Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has won three Division I national championships, one Olympic gold medal and 858 college basketball games. Yet, his impact is felt even farther from the basketball court that bears his name in Durham, N.C.
As a matter of fact, it is due to Krzyzewski's words of advice that Scott Hemer said he decided to become a college basketball coach, and for that Geneseo owes Coach K some thanks.
When Hemer - Geneseo's head coach of the women's basketball team - met Krzyzewski he said he had reached a crossroads in his career. Up until that point he had been an eighth grade social studies teacher and a very successful high school girls' basketball coach. Yet he had an opportunity to be much more: a full-time college coach, like Krzyzewski before him. The only problem was, his heart still belonged to teaching.
"I really didn't know if that was the direction I wanted to go," Hemer said. "I really enjoyed teaching and coaching at the high school level."
After speaking to Krzyzewski at a coaching clinic in Pittsburgh, Pa., however, he decided otherwise. "[Krzyzewski] said that if you have a passion for coaching you've got to take some risks," Hemer said. "It was after that brief conversation that I decided maybe this was something I would take a chance at."
So, Hemer decided to step away from teaching and accept a full-time coaching position at Genesee Community College, where he coached the women's basketball team to an impressive 147-40 record in six years.
Then after the 2006-2007 season with the Cougars, Hemer began to search for a better paying position to help support his family. He said his decision was not an easy one, but after thinking back on Krzyzewski's advice, his choice was clear.
"One of the other things that Coach K had said to me was that if I did ever make the jump to a four-year school, make sure it's a school with a great academic reputation," he said. "So when the Geneseo opportunity presented itself, I found it too good to pass up and it was then that my wife and I made the decision to make the switch; we couldn't be happier that we did that."
Hemer has been with the Knights for the past three years, most recently leading the women into the semifinals of the SUNYAC tournament. During his time at Geneseo, Hemer said he has stressed not only defense and rebounding but like his hero, a commitment to his players.
"I always make the young ladies a priority," he said. "Not only do we work hard to develop them as basketball players but we work very hard at also making them better students and better people. That has been a philosophy that I've used since day one and I've had a lot of success with it."
Despite the influence Krzyzewski has had on his coaching career, Hemer credits his wife above all else. "My wife has had a lot of influence over my coaching career," he said. "I'm a much better coach with her in my life; she has been very supportive of what I do."
A big family man, Hemer said that his favorite thing to do after a win is spend time with his son, Grady Scott Hemer, whose name actually is a tribute to his dad's love for Grady Sizemore and the Cleveland Indians. In addition to his beloved Indians, Hemer is a big Duke basketball fan as well as a diehard Buffalo Sabres and Bills fan.
When asked which he thought would happen first, the Bills winning the Super Bowl or the Indians winning the World Series, he laughed and said, "I'm afraid to say that I probably won't live long enough to see either one."