A few months ago, while looking through the magazines at McNally Jackson on a Sunday evening, I happened to notice one of the zines on a featured rack. It was about Tyson Chandler, the basketball player, and it was called “Tyson Chandler.” The zine cost $10. The next morning, I tried to track down Ari Marcopoulos, one of the two artists responsible for the publication. That took about a month. He forwarded my emailed questions to Camilla Venturini, his collaborator. At the time, they simply hoped Chandler wouldn’t be mad at them for making this 20-page black-and-white tribute.
It took another month to track down Chandler himself. He was walking around Chelsea, visiting galleries, and he stopped by Printed Matter and bought out the bookstore’s supply of “Tyson Chandler.” I spoke with Chandler immediately after he had called Marcopoulos, who was in Italy at the time, and the piece ran a few days later.
But the story didn’t end then. Not a month later, Chandler signed with the New York Knicks—in part, I like to believe, because the zine’s last page gave him the idea—and phoned Marcopoulous to tell the photographer that they would be hanging out soon. Now they trade frequent emails and text messages. On Wednesday afternoon, Chandler surprised Marcopoulos by telling him that there were tickets to the Knicks’ final preseason game waiting at the Garden if he wanted them. He did.
Before the game, during warmups, Chandler pointed at Marcopoulos and thumped his chest, pointing to his heart. And after the game, he invited him into the bowels of Madison Square Garden. It was their first meeting. This time, the professional basketball player was the photographer.
I visited Gill St. Bernard’s for its basketball scrimmage last week against St. Anthony—yes, that St. Anthony—for a profile of the country’s most unlikely hoops powerhouse. The story’s on The Classical, the lovely and excellent new sports website that I trust you’re already reading. Hope you enjoy!
My profile of Mike Krzyzewski, called The Art of Winning, was released as a Kindle Single earlier this month. Today he was named Sports Illustrated’s 2011 Co-Sportsperson of the Year with Tennessee’s Pat Summitt. Here’s a lightly edited and condensed transcript of a recent conversation with Coach K.
One early morning in October, I flew down to North Carolina and drove to the campus of Duke University to interview Mike Krzyzewski, who emerged from an elevator a few minutes past 11 a.m. and quickly grabbed a can of Diet Coke. He was wearing mud-stained Nikes, gray track pants, and a black polo with the words “Duke Basketball” stitched over the heart when he walked into his palatial office and sat down in an upholstered seat among the commemorative folding chairs, more basketballs than he would need for a shooting drill, and framed newspapers, jerseys, and photographs, including a shot of the 2008 Olympics team with the words “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.” On the side of his messy desk was a potted plant.
I had a half-hour blocked off on Krzyzewski’s schedule, and I knew that not even a conversation about the meaning of life itself would delay his 11:30 a.m. meeting with his coaches. And yet we still found ourselves talking about baseball, not basketball, for five good minutes. The news on that overcast, sometimes drizzly day was that the Chicago Cubs had reached a deal with Theo Epstein, who would leave his job as general manager of the Boston Red Sox for the same position with Krzyzewski’s favorite baseball team. My recorder started about a minute after he did.
When I got sick in 94-95, we were 13-18 and 18-13 the next year. We had gone to seven Final Fours in nine years. Everyone here said, “Just take your time.” Well, then, it’s paid off. We’ve even gotten better. Those are the types of things — like, I don’t think you tear out a lot of infrastructure. It’s not like putting someone in for a show, like a Broadway show. Teams take time to develop. To me, their pitching staff was decimated. If they have everybody the same? I don’t know. You have to do a lot of strange things when you don’t have pitching.
And they lost by, you know, an inch.
I think it’s such a knee-jerk reaction. But the Cubs haven’t had any knee-jerk reactions. They’ve had their knees and feet in cement for a long time.
Did you watch the Bartman documentary a few weeks ago?
I heard about it. We were at USA Basketball meetings in Vegas over the weekend, and a couple of guys were talking about it. It’s a sad thing. I was at the game.
Sitting first row, right-field bleachers.
Better than first row, third-base bleachers.
Forty thousand people were yelling “asshole!” and the game was going on. We committed an error at shortstop. I mean, we had the lead! And I’m telling my buddies — I’m with all my buddies from the fantasy camp, my Jewish buddies from the North Side — and said call timeout, go out and see the pitcher. We’re still winning! But that’s the way Cubs fans are. There’s gotta be an excuse.
People said they felt the atmosphere in the stadium change when it happened.
It did. I don’t think the atmosphere changed. The focus changed. Like, everybody was yelling “asshole!” here, and the game was going on here, and we’re playing to get into the World Series. Like, you’ve got to be kidding! It’d be like a fight in the stands during a basketball game, we have a 10-point lead, and, oh, we’re losing. Then you have an excuse to lose the next game. Those are the types of things that can happen if you let them happen. So, anyway.