On Wednesday night, we saw some characteristic, bedrock elements of Duke basketball.
We saw a lot on the court of course - smart, passionate hoops, lots of sharing and relentless effort.
But we saw it off the court too.
We saw Coach K organizing his team for an unusual situation, planning as much as possible, getting as much in before he has to have surgery.
This, we think, explains two key decisions: first to start Harry Giles, and secondly to reinstate Grayson Allen.
Starting Giles was an interesting move. He’s not where he will be but even now, he’s a tremendous rebounder. We’ve watched him twice now grab boards and heard the announcer go Ooooh! Heck, we did it too.
The guy is a powerful rebounder. And we’re starting to get a sense of what sort of player he is overall.
Starting him kind of jumpstarted that process.
The Allen reinstatement will be much more controversial.
His penalty was indefinite but we think that to an extent Coach K’s operation forced his hand.
We’d guess he didn’t want to leave it open and as Jeff Capel’s responsibility while he is recuperating, and also that he could remove a cloud hovering over the program.
This way, the focus for the decision is on him, and we’ve already seen plenty of reactions.
Jason Williams said he respected Coach K and his decision. He just didn’t agree with it.
Being a bit older and having coaching experience, Seth Greenberg said there were a lot of variables and that the length wasn’t as important as the perspective gained and we think that’s closer to the truth.
There’s a lot we don’t know and probably things we don’t need to know. Just imagine if he consulted a pyschiatrist. Who would want something that personal discussed all over the country?
Or it could just be an older guy explaining some basics to a younger guy to push him in the right direction.
What Grayson does on the court is everyone’s business. What he does off the course is not.
So in a very short period of time, we saw Duke make significant advances on the court, further integrate a hugely talented player who has barely played in two years (and for matter Marques Bolden too), eliminate a significant problem for Jeff Capel who no longer has to ask questions about Allen and clear the decks to give him a chance to excel.
It’s pretty impressive when you look at it like that but we’ve argued for some time that Coach K’s time management skills are off the chart and help Duke more than most realize.
Two final points: although we believe Coach K chose to reinstate Allen partly because of his impending absence, we do not think for a minute that he would have done so recklessly.
This has been Allen's reality for two weeks and for two weeks he’s had Coach K pushing and prodding him. There is a keen element of discipline here but there’s also a strong element of accountability. He is a leader of men now but he was a commander of men before that. The key phrase in everything that Krzyzewski has said about Allen is this: I’m responsible for that kid.
From someone else, it’s a cliche. For someone who absorbed the lessons of West Point, it’s an absolute truth and a point of honor.
It comes down to whether or not you believe him. We’ve followed Duke closely for a long time and have heard tons of interesting things about how he deals with his players.
We choose to believe him. We realize many people won’t but we can’t do much for them.
After the situation with K’s back emerged, Fran Fraschilla took the opportunity to make a dig on Twitter, saying that of course Capel would take the Ws and Ls because precedent was set (in 1995).
However we do find it rich that Fraschilla, who was fired by St. John’s after allegedly dropping his pants, grabbing his balls and telling his team that was what they lacked would have the...onions...to criticize anyone for anything else.
It’s been out of fashion since Freud but shame has its uses.