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Coach K: firing of Joe Paterno ‘horrible… a real mistake’

Joe Paterno, Mike Krzyzewski AP

The trial of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has once again laid bare the ugly underbelly of a scandal that rocked the State College campus last November and led to the dismissal of the late legendary head coach Joe Paterno.

Paterno was fired by the university, in part, because the board of trustees felt the coach didn’t do enough or go far enough when presented with information that his former assistant may have sexually abused a young boy in a shower of the program’s football building.  That dismissal was controversial and unfathomable in some parts at the time it happened last November, and remains that way to some people, including one of the most decorated head coaches in the history of college basketball.

In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan that aired Friday night, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski blasted the university not only for the firing itself, but for how the situation was handled leading up to the dismissal.

“It was horrible, and I’ve respected Coach Paterno my entire life and had a chance to get to know him really well in the last year of his life,” says Krzyzewski. “I thought it was really not well done in handling the situation that – it’s a difficult situation to encounter.”

“You had somebody who’s given six decades of service to the university and done such an incredible job. Somehow, you have to let – something has to play out and respect the fact that you’ve gone through all these experiences for six decades,” he insists. “It doesn’t just go out the window right at the end. I thought it was a real mistake by Penn State’s leadership.”

(Writer’s note: the “firing” and “handling” were merely sad; the “horrible” part was the — alleged — on-campus sexual assaults of young boys and no adult being willing to step in and protect them from a — alleged — pedophile, but that’s beside the point.)

The fact that Krzyzewski is so steadfast in his defense of Paterno is far from surprising.  The two legendary coaches became close in the last year of Paterno’s life, taping a show together last summer titled “Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski.”

In that show, the two discussed, ironically enough and among other things, ethics and integrity.  When Krzyzewski was asked by Morgan how he would’ve handled the situation if he would’ve been in Paterno’s shoes, the hoops coach seemed to suggest that stepping down gracefully may have been the best tack to take. Paterno, you might remember, offered to resign after the season before he was fired.

“[I]f that solution meant that I would step down, I would do it in a way which would be part of the solution, not like you’re just throwing [me] out,” Krzyzewski said. “You [need] to understand that in leadership, you may be asked to step down, and that’s part of being a leader.”

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35 Responses to “Coach K: firing of Joe Paterno ‘horrible… a real mistake’”
  1. dcroz says: Jun 16, 2012 8:28 AM

    Agreed that the “horrible” part was both the sexual assaults and the massive coverup that ensued.

    With that said, Coach K has a point, though I’d say it had far more to do with administrators pulling a hideous cover-your-ass moment and hoping that all the stench and scrutiny would fall on Paterno and away from themselves. Once this story broke, all they were concerned with was keeping themselves ensconced in their ivory towers, if not out from behind ivory-painted bars. I have thought for a long time now that this “Second Mile” charity is really a cover for some serious political corruption and that no one turned in Sandusky for fear that he would start singing to the Feds. We may still find out whether my suspicions are correct.

  2. 10kmp says: Jun 16, 2012 8:41 AM

    So tired of hearing about saint Paterno, and how he was shafted by the PSU administration. When you’re paid tens of millions of dollars to lead a program that hasn’t been TRUELY relevant since the year it entered the B1G you should consider yourself LUCKY, not shafted. Paterno stayed at least a decade longer than he should have, won (I believe) only 3 B1g titles in two decades, and was the poster boy for guys who simply cannot let go. Add to that Paterno’s indefensible position in the Sandusky “situation” and Krzyzewski should just keep his mouth shut…

  3. blueintown says: Jun 16, 2012 9:06 AM

    Success or lack thereof is absolutely irrelevant to the discussion. The leader of an institution was complicit in the coverup of child rape. Period. If Krzyzewski believes that is a defensible position, then it is just further proof that the inmates are running the asylum.

  4. jimbo75025 says: Jun 16, 2012 9:32 AM

    blueintown says:
    Jun 16, 2012 9:06 AM
    Success or lack thereof is absolutely irrelevant to the discussion. The leader of an institution was complicit in the coverup of child rape. Period. If Krzyzewski believes that is a defensible position, then it is just further proof that the inmates are running the asylum.

    Paterno was not the leader of PSU-that title would fall on the president of the university. Despite the fact I agree Paterno could have done more, many above him did nothing when he did report what he had been told by McQuery. These people were placed on leave, etc while it seems the decision was made to try to pin this all on Paterno.

