Coach K: Playing during pandemic doesn’t feel right

In Mike Krzyzewski’s four decades coaching basketball at Duke, he rarely applied the term unprecedented to the state of the game.

But Coach K said after Tuesday’s home loss at virtually empty Cameron Indoor Stadium to Illinois that these times are beyond comparison.

“I don’t think it feels right to anybody,” Krzyzewski said when asked if it felt right to be playing games during the coronavirus pandemic. “I mean, everyone is concerned. You know, we made an assessment or … I’m not sure who leads college basketball, you know. It’s done by committee. You have (the NCAA) oversight committee, you have this committee, and anything that’s led by committee is not agile in handling a situation. And so we made an assessment, and there was a consensus.

“It wasn’t, like, well-planned that we’re going to start Nov. 25. That was made without knowing if there’s going to be or the vaccine was, how many cases. Basically, it was more of a mentality of, ‘Get as many games in as possible.'”

Krzyzewski joins other notable voices in college basketball who’ve asked the NCAA to reconsider playing games until January or February. Rick Pitino, the former coach at Kentucky and Louisville now at Iona, said there should be no games played until late spring or summer.

Mike Krzyzewski
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Krzyzewski said he supports the ACC and NCAA decision at the moment and doesn’t believe it’s necessary to delay games — yet.

“But for the good of the game, and the good of the safety and mental and physical health of our players and staff and whatever, we need to constantly look at this thing,” Krzyzewski said.

Pitino said his return to the court with Iona, where he picked up his first win in three years, was “eerie” with only the sounds of player’s voices and squeaking sneakers in the air. The atmosphere compares to a practice or scrimmage for coaches, Pitino said, and anxiety around sports during the coronavirus pandemic is palpable.

Mike Krzyzewski also focused on mental health

But coaches, including Krzyzewski and Gonzaga’s Mