UK Men's Basketball

Coach K rates a Q — and the Olympics are part of the reason

United States head coach Mike Krzyzewski watches over a basketball practice session for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016.
United States head coach Mike Krzyzewski watches over a basketball practice session for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. AP

Already a historic basketball presence, Mike Krzyzewski only enhances his commanding profile as he again coaches the United States Olympic team. Maybe that’s why Kentucky Coach John Calipari reportedly complained two years ago about the Olympic Games giving Krzyzewski and Duke an unfair recruiting advantage.

When the complaint became known, Calipari did the public relations version of a crossover and tweeted that he believed Olympic duties actually hindered Duke’s recruiting. Then, in surely a gold-medal display of damage control, Calipari praised Krzyzewski for being willing to sacrifice his time for the good ole USA.

Maybe Calipari flirted with the truth when he complained about the Olympics adding to the advantage Krzyzewski already enjoys. Further evidence of how Krzyzewski dwarfs his coaching colleagues was provided last week by the Q Scores Company. Based in Manhasset, N.Y., it measures the popularity of public personalities in order to help clients decide who might be a good spokesperson.

Henry Schafer, executive vice president of the Q Scores Company, cited several reasons the Duke coach is in a class by himself in terms of marketability. Being Olympic coach is one reason. Krzyzewski rubs shoulders with NBA players, a well-publicized linkage other high-profile college coaches covet.

Krzyzewski also boosts his national profile by being the host of a Sirius XM radio show. And, of course, he’s had all that success at Duke: 12 Final Fours (tying John Wooden’s record) and five national championships (only Wooden has more, with 10).

“He’s like the high-water mark of college coaches in terms of marketing,” Schafer said in a telephone conversation last week.

To borrow from the current sports lexicon, all of Krzyzewski’s branding draws the attention of potential recruits. Hence, Calipari’s complaint.

But it also intrigues advertising agencies, public relations firms, talent scouts, television networks and social media entities (Amazon Prime, Hulu, Google, Facebook, etc.). And that’s where Schafer’s company comes in. The Q Scores Company assesses almost 2,000 personalities (including actors, chefs, designers and sports figures, but not royalty, religious leaders nor politicians).

“We get averages for over 15 types of sports personalities,” Schafer said. “From fishing to professional football, and everything in between.”

A Q Score has two components: familiarity (how well known is the person) and likeability (a positive Q Score reflects how many people consider the subject among their favorites; a negative Q Score reflects how many people rate the subject as only fair or poor).

For sports personalities, the Q Scores Company canvasses 2,000 fans ages 13 to 64, Schafer said.

In the most recent compilation, 54 percent of fans said they were familiar with Krzyzewski. He had a 29 Q Score, which means 29 percent of the fans familiar with the Duke coach consider him one of their favorite sports personalities.

That’s “way above average,” Schafer said. The averages for sports personalities are 43 percent familiarity and a 21 positive Q Score.

Krzyzewski scored even better with millennial males (ages 18 to 34), the group most highly prized by clients of The Q Scores Company. The Duke coach had a 67-percent familiarity and a 39 Q Score. “That’s huge,” said Schafer, who added that the average positive Q score for a sports personality in the millennial male age group was 27.

To put these numbers in perspective, Schafer said that the Q Scores Company had been measuring Louisville Coach Rick Pitino on a regular basis. Pitino had a 49-percent familiarity among sports fans. His positive Q Score was 17.

Pitino’s negative Q Score was 27. For comparison sake, golfer Tiger Woods had a negative Q Score of 28.

On average, sports personalities have a negative Q Score of 15. “So,” Schafer wrote in a follow-up email, “it’s obvious that Pitino and Tiger stir the emotions of sports fans for a variety of reasons.”

Kentucky fans might take comfort in knowing Krzyzewski’s negative Q Score of 18 is higher than the average of 14.

“Not significant,” Schafer said. “It needs to be five points or more above average to be significant.”

Krzyzewski’s positive and negative Q Scores reflect “a little bit of polarization,” Schafer said. “Not much. If I was talking to a client right now, I’d say not to be worried about that (negative) number. The positive is so strong.”

Schafer cautioned against the assumption that there’s something wrong with all the other well-known coaches (say, Bill Self, Roy Williams and Calipari) ignored by the Q Scores Company. It’s simply a case of clients not asking for a profile of these coaches. The last time Williams had his Q Score assessed was in 2003.