    I also agree with dcroz that there is more to the story to come out. If (when) Sandusky is convicted, I would expect more of the story to emerge as he no longer will have incentive to sing as for a man approaching 70, any sentence will amount to life so he will be looking to name names to try to lighten his sentence/gain additional privileges.

  5. blueintown says: Jun 16, 2012 9:47 AM

    Jimbo – When I said ‘institution’ I meant ‘program’. But if you don’t truly believe an icon like Paterno wielded excessive power at that University far exceeding the traditional duties of a college football coach, then congratulations are your Penn State degree, and I hope you are putting it to good use.

  6. thepancreas says: Jun 16, 2012 9:56 AM

    Let me get this straight.

    Firing Paterno was a horrible mistake.

    Paterno not doing everything in his power to squash Sandusky, and keep him from bringing kids to campus—-well, that’s not a problem for K.

    These guys are enablers. They really are. Fook K.

  7. drarb says: Jun 16, 2012 11:38 AM

    Just so we understand – Paterno was not the power at PSU as other coaches are at other universities – comes to mind Tressel at OSU, Saban at Alabama. For those of you who don’t know Sandusky was an emeritus – this is a Board of Trustees decision not Paterno’s. THe Board set parameters of what emeritus status folks can do – not a football coach.
    Paterno notified the appropriate authorities – should he have done more – he couldn’t especially when the President of the University decides to cover it up. Keep in mind the University itself covered it up not Paterno.
    Should he have stepped down – an interesting thought – but since he did nothing wrong – why.
    Did the University use firing Paterno as a way to cover up its mis0deeds – you betcha.
    Should Spanier, Curley, and Schultz join Sandusky in jail – yeah.
    But for Paterno haters – don;t let facts get in the way, and now I guess we will add Coach K to being hated. I hope that for each of you who hates you never have a decision to make or a call that you make that is ignored, because then you are culpable and should rot in jail.

  8. dirtyharry1971 says: Jun 16, 2012 12:01 PM

    i dont follow basketball but whoever coach K is he obviously doesnt know about the sitution to speak on it. Jopa should have not only been fired but had he lived he should have had his own trial because the law in PA is if you know some kid is being abused and you dont report it to police thats a crime and thats what joe did. And not only did he do that but after he gets fired instead of thinking about the poor kids who got abused he leads a pep rally from his front lawn with the news camera’s filming!! I mean are you for real? I also hope the kids are able to sue his estate because he should be held liable, this is not a good university and they at the very least should have their football program taken away

  9. uga1966 says: Jun 16, 2012 12:03 PM

    Unfortunately, many universities are “policed” internally, and a high priority is to protect the image of the university. If one looked closely, she/he just might be appalled at who, at the top, is leading the charge.

  10. thepancreas says: Jun 16, 2012 12:27 PM

    Here’s some facts.

    Paterno spent 6 decades at Penn State. His power was unlimited. In fact, when the president and AD showed up at his door step suggesting Paterno step down 10 years ago, Paterno told them to beat feet.

    Imagine that. A coach dictating to his superiors what the employment rules are.

    Then the Sandusky case blows up, and suddenly, Joe’s just a regular ole’ employee—whose superiors failed to do the right thing.

    Paterno has guilt. With his power, he could have made life miserable for Sandusky. Instead, he opted to protect his football program.

  11. edpeters101 says: Jun 16, 2012 12:33 PM

    I agree with coach K. And we are now (finally) getting information on how much the PSU administration knew and when. They were the leaders in charge, JoePa was in-charge of football and Sandusky was no longer a part of that operation when Paterno became aware of (and passed that info onto those who were in-charge) what may have happened.

  12. sabatimus says: Jun 16, 2012 12:35 PM

    I still think the board of directors made the right call to protect their investment. That said, it cannot be overstated how horrible this all is. Joe admitted he could have done more and didn’t. I really don’t think the board had any real choice other than this, as sad as it was.

  13. RoseTintedVisor says: Jun 16, 2012 12:37 PM

    Joe Pa had implicit knowledge of Children being raped on his campus, yet the ‘great humanitarian’ did nothing. The guilt killed him. I don’t care what else you did in love, you stood idly by while a coverup of THE RAPE OF CHILDREN was happening. That matters more than all of your accolades.

    To those who insist Joe Paterno couldn’t do anything… HE WAS JOE PATERNO. All he had to do was blow the whistle to any media member and the shitstorm would have been like a hurricane.

