like it did not hurt. I will also reluctantly admit, when you were rumored to leave college basketball to coach the Lakers, I was saddened at the thought of losing you.

Basketball to me is more than just a game, but more so resembles a story.  Every story has a good hero, but the best stories have a great villain. Coach, you have been the best villain. You cared about your kids, you cared about college basketball, and your success led to jealousy amongst all of us. Our stories were filled with drama, heroics, heartbreak, and joy. We as Maryland fans, often say, “Fear the Turtle.” Yet, we can only confidently verbalize that motto because after years of intense battles, we no longer fear anyone. In fact, I remember a member of the Wisconsin media telling me that a young Maryland team had no chance of competing for the Big 10 basketball championship their first year. My first reaction was “We faced Coach K every year, do you honestly think we fear you?”   

I cannot pretend in your final season I will wish for success. I will also likely roll my eyes when your farewell tour reaches its height in the media. However, I will also hope that we see you one more time for one more story before you go. Even if we don’t, I want to say thank you. Thank you for helping to make me into the Maryland fan I am today.  


Eric Arnold

A lifelong Maryland fan

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