Duke coach Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski has decided playing basketball was not be a wise decision this year. He said this after a 15-point loss to Illinois on Tuesday.
Do I think he is saying this because he is losing games this year? Not necessarily. It’s a tough year for a lot of people. There have been a lot of good games, but there is also a lot of spotty play because things haven’t been the same. Schedules have been altered, practices are likely pretty different, and no one is really sure what’s coming next.
Duke has had to postpone two games, and it’s likely that, given the current surge (and impending surges due to holiday travel and gatherings), more games will be postponed or even canceled. It sucks. As someone who helps coach at the middle and high school levels, I am frustrated by postponed and canceled games myself.
Here is what’s frustrating to me, though.
Yeah, he made statements about the season being a mistake after a 15-point loss in a season so far mired in a couple of tough losses. It does come across poorly, as he admitted it would when he gave those comments.
But come on, Coach. You’re the leader of one of the most respected basketball institutions in America. You signed up for the good times and the bad. I get wanting to take care of your guys, but are you sure wanting the season to end prematurely is the way to go about that?
The five-time championship-winning coach said that the idea for everyone to start on Nov. 25 wasn’t planned well. The goal, according to Krzyzewski, was to get in as many games as possible.
Many players won’t be able to go home and visit family for holidays, Krzyzewski said, arguing that this is a time when they should do that for their mental health.
“We’re just plowing through this,” he said.
Two things about this don’t make sense. The first is the mental health issue. These are kids who have devoted their lives to the sport, who have pushed themselves their whole lives to get to where they are now. Is denying them this very important part of their lives really in the best interest of their mental health?
I am not convinced it is. I think you do more harm by trying to end the season early, and by cutting them off from one of their biggest passions. And I fear Coach K is instilling a culture of quitting by making statements like this, whether he intends to or not.
The other thing that doesn’t make sense is this idea that allowing kids to go home for the holidays is somehow the right call, given every health professional has actually argued against doing so. By sending them all home, you actually increase their odds of exposure to people who haven’t been forced to follow the same protocols these athletes have been made to follow. You are putting them at greater risk of catching the virus you say the season is exposing them to.
I’m not advocating not visiting family for the holidays, but it’s important to note that you are at a much greater risk of getting the virus if you leave a very stringent protocol to spend time with people who haven’t been in one.
That doesn’t sit right with me, and it makes Coach K seem disingenuous when he makes these arguments. They are not the arguments of one who wants to use science to back up his claims, but of someone who is looking for an excuse.
Duke is 2-2 this season. Maybe their high ranking was a bit premature, but they are Duke. They’ll have a good season regardless. The question will be whether or not it’s a great season. Given some of the absolutely fantastic games I’ve seen so far, I think a number of teams will have a great season.
Will Duke? I guess that’s up to Coach K.