Previewing the ESPN special, Difference Makers with Paterno and Krzyzewski


I don't want to be a jerk and just pimp my blog on here so I'll copy and paste my take and experience from the taping of the upcoming ESPN special on Joe Paterno and Mike Krzyzewski.


Link for the free program card they gave us: Program Card

On June 30th, ESPN will be airing a Special called Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Joe Paterno and Mike Krzyzewski. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to the taping of the event this morning, then got real lucky to find an employee who would take my shift just a few minutes before the event was scheduled to start. I was able to get to Eisenhower Auditorium with one minute to spare by sprinting my “big boned” frame across the Penn State campus in the 86 degree heat in my work clothes. Thankfully I had time to cool off and catch my breath since ESPN started the event almost 30 minutes late.

My seats for the first few segments they taped were in the next to last row, right by the ESPN production team. I’ve never been in a production truck, so maybe they are all like it was today, but all I can is they had more than a few miscommunications that resulted in some yelling matches and one re-taping of the Rece Davis intro. The other thing that took a segment or two to get used to was the fact they things were taped out of order of how they will be shown during the TV version.

The first four segments they taped were with Joe Paterno and Mike Krzyzewski. While the segments will be split up in a different order for the show, they were done consecutively with approximately five minute breaks inbetween. The breaks would have been shorter, but we had to wait for everyone to get back to their seats. Thankfully I have been blessed with a normally working bladder, which resulted in a nice seat upgrade for the last two taped segments.

The intro was short, with Rece noting how today was actually the first time that Paterno and Krzyzewski had ever met, and that their programs show “everything that is right” in collegiate athletics.

Each segment with the coaches began with Davis asking each coach a few questions about the segment topic, followed by a question or two from either an audience member or a Duke University member via video conference. The topics of the four segments taped by the coaches in order were teaching, family, leadership and excellence.

Before I get into some of the statements from the coaches, I’m sure the Penn State readers want to know what Paterno was like, as quite frankly there is a reason why Paterno has cut down on his public appearances. Paterno was in an excellent mood, cracking jokes the entire show and was as lively as I have seen in about 18 months. The only time Davis had to repeat anything to Paterno was during the audience question segments and Davis really only cut Paterno off from one of his typical, long, off-tangent stories once. To be honest, I’m sure when the show airs that those who don’t follow Paterno and know his ways are going to have twitter buzzing on the 30th with comments about Paterno’s age and senility, but all I can say is the comments will be off base and uninformed, except when people point out that Paterno says Penn State went 9-7 last season. 

As for quotes from the coaches, since I was not on a credential, I don’t know how much I can get away with while avoiding a cease-and-desist order from ESPN so I’ll just add in a few quick quotes that stuck out to me, slightly paraphrased to try and avoid a need to hire a lawyer.


During the segment on teaching, Krzyzewski said that you have to change how you teach, but never change the values that you teach.

During the family segment, Paterno said that to make players feel at home in the Penn State football family, the tries to see what people lacked in their upbringing, then add his 2-cents to fill the void.

Coach Krzyzewski talked about how his entire family is involved with the basketball program, so it is a family job, not just his job thrown on the entire family. He said that while his daughters were growing up, he never had basketball pictures or trophies in the house, only family photos. Krzyzewski also added that his daughters have never told him that he loved basketball more than them, which is important to him.

During the leadership segment, Paterno said that good leaders how to show interest in the people they are leading. He also added that leaders have to be open-minded, flexible and understand the other people in the room. Krzyzewski added that good leaders have to find their own way of leading, and that they have to be able to answer two key questions; who are you leading and why are you leading.

An audience member asked a question to both coaches asking about their greatest moment of adversity, to which Krzyzewski answered “any practice with Coach Knight.”

When asked a question about NCAA compliance, Paterno admitted to breaking a secondary rule the other day by watching a few minutes of off-season summer workouts. Krzyzewski said that if he could change anything about the NCAA, it would be to make them modern. He went on to say that there are too many people in compliance and that it is an indictment on the system.


At this point, the segments with the coaches were done being taped and the production staff wanted to fill some of the front seats that were vacated by Paterno family members, so five of us from the back were moved to the front for the taping of the two segments with former players. People have always said that the Paterno family is large, but I never realized exactly how big until I seated in the middle of them all, I think in the seat that belonged to Jay Paterno’s wife Kelley.

The two segments with former players were short, with each player taking just one question during each segment. I really liked the answers offered by former Duke player Jay Williams, although I didn’t take notes during these two segments since I was in an area where the cameras could catch me. Michael Robinson managed to get a plug in for his new webshow and Matt Millen and Jay Bilas were in their typical talking-head modes.

Overall I enjoyed the experience despite the drawn out breaks and extra stuff that had to be done to put out a better TV version. I really enjoyed listening to the coaches and only wished that each segment could have been longer.

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