“Not because they are being perceived negatively or controversially in any way . . . ,” Schafer said. “A lot of those coaches have had great success. It’s just a matter of someone wanting them measured.”

As for Calipari — who has led UK to four Final Fours and a national championship and has 1.53 million Twitter followers — Schafer said he checked back to 1995. No client had asked for a Q score for the UMass-then New Jersey Nets-then Memphis-then Kentucky coach.

The Associated Press recently did a story about the Q Scores Company’s assessment of college football coaches. Perhaps surprisingly, Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh had a higher positive Q Score (25) among millennial males than Alabama Coach Nick Saban (21).

Among all sports fans surveyed, Harbaugh had a 56-percent familiarity and a 17 Q Score.

“Similar familiarity” to Krzyzewski, Schafer said. “But not the same emotion connection as Coach K has.”

Mother of invention

Kids, once upon a time basketball was played without a shot clock or three-point line. Farcical final scores like 8-6 moved administrators toward rule changes to speed up the game and mandate more action.

Toward that end, the then-Big Eight Conference experimented with a shot clock in the 1970s. In a recent email, former Kansas coach Ted Owens explained why. The conference coaches had more than the overall good of the game in mind. Self-interest played a part.

“The league was suffering from a perception that the conference had been influenced by Henry Iba and his conservative style of play,” he wrote. “That was not true, but that was being used against conference schools in recruiting (by) other leagues.

“The coaches were looking for a way to change this perception, and the Basketball Rules Committee was looking for a conference to experiment with the 30-second shot clock. And we jumped at the opportunity as a means for changing that attitude. We agreed to a two-year period.”

So how did the experiment go?

“In the first year, the 30-second violation was only called seven times, if I remember correctly,” Owens wrote. “We found that we had adequate time for a high-percentage shot attempt.

“I don’t think that it changed the game that much. But it certainly took some of the negative recruiting out of the discussion.”

Remembering Len Bias

Former Kentucky All-American Kenny Walker was in the same 1986 NBA Draft as the late Len Bias. Walker recalled the top five players selected 30 years ago posing for a photograph: No. 1 Brad Daugherty, No. 2. Bias, No. 3 Chris Washburn, No. 4 Chuck Person and Walker, who was the fifth pick.

Less than two days after the draft, Bias died of a cocaine overdose.

“Len Bias and I visited the University of Maryland at the same time out of high school,” Walker said. “So I had a history with him. Lenny was a great guy.”

As a basketball player, Bias was on a Michael Jordan-esque level, Walker said.

“He was everything I was except he had a better outside shot,” Walker said. “And he was a little bigger and stronger than I was. . . . He was a guy I constantly challenged myself (to match). If I can be just as good, I can be pretty good.”

Discriminating tastes

Tobijah Hughley, the starting center and one of the captains on Louisville’s football team, is from Lexington. He attended Lafayette High School.

Hughley said he grew up rooting for UK. But he was a fan with discriminating tastes.

“Of course, you’ve got to be more of a Kentucky basketball fan,” he said. “I feel that’s the whole city of Lexington.”

By middle school, Hughley said, “I started to make that transition (to being a U of L fan).”

Bet he’s right

During a recent public discussion about how sports can impact local economies, UK grad and former UK football player Jeff Piecoro was asked what it takes to make it to the major leagues in baseball.

Piecoro, who works the Fox Sports Ohio telecasts of Cincinnati Reds games, said that desire and drive separated the wannabes from major- leaguers.

“The biggest thing, to me, is you’ve got to have the motivation within,” he said.

Piecoro held out former Reds star Pete Rose as an example. Rose only cared about baseball, Piecoro said before immediately amending that statement.

“He might care about who won the fifth at Saratoga,” Piecoro quipped.

Happy birthday

To Jim LeMaster. He turned 70 on Friday. … To Antoine Walker. He turned 40 on Friday. … To Gerald Fitch. He turned 34 on Friday. … To DeMarcus Cousins. He turned 26 on Saturday. … To Earvin “Magic” Johnson. He turns 57 on Sunday (today). … To Ryan Hogan. He turns 38 on Monday. … To Terry Mills. He turns 68 on Monday. … To James Young. He turns 21 on Tuesday. … To Archie Goodwin. He turns 22 on Wednesday. … To Christian Laettner. He turns 47 on Wednesday.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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