    But then questions would have been asked about his precious legacy.

    He’s a coward who died a shameful cowards death.

  14. sabatimus says: Jun 16, 2012 12:59 PM


    I want badly to disagree with this, but given what we know about the whole situation, I can’t.

  15. thepancreas says: Jun 16, 2012 12:59 PM

    Paterno was given a chance to live up to the image he created.

    On one hand, he could the difficult thing and stand up against his friend of 40 years who was raping children, and squash him like a bug.

    On the other hand, he could stick his head in the sand and pretend it wasn’t happening, and protect some silly ideal about his football program, willing to lay the blame at Curley and Spanier’s feet if this became public.

    Paterno took the cowardly path.

    Those of you suggesting Paterno is innocent here, let me ask you this. Sandusky wasn’t raping these kids in the libraries and classrooms at Penn State—-he was taking the kid to bowl games, to the lockers, to the press box inside the stadium. Sandusky was parading these acts in front of Paterno, knowing Paterno wouldn’t do a single thing to him. Paterno built, held steward, and made every decision involving the football program for 40 years. Had he wanted Sandusky banned from the football facilities, all he had to do was click his fingers and it was done.

  16. orthomarine says: Jun 16, 2012 1:51 PM

    Coach K is absolutely right….

    The way PSU handled Paterno was wrong!

    His ass should have been handcuffed and sitting in a 4×4 cell… Death was way too easy

    Shame on the administration… Good call Coach K

  17. kozbee says: Jun 16, 2012 2:12 PM

    You know some people just don`t get it.Poor Joe this and Poor Joe that,what about the kids.Joe was good enough buddys with Jerry it seems to let higher up take care of it.Well Joe was a great coach,a great friend with good Ole Jerry but seems he didn`t give a hoot about the kids Jerry was rape`n.IMO Joe is in the Cellar when it comes to rate`n coaches.Patterno knew this was happening and cared imo more about his gameplan and football itself then the children in the Shower and living in Jerry`s house.Joe & Jerry your both scumbags living or not.

  18. barbeaux says: Jun 16, 2012 2:16 PM

    The whole administration at Penn State should have been terminated…not just Paterno. They all knew and all put it on his doorstep. The abuse wasn’t Paterno’s fault. It was Sandusky’s.

  19. joewilliesshnoz says: Jun 16, 2012 2:52 PM

    Well said, Rosey !!!

  20. bdotgdot says: Jun 16, 2012 3:21 PM

    I don’t agree with Coach k whatsoever, and I wonder if he’d feel the same way had this been a coach that was not also a close friend of his. I also wonder if he’d feel the same way if on of the kids Sandusky molested was a member of his family. I agree that Joe Pa took the easy way out, and even had my best friend tell me (of Paterno) “Watch this fool suddenly drop dead before Sandusky pays for these crimes..”

  21. jimbo75025 says: Jun 16, 2012 3:39 PM

    blueintown says:
    Jun 16, 2012 9:47 AM
    Jimbo – When I said ‘institution’ I meant ‘program’. But if you don’t truly believe an icon like Paterno wielded excessive power at that University far exceeding the traditional duties of a college football coach, then congratulations are your Penn State degree, and I hope you are putting it to good use.
    Actually bro I assure you my degrees (notice the s) are from no school associated with PSU even in conference. I simply stated that while I agree Paterno could have done more, his complicity in this is probably much less than gee I don’t know the people he reported it to who did nothing and if recent revelations are true knew all about the issue even before Paterno reported it.

    Few in the PSU command structure are innocent in all of this-no doubt about that. On the other hand if using common sense, the % of blame I would put on Paterno is quite far below that I would put on the people who he reported it to who did nothing in terms of elevation. To my knowledge, Paterno is the only person outright fired as a result of this and that is indeed a travesty as many more should have been terminated with cause rather than be placed on leave, etc.

  22. sasquash20 says: Jun 16, 2012 6:20 PM


    The school president and AD asked him to step down a decade ago, he said no thanks. It didn’t mean they couldn’t fire him. They were afraid of the backlash. Maybe they should have fired him but they didn’t.

    2nd Paterno told Curley (the AD and his boss), and Gary Schultz (VP of finances and administration another boss) about what McQueary told him. Which is in line with what all schools in PA are supposed to do. Report the incident to school administrators. For all we know Paterno could have been told multiple times over many years that the whole situation is being investigated. He could have been lead to believe that. Not saying that is the case, but we still don’t know all the facts and to assume you do is just foolish.

