t's a complicated thing, the sports fan's relationship with a coach. You don't simply wake up on the morning of your ninth birthday primed for some solemn-faced geezer to give you life advice via starkly lit flood-insurance commercial. You don't, the first time you see your basketball idol peel off for some earthshaking dunk, think to yourself, You know what that was about? That was about the guy in the suit and how his 10 keys to leadership apply in a business situation. You need seasoning first. You have to rack up some miles. A kid just wants to fly like LeBron. But one day you get luggage with wheels, and the coach zone claims you too.1
I've been thinking a lot about coaches lately, I'm not sure why — probably partly because of the recent explosion in the subprime Harbaugh GIF market and partly because the college basketball season is ramping up again, and with it the annual outbreak of Rick Pitino–passion–sweat reaction shots. No game makes more of its coaches than NCAA basketball, which, on TV, is a cross between a very, very slow version of the NBA and a very, very dumb version of chess. Fifteen thousand cuts to Mike Krzyzewski slouched in his chair, his face electrically dead, his lower lip bulging with thought, conspire to create the impression that the coaches are the real stars here, their brains the real athletes. If only we could see them — and not their flawed, comm-major avatars — operate!