One of the biggest pieces of sports news this summer was Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s decision earlier this month to retire after the 2021-22 season. Stadium’s Jeff Goodman broke the news, and spoke to AA Tuesday about how he got that story and what the impact of it was. He said it came as part of a memorable day for him.
“It was a crazy morning, because I live in Boston and all the stuff that morning happened, Danny Ainge steps down from the Celtics, which wasn’t a surprise, but then Brad Stevens goes from coach to GM basically. I’m dealing with that in the morning, people are wanting me to come on locally and do some things, and then I get the tip that ‘Okay, later on this week, K’s going to announce that he’s going to retire in a year.’ And I’m like ‘Oh, man, all right, I’ve got to put the Celtics’ stuff to the side. That’s already done; weighing in on that doesn’t matter right now.'”
Goodman said he had heard a bit on Krzyzewski (who’s 74) possibly moving towards retirement ahead of that, but this tip was much more immediate and much more solid.
“I had heard rumblings, obviously. When Roy Williams retired, I’d heard rumblings that K was going to be soon thereafter. And [Duke assistant and now coach-in-waiting] Jon Scheyer interviewed at DePaul. I’ve known Jon for a long time, in fact I broke Jon Scheyer’s commitment years ago, which is nuts. So I’d heard months ago that K was probably going to be not far behind [Williams], but I hear that it’s going to happen later in the week, so I start making as many calls as I can. ”
This scoop came at an interesting time for Goodman, as Awful Announcing has learned that his contract with Stadium is expiring in a few months, and that he’s in negotiations with that company and others. Goodman confirmed that. Awful Announcing has also learned that Stadium college football reporter Brett McMurphy is in a similar situation.
Goodman has worked for a lot of outlets over the years, from Fox Sports to CBS to ESPN, before joining Stadium in 2018. From the outside, some might see it as harder to break stories at Stadium, with some sources possibly preferring to talk to an outlet as prominent as ESPN. Goodman said he hasn’t really run into that, though, and most of his reporting work is based on relationships he’s built over the years, not the outlet he’s currently at.
“I’ve been a little bit of everywhere throughout my career. I had to grind to come up, I came up as a recruiting writer. So for me, it’s never been about the outlet I’ve been at; I’ve been at FoxSports.com, CBS, ESPN, now it’s Stadium. Obviously ESPN gives you a platform that is unmatched within the space, but I think because I’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t think it matters to the people in the industry who I’m working for.”
That’s similar to something McMurphy said in 2018, and it has seemed to be more and more of a reality in sports in recent years, with many stories broken by connected reporters regardless of who they’re currently working for. Goodman said relationships are key to that, and his beginnings as a recruiting writer have been particularly helpful there.
“I don’t feel like I was in a different situation in terms of being able to break this story than I was at ESPN, or at any place prior. I guess it’s just because of the relationships and the contacts that I’ve built up over the years, especially through [covering] recruiting. I always tell people ‘If not for doing recruiting, I never would have broken any stuff ever.’ I had such an advantage coming up because of covering recruiting, because all the coaches would call me for information, because I knew where all these kids were looking at going. Then when I started covering college basketball, I would call those coaches and ask them for information, so there was already a relationship there. That was huge.”
He did say one big difference about his time with ESPN was it required him to get comfortable with being on TV.
“To be honest, I never felt like I got more scoops or more news because I was at ESPN. Nothing changed really when I went Fox to CBS, CBS to ESPN, other than I had to learn how not to suck on camera. That was the biggest transition for me. The first time I was ever on SportsCenter was a week after I was hired at ESPN, and it was when Brad Stevens took the job with the Celtics. They’re like ‘All right, we want you to be on SportsCenter at 9 a.m.’ I’m shaking, you know. Jeannine Edwards was with me in Boston, and luckily she was awesome at helping me out that day, so I wasn’t so, so bad.”
As per this story on Coach K, Goodman said he was in a unique position to get it because of the sources he’s cultivated at Duke over the years. But he said it still required a whole lot of checking and double-checking because of the impact of this news.
“It’s funny, I have a pretty good source within Duke that nobody knows, and I’ve broken a bunch of Duke stuff over the years. Even people within the Duke program are like ‘Where are you getting all this info?’ So I got the first tip, and then I confirmed it, so I had two sources probably a half hour before I broke it. But I’m like ‘All right, it’s still K retiring.’ I know it, I’m 99.9 percent done, but I’m still like ‘It’s K retiring, you can’t ever be wrong on this one. Let me make sure.’ So I got a third source.”
Goodman said one advantage with his reporting on this story, and one thing that let him check and double-check this further, was that he wasn’t too worried about anyone beating him to it because of how hard it’s often been to get stories on Duke.
“On a lot of these, you know somebody’s going to break it within five minutes of you if you don’t. But I didn’t feel that pressure on this one, only because Duke is like a fortress. There aren’t really many leaks at Duke. If you look at it, very few people break news at Duke. So it’s almost like ‘Okay, I know I’m okay here for a few minutes.'”
“If I’d waited more time, yeah, it probably would have broken. But Duke is probably the most insulated of any college basketball program, I think. Kentucky and Duke are probably close. But yeah, there aren’t a whole lot of leaks coming out of Duke.”
After getting that third source, Goodman was sure his reporting was accurate, but he still got some chills ahead of sending the tweet because of how big of a story it would be.