    3rd Spanier who was the president of the school and boss of all of the guys mentioned above. He was also involved in a rape accusation cover up at Nebraska. The woman who was making the accusations has since started a charity program for rape victims. There are also other rumored cover ups with this guy.

    I hate PSU, but I’m not ready to crucify Joe Paterno until all the facts are out. The man for most of his life has done good and I refuse to lay into him until all facts are available.

  23. raysfan1 says: Jun 16, 2012 6:47 PM

    Just to put some often overlooked points out there:
    …Paterno spoke to, or arranged for McQeary to speak to, not just his superiors but also the university VP of Finance, who just happens to be the head of the campus police, which had jurisdiction in this case.
    …Paterno and Sandusky knew each other for over 30 years but were not friends.
    …One of the most vocal members of the Board of Trustees when they fired Paterno was PA Governor Corbett. Gov Corbett, in turn, was the state attorney general when the Sandusky investigation was started by his office. Yet, after becoming governor, he signed a $3M grant for Sandusky’s charity.

    Yes, Paterno could have done more–he could have gone to city or state police as well. However, that is also partly from hindsight and partly presupposing that he believed or knew campus police did not do their duty. This is also where what Paterno knew or believed is the key to his culpability. If McQueary gave him explicit detail, and Paterno believed it, then he had the moral requirement to move heaven and earth if need be to ensure a full investigation was done. If he did not really believe McQueary, then it’s more reasonable he would act as he did.

    Yes, the AD and university president tried to get Paterno to resign on his own after the 2004 season, and he declined. What they could have done, but did not, was fire him. What that means was that Paterno had more backbone than they did, not more power.

    I agree that the Sandusky affair mandates a thorough house cleaning, but feel that the Trustees’ decision was self-serving and hypocritical, i.e. that they should go too. Were I a PA resident, I would take this case into account at the next gubernatorial election if Corbett is running.

  24. jimbo75025 says: Jun 16, 2012 6:57 PM

    raysfan1 says:
    Jun 16, 2012 6:47 PM
    If McQueary gave him explicit detail, and Paterno believed it, then he had the moral requirement to move heaven and earth if need be to ensure a full investigation was done.

    I believe the testimony was that McQueary was somewhat vague in his description to Paterno out of respect……..

  25. brenenostler says: Jun 16, 2012 7:09 PM

    It’s easy to look back or be on the outside and say what should have been done. But if you’re in Joe Paterno’s shoes, and you’ve just been presented with something so bizarre and shocking, you can’t say you know exactly how you’d react in the moment.

    Maybe he thought the situation was too extreme to even be true. After all, he never witnessed anything and he never heard of any more attacks after that.

  26. seanb20124 says: Jun 16, 2012 7:11 PM

    Wonder what K’s comments were when the Duke LAX coach was sacked?

  27. mrapp6 says: Jun 16, 2012 7:25 PM

    Disgusting. I’ve always liked and respected Coach K but his comments are hard to believe. People seem to have a hard time wrapping their brain around JoePa not bring all he appeared to be. I believe the reason Sandusky left after ’99 is Joe made him re: Joe believed he was a pedophile. Seems that was the best unkept secret in State College. Why do you quit at 55 years old? Joe you didn’t stand up when you should have. 15 year old children weren’t bigger than PSU football.

  28. drarb says: Jun 16, 2012 7:55 PM

    A quick reminder – the Centre County DA investigated Sandusky previous to this legal proceeding and found that there was not enough evidence to proceed. The police investigated and did not find enough evidence. Spainer – President of the University decided to sit on the allegations. Given that what was Paterno supposed to do – go to the police who already had said deviously there was not enough to move forward.
    He did follow the law as it stand/stood in Pennsylvania – this is the state by the way that had judges selling kids to jail so they could get kickbacks. It took a federal investigate to root that out.
    Lets not forget that Paterno was a coach not a god

  29. emperorzero says: Jun 16, 2012 8:10 PM

    Joe Paterno showed how out of touch he was with the situation when he wanted to finish out the season before stepping down. I don’t think Joe is an evil person or should fry, but as a coach, Paterno has a responsibility to the safety and well being of children and students – even if they don’t go to Penn State. It’s a sad way for the end of his legacy to be written, but Paterno wasn’t the victim – the kids were.

