Grayson Allen said he had no idea he’d be back in the lineup against Georgia Tech until he arrived for the pregame walk-through, and that’s when coach Mick Krizilonski let him know: Allen’s “indefinite” suspension, for tripping yet another player, was over after one game.
“I talked to Coach many, many times when I came back after break,” Allen said. “We had a lot of conversations and meetings, and I went through a lot of stuff after practice. He ultimately felt I was ready to come back, and I felt good coming back, so I accept all the discipline that came way. I know it was my fault.”
Allen was fine in his return, scoring 15 points to go with seven assists, though the junior guard might’ve looked a little hesitant to shoot early on. Allen was one of seven Blue Devils in double figures, as Duke played maybe its best offensive game of the season in a 110-57 win over the Yellow Jackets.
It was a weird night in Durham—Allen’s unexpected return was, not coincidentally, Coach K’s last game for a while. Earlier this week the school announced Krzyzewski would undergo back surgery, a procedure that will keep him away from the team for at least a month. Krzyzewski revealed last night that he had postponed his surgery until after Allen’s return, and indeed he’s handed assistant coach Jeff Capel a complete product to steward in his absence—last night was the first time Duke had a full, healthy rotation all season.
Krzyzewski insisted that a one-game suspension is plenty, and that there’s more to his handling of Allen than missing game time.
“I think it’s appropriate, and I think the things that we’ve done are appropriate,” Krzyzewski told ESPN’s Jay Bilas. “There are things that you see or the public see, and there are things that you all don’t see and shouldn’t see or shouldn’t be talked about, and they’re called teachings.
“You don’t need to teach out in the public all the time.”
I saw a tweet last night that I can’t find now: Someone wondered, rhetorically, what the reaction would be if it were John Calipari pulling this move instead of Mike Krzyzewski. The implication being that Coach K will get a pass on something that would have gotten Coach Cal roasted. And maybe that’s true for the small segment of sports fans and media that still buys into Krzyzewski’s sanctimony. But if Calipari had done this exact same thing, I’d be praising him for it.
The main job of Krzyzewski, or Calipari, or any big-time college coach is to win games, and make money for the school, and attract top recruits. The best players want to go where they’ll win, where they’ll get attention, where they’ll get better at basketball, and where they’ll increase their chances of making the NBA. That’s it. There’s nothing about “building character,” or “molding men”—that stuff’s valuable, but only for the coach’s own mystique. Calipari doesn’t pretend to any of that, and that’s why he’s a player’s coach. Krzyzewski acts the same while pretending he’s above all of it and that his calling is something nobler, and that’s why he’s a hypocritical prick.
To the only people he’s responsible to—his employers and his players—Krzyzewski did the right thing in bringing back Allen almost immediately. Why should he give a shit what anyone else thinks? What does he, or Allen, or Duke gain by suspending Allen longer, giving him a smaller showcase and less experience, and fielding a worse team?
(I’m pretty convinced Krzyzewski didn’t want to suspend Allen at all. He kept him in the Elon game for the second half after the tripping incident, and snapped at reporters, “I think I’ve handled this correctly...I don’t need to satisfy what other people think I should do.” Only the next morning was Allen’s suspension announced—I wouldn’t be shocked if it came at the behest of the athletic department, or the conference, both of which are more concerned with PR.)
So now Krzyzewski heads into his surgery and his recovery, where he won’t have to hear anyone bitching about his decision to make his team as good as it can be, and Allen gets back to playing basketball, and improving his own game and the games of those around him. Everyone who hates Duke (which is everyone) is going to continue doing so, and there’s zero reason why anyone at Duke should care in the slightest.