Published April 2009
The daughters – protective, funny, independent, smart – of Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his wife, Mickie, were brought to Durham in 1980 (excepting Jamie, who was born here at Durham Regional Hospital) after his stint at West Point. Truth is, the odds of them staying were long, given the peripatetic nature of a college coach’s career. Smart money would have had them living here for three years, maybe, and then moving on, perhaps to Bloomington, Indiana, where Coach K’s mentor was having things his way. But turns out their dad did pretty well at Duke.
So the three sisters — Debbie Savarino, Lindy Frasher and Jamie Spatola — over time became true daughters of Durham. Loyal and supportive of the city, each chooses to live here. They all attended Durham public schools;
Lindy and Jamie also attended Durham Academy.
I wondered if Coach K’s daughters might be shy of publicity. After all, living a lifetime as a Krzyzewski in Durham must be intimidating, or so it would appear from the outside. On the other hand, I recall an interview with George Harrison who replied, when asked what it was like to be one of The Beatles, “What’s it like not to be a Beatle?”
But whatever self-confidence and deep source of pride propels the children of famous parents, the three daughters of Coach K have it in spades. They appear glad, demonstrably so, to talk about their city, their passions and the fun (and challenges) of being daughters of a renowned coach. The following is an edited transcript of an interview by Editorial Director Dan Shannon conducted at the Emily K Center, an oasis of optimism for kids in tough situations, and a place the “Krzyzewski girls” are clearly comfortable.
DM: Interviewing three people is always tricky in terms of getting everyone sorted out. So I’m going to begin by asking each of you to provide a thumbnail biography. The eldest is usually the bossiest, so let’s start with Debbie.
DEBBIE: It’s true, I am the bossiest. My name is Debbie Krzyzewski Savarino, I’m 38 years old and have four children: Joey, 9, Michael, 7, and Emmie and Carly are both 5. I’ve lived in Durham since I was 9 years old, except for one year when I lived in Ohio.
LINDY: I am Lindy Frasher [pronounced “frazier”]. I’m 32 years old with a two-and-a-half-year old named Quin with another boy due at the end of May. I’ve lived here since I was 3, except for the four years I went to Wake Forest and the three years I was in Los Angeles getting my master’s degree from Pepperdine. I teach AP Psychology at Durham Academy.
JAMIE: I’m Jamie Spatola and I’m 27 years old and went to school at Duke. I’ve been here all my life except for three years I was in Oklahoma where my husband, Chris, was stationed when he was in the Army.
DM: Was he in Iraq?
JAMIE: Yes, in 2005 and 2006, but he’s home safe now.
DM: Glad he’s back. Please pass along our thanks for his service.
JAMIE: I will. He’s currently working for my dad as the director of basketball operations at Duke, which is where I’m in graduate school for liberal studies. I am also an aspiring writer.
DEBBIE: [both sisters jump in, laughing]: No – she’s already a writer!
LINDY: She’s written a best-seller! She’s a great writer!
JAMIE: Well, I co-authored a book [Beyond Basketball: Coach K’s Keywords For Success] with my dad and I also write for the Duke basketball magazine. We have another book coming out as well.
DM: OK, let’s begin at the beginning. I’m interested in your views of the different city Durham has become over the years. Where did you live when you moved here?
DEBBIE: We lived in a split-level house in North Durham, the first house my parents ever owned. They were very proud and excited. Then they built a house in Trapper’s Creek [off Umstead Road].
DM: Was that a great neighborhood for a family?
DEBBIE: Oh yes. The girl who grew up across the street is my best friend to this day.
JAMIE: The friends we made there are our friends still. A family from there sits a couple of rows behind us at the basketball games so we always see them and keep up. These people are our family friends.
DM: When families move here, there is always the conversation that parents have: “Is this where we want to raise a family?” I assume your folks discussed that.
DEBBIE: I wouldn’t be so sure. They came from a military base where you just tended to accept that the community was going to be fine. And it was. I went to Durham public schools all the way through high school.
LINDY: I went until ninth grade when I transferred to Durham Academy.
DEBBIE: And my kids go to DA; it’s an incredible facility.
JAMIE: And I switched to DA in the fourth grade.
DM: Tell me about the Durham today versus the Durham you grew up in.
LINDY: It’s so much bigger now, or at least it seems that way.
JAMIE: And everything seems to have shifted from northern Durham to southern Durham.
LINDY: And we didn’t have things like DPAC. We just went there to see Rent, and I was so proud of our city. We have so much to be proud of, from the Nasher to Black Wall Street. I think we lost our sense of pride for a while, but there’s pride in Durham now.
DEBBIE: We’re the red-headed stepchild in North Carolina. [People] outside of Durham feel that our city is dangerous, a place where only bad things happen. I don’t want to live in Cary, and I certainly don’t want to live in Chapel Hill [she laughs]. Though I’m sure it’s a lovely town [all three laugh]. The point is, I want to live here. This is my home.
DM: Our city gets a bad rap, but that’s from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.
DEBBIE: The newspapers focus on Durham whenever something terrible happens, as if there’s no crime in Raleigh, or Greensboro or Winston-Salem. I don’t know why this is, why people speak poorly about us.
DM: Any ideas?
JAMIE: One of the things that was the talk of the campus when I was a freshman at Duke was a documentary called Welcome to Durham, which was all about gang violence. It was pretty tough to watch. I don’t know how responsible that single film was, but that’s the reputation we had.
LINDY: Also, we are a more diverse city — both economically and racially — and I think, unfortunately, even in America in 2009, [racism] is a factor.
DEBBIE: My approach when confronted with negative attitudes is, “Yeah, Durham rocks.”
To read the full interview, including the sisters' reactions to the negative reactions their dad sometimes from fans and the media, contact us for a copy of the April/May 2009 issue. (688-8400)