Ben Cohen

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Hello, Coach K

How do you say “Coach K” in Chinese?

President Richard Brodhead might know.

Brodhead is a Yale-trained academic with a scholarly interest in American literature and a life rooted in higher education. He traveled to Asia for two weeks in June 2006 in his first overseas trip as Duke’s president and while in Shanghai, he answered an hour and a half’s worth of questions about Duke in an online chatroom for about 10 million Chinese students. They asked him about education and worldwide reputation, but they also wanted to know more about the leader of the University’s most visible team.

Kobe Bryant, too, might know.

Bryant, who bypassed college life by jumping from high school to the pros, is perhaps the world’s best basketball player. The reigning NBA MVP flew to Asia in September to promote Nike and Team USA in preparation for this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing and traversed five cities-Beijing, Hong Kong, Manila, Taipei and Shanghai-in his five-day “Supernatural Tour.” When he returned, he talked to the national team’s coach. “It’s unbelievable,” he told Mike Krzyzewski. “Coach, they ask questions about you. They ask questions about Duke.”

Krzyzewski certainly knows. He made his first trip to China in 2007, and some approached him using his nickname, even if they wanted to ask more questions about Bryant and LeBron James. Krzyzewski, who will begin his 29th year at Duke after he attempts to guide Team USA to its first gold medal since 2000, was struck with the Chinese adoration of basketball, their knowledge of Duke and, consequently, Duke Basketball.

“I’m conscious of being a representative of Duke every second of my life, because I’m branded with Duke,” Krzyzewski said. “Whether I go out to eat, whether I go to the grocery store, getting gas… but I also know that if I’m on the road or somebody might not be able to pronounce my name, they’ll say, ‘Duke!'” I say, ‘No, it’s Mike Krzyzewski.'”

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