“I had three sources all telling me the same thing, ‘K’s definitely retiring in a year. There’s going to be an announcement later this week on Thursday or Friday. And Jon Scheyer’s almost definitely going to be the head coach.’ They just had to have a meeting amongst some of the board later that day.”
“But even with those three, it’s so funny; you break stories enough, you’re tweeting it out, and you move on. Literally, as I’ve got the tweet ready to go and as I’m ready to hit send, it was just one of those things that was surreal. With some things you don’t understand the magnitude, the impact; with this, it’s Coach K and retirement. Whatever else it is, it doesn’t matter. The words “Coach K” and “retirement” in a tweet, it’s going to blow up. So my finger is shaking as I’m hitting the send button, not because I was worried; I knew it was 100 percent. I just knew what it meant to the sport.”
Goodman said those feelings weren’t about about his personal connection to Krzyzewski, but rather the overall effect on college basketball.
“I don’t have some great relationship with K, not that that has anything to do with anything. We’ve had our issues over the years a little bit, but we’re fine. But it’s just one of those things; it’s arguably the greatest coach in college basketball history retiring. I knew what the impact was going to be when I hit send.”
Goodman said after he sent that tweet, his phone blew up. However, that wasn’t with pushback from Duke. Rather, it was with industry people checking with him about the impact of the news of Krzyzewski retiring, and the impact of Scheyer being likely to take over.
“Generally, you get some people blowing back. Not one person from Duke did. The reaction was more from industry people blowing up my texts, like, ‘Is this serious?’ And as much as it was K retiring, it was also Jon Scheyer being the next coach. It was the combo. I think it was more surprising to people within the industry that Jon Scheyer was going to be the next head coach, because he’s a 33-year-old assistant. A year ago, nobody thought he would have a chance in hell of being the next head coach after Coach K. But timing was everything for Scheyer.”
Looking back at this story, Goodman said it’s somewhat remarkable in that it might be the biggest scoop he’s gotten, but it’s not a story that required a ton of work relative to other longer and more investigative pieces.
“People ask me ‘Is this the biggest scoop of your career?’ And I’m like, ‘I guess,’ but it’s not nearly as rewarding as some of the other stories. I did a story on Gregg Marshall less than a year ago, the Wichita State head coach who was verbally and physically abusing players, and that took me I don’t know how many man-hours, probably 100. It took the better part of three months to write and report it. This one took me a day.”
At times over the years, there have been issues with poor crediting of scoops from competitors, with many of those issues showing up at ESPN. ESPN’s crediting has appeared to improve in recent years, though, and Goodman said they gave him proper credit this time; he even appeared on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt to discuss the story.
“Woj credited me, ESPN, I think they were good, they put it on the ticker. I went on with Scott Van Pelt, who’s a huge friend of mine, that night, and he gave me credit, Kevin Negandhi gave me credit. It’s so hard these days with credit, way harder than it used to be when you’d end up beating somebody by 15-20 minutes. So many times now, it’s within a couple minutes. Anything anyone else gets within college basketball, generally I can confirm within a couple minutes.”
“And it’s a game that we all play within the media that nobody else gives a you-know-what about. But we all care, and of course I care, because I’m competitive, number one, and number two, we’ve made a career out of this. I’ve made a living partially out of breaking news. Adam Schefter has made a lot of money, and deservedly so, out of being the dominant newsbreaker in the NFL. Woj, the same thing, he’s been dominant, Shams, Sham’s career has taken off, why, because he’s broken news. So I get that the general public doesn’t care, but we, selfishly, care because we’re able to make a good living and a good living because we make news. So of course you want the credit.”
The appearance with Van Pelt was only one of many Goodman did around this story. He said one that really stood out was going on NBC’s Today.
“I went on the Today show. I’d been on Good Morning America years ago, but I’d never been on the Today show. That was cool, and cool for my daughter, who’s 17 years old and has dreams and aspirations of maybe being in the media one day. For a father to have his daughter see him on the Today show, that’s pretty cool. As you get older in this business, for me, it’s so much more about my daughter, and trying to help her in any way I can.”
Goodman said he’s happy this story worked out, as tips don’t always. Sometimes they lead to chasing a non-story, or sometimes something that’s initially refuted winds up being true in the end.
“What people don’t understand is sometimes there’s some luck involved. I remember someone giving me a tip on Brad Stevens years ago, and I didn’t really pursue it as much as I should have. I called one person who was close to Brad Stevens, and they told me ‘There’s no way that’s going to happen, him going to the Celtics.’ And I just stopped. And then like, two days later, he takes the job, and I’m like ‘Oh.'”
“So you run that risk. But then, also, there was a Cleveland Cavs blog that reported that Tom Izzo was going to the Cavs, and you’ve got to chase those things down. You’ve got to learn what you think is real and what’s not.”
Goodman said while Krzyzewski’s retirement isn’t totally out of left field given his age, the specifics of when he’s stepping down still felt huge, and he’s thrilled that he was able to get that scoop.
“With K, you kind of knew he was going to go out at some point, so it wasn’t a huge shock. But it was definitely, I don’t know if it was the biggest scoop of my career, but because it was Coach K’s retirement, it’s got to be up there with anything in college basketball because you’ve got the greatest coach in the history of the game.”
[Photo from Stadium]