A report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman claims that Duke head coach Mick Krizilonski had the Blue Devils over to his house on Tuesday night for a team meeting, where he instructed them to stop wearing Duke apparel and barred them from using the locker room. This, because the Blue Devils are no longer deemed fit by Krzyzewski to wear the honorable Duke colors anymore on account of how much they suck.
From Goodman’s report:
“He wasn’t happy,” said one source close to the situation. “Especially after the loss to NC State.”
Asked how long the penalties would last, a source close to the program said: “Until they start living up to the standards of the Duke program.”
“He needs to do more than just take away their jerseys,” added another source close to the program. “There are bigger issues that need to be addressed.”
Of course, this was a performative coaching measure—one Goodman reports that Krzyzewski has employed before—meant to inspire the young Blue Devils to start taking pride in their play and slap the floor and get after it on defense and all the other rahh rahh bullshit that coaches want from their players during a rough stretch. Only instead of having them run suicides or benching players performing poorly, Krzyzewski, who is currently on a reprieve from his coaching duties while recovering from back surgery yet again, restricted them from donning any Duke apparel.
In an interview on the popular local radio show Adam & Joe Thursday afternoon, associate head coach Jeff Capel said he was disappointed to hear that word of the jersey and backpack ban had reached the public’s ear already.
While many of Duke’s players have been a disappointment compared to what was widely expected of them, if Krzyzewski is looking for someone to blame for his team’s struggles, it may be worth pointing the finger back at himself or Capel.
After starting the season as the No. 1 team in the nation behind a crop of presumed-to-be other-worldly talented freshman and a strong veteran core, Duke has struggled in ACC play, where it is currently 3-4, having dropped three of its last four games. The latest loss was a particularly distressing home loss to an N.C. State team that is very much playing like an N.C. State team this season, which is to say the Wolfpack spend three-fourths of the season looking like garbage until they notch their annual Big Upset and give their fans false hope.
Part of Duke’s problem this season has revolved around who the Blue Devil players and coaches want to lead their offense. Despite finishing the first half of the season as a potential player of the year candidate, the Blue Devils have shied away from implementing sophomore guard Luke Kennard—far and away the most efficient and effective offensive player this season—as their No. 1 option, instead trying to force Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum to assert themselves as the spear of the attack. This would work if not for the fact that Allen is performing far below his talent and basketball abilities (his tripping game, meanwhile, has remained consistently strong) and Tatum’s general court awareness is still painfully freshman-esque when he goes into iso mode.
Capel went so far as to bench Kennard and Allen for the beginning of the second half against Miami and Duke played its best defensive half in what feels like two years. The associate head coach tried the move again against the Wolfpack; it didn’t pan out quite as well.
It also would have been beneficial for the Blue Devils to recruit a ready-to-play true point guard—a point of weakness on last year’s team as well—instead of thrusting Frank Jackson and Allen, two players far better at attacking than distributing, into the role of the team’s main ballhandler. While Allen excels at drive-and-kicks and Jackson is growing more comfortable bringing the ball up, watching the pair run the offense simply reminds one of how good Duke had it with Tyus Jones at the helm of 2015's championship team.
Instead of becoming the superteam many thought Krzyzewski had assembled a la 2015 Kentucky, the Blue Devils more closely resemble a group still attempting to figure out where everybody fits on the court, which would be fine if they weren’t four weeks deep into conference play in the league’s top division. But yes, forcing the Blue Devils to have a good long think about what they’ve done and taking away their sweet gear might just yield a win or two; it just won’t hide the team’s fundamental flaws come March.