Many of sport’s most volatile rivalries involve geographic proximity to fuel the ideological disagreements between fans. But sometimes, a rivalry has more to do with two teams running into each other in big games than it does location. And sometimes, you come face-to-face with your rival’s most visible figure.
Such was the case, when Worx Managing Members Joe Gugliotti and Brian Klanica, like many in the agency diehard UConn basketball fans, met Duke basketball coach/legend Mike Krzyzewski for the first time.
KRZYZEWSKI, OR “COACH K” as most call him, is college basketball’s all-time winningest coach, with over 900 wins, including 4 national championships, 11 Final Fours and 25 Atlantic Coast Conference regular season & tournament titles. His Duke Blue Devils have “run into” the UConn Huskies 4 times in the NCAA Tournament – including once each in a regional final (remember Christian Laettner’s winning basket at the buzzer?), the Final Four, and the National Championship Game.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WORX AND COACH K goes back many years. It started with Troy Webb – a respected businessman in the Raleigh, North Carolina area and consultant with Worx on the first Hartford insurance website – who found an abandoned Porsche in a field, and painstakingly rebuilt the car with his son, Ian. The two showed the car at a Porsche owner’s show, and it caught the attention of Bob Ingram, the current chairman of Elan and former COO of GlaxoSmithKline. Bob happened to be the neighbor of Coach K. Worx was introduced to Krzyzewski and his organization, the Emily K Center, which inspires economically disadvantaged students. Worx has since done pro bono work for the Center for over a decade.
AT ONE BOARD MEETING, Emily K’s development director Matthew Lawrence – the sideline reporter for Duke basketball and an original cast member of Saturday Night Live – introduced Gugliotti and Klanica. With Coach K looking on, Lawrence said, “Folks, there’s some good news and bad news. Joining us today are Joe Gugliotti and Brian Klanica. Their marketing agency has done some wonderful things for our center… that’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re from Connecticut, and are UConn fans.” As the room turned to see Coach K’s reaction, Krzyzewski quickly rebutted with a not-so-veiled, tongue-in-cheek indication that he felt his team was superior to UConn’s: “Well guys, I’d like to present you with our first ‘Hope’ award.”