  30. iplaybad says: Jun 16, 2012 9:41 PM

    Sandusky did the worst thing a human can do to another human at Penn State at the football team’s facilities.

    Joe Paterno had received word about this matter from at least one source on his staff.

    Joe Paterno passed the buck, failing to abide by the standards of integrity that he created for his program.

    All judgments like these are made after the facts are discovered. He got at least what he deserved in being fired.

  31. pettytom says: Jun 17, 2012 2:34 AM

    Not condoning what happened at all but to play devils advocate. If you, at your job, saw/heard about a fellow employee behaving in a matter that is not only inappropiate but damaging not only to you but your comapany what would you do? You would bring it up to your manager/boss. Once you had told them one should think that they should handle the situation and report it to the proper people/authorites. Evidently JoePa did this and then PSU tried to cover it up and do nothing about the situation that he reported to them. Then once the story breaks news not only do the two people that this was reported to just resign and get none of the brunt of this and it all gets on pushed on JoePa. If anyone should be facing criminal charges with the perve that is Sandusky it is those two. Should Joe get some of the blame? Of course. But to think this man just stood there and did nothing is absurd. Should he have done more? Yes, but when you report something to your manager at your job don’t you assume that the situation will be handled? Yes, unless your manager/boss is at total slacker. Once again I’m not condoning anything about this tradgedy whatsoever but I think that the other people that had a greater part in covering this up should be on trial instead of crucifying this man.

  32. blueintown says: Jun 17, 2012 11:12 AM

    Jimbo – Everyone should be terminated for this. It’s not a matter of allocating blame on a percentage basis. If you are informed that someone under your sphere of influence – whether it be a contracted employee or just a pal – is raping children in your place of employment, you see it through. Or at least take his keys away. This isn’t stealing a stapler or using the company credit card to purchase frivolous things, it’s CHILD RAPE. It doesn’t take multiple degrees to solve this puzzle.

  33. t16rich says: Jun 17, 2012 5:03 PM

    Pedd U supporters are idiots. Let this school turn a new page away from the sickos that they used to worship. This is comparable to the Philadelphia priests. I am sure they did alot of good for people too…..whenever they wernt violating children. Get lost coach K.

  34. coolhorn says: Jun 18, 2012 10:13 AM

    The thing is this…there’s no user’s guide out there on how to handle a situation such as what happened at Penn State.

    There’s plenty of blame to go around, and no winners in the Penn State sex abuse case. What strikes me is how many people tend to gloss over who the ultimate losers were…Sandusky’s victims. Everybody failed them…the Penn State administration, Penn State and local law enforcement, and the Penn State athletic department and coaching staff, including Joe Paterno. I haven’t heard one person say Paterno didn’t do a lot of good for the school and his community during his long career there…but when it mattered most, when he found out something terrible, sexual abuse, was happening to children because of a trusted member of his coaching staff, Paterno apparently chose to do the very bare minimum and send a report up the chain with virtually no followup. I don’t doubt the whole situation confused him somewhat, but a person doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the first, most pressing need is to protect the children. Paterno didn’t meet that need. He’s not the only one, and perhaps he could have been offered a chance to resign, but losing his job was not excessive punishment, given the horrible nature of the allegations involving child sexual abuse, and Paterno’s lack of any effective actions to stop it.

    You don’t have to be a Penn State fan to recognize all that Joe Pa did for the school, and for college football…but when it counted the most, Paterno seems to have done the least to protect children from Sandusky.

  35. pftcensorssuck says: Jun 23, 2012 8:37 AM

    Sandusky was in a position to abuse those kids because no one did enough to stop him.

    For supporters of Joe Paterno to simply say that he did all he could by passing the buck to his superiors, I say “be serious!”

    You really think the AD was Joe Paterno’s “boss”? You really think the president of the school was Joe Paterno’s boss? You really think the Chief of Campus Police ran a true Police Dept.?

    These people saw the power Joe Paterno had after being the very FACE of Penn State for DECADES. Not one of them was going to stand up to him, and all of you know that, even if you won’t admit it.

    Jerry Sandusky was a complete monster. That’s not Joe Paterno’s fault. Not doing everything humanly possible to keep Sandusky away from those kids IS.

    It’s the fault of Joe Paterno and every single one of the officials above AND below Joe Paterno, many of whom followed the wishes of Paterno regardless of their better judgment – either out of respect, or fear.

    Joe Paterno had to account for that, every bit as much as they do. Instead, he played “pass the buck”.

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