Dr. Benjamin M. Jacobs is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program, Class XI. He is the Assistant Professor of Social Studies, Education and Jewish Studies at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.  He can be reached at bjacobs@nyu.edu.

There are 2.6 seconds remaining in overtime at the 1990 NCAA East Regional Final between Duke and UConn. Duke, trailing by a point, calls time out. Duke’s players, feeling overwhelmed by the pressure and already perhaps a bit dejected, come to the bench with heads hung low and huddle around Coach Mike Krzyzewski. [Meanwhile, I’m up in the stands with my gut wrenched and a huge lump of bile lodged in my throat.]

 As my brother Mike, then Duke’s head manager, later relayed it: “The first thing Coach K said was, ‘Look at me!’ And he waited until all the team’s eyes were affixed on his. The next thing he said was, ‘We…are going…to win…this…game.’ He then quickly sketched out a play and sent the guys out there to do it.” 

Laettner inbounds the ball to Davis, Davis back to Laettner, Laettner with the shot: GOOD! The buzzer sounds. Duke wins! 

For the past 21 years, I have replayed that scene—the adversity, the motivational speech, and the win—over and again in my mind when I’ve encountered certain professional challenges: the rush to the finish line on a deadline; presenting new tricks to old dogs; bringing adversaries toward an amicable resolution of their differences; being interviewed for a prestigious fellowship; and much more. It’s my “Hineini Muchan Umezuman” by way of Coach K. It’s full of moxie and audacity, and more than a little luck, to be sure. But it’s further proof that, if you will it, it is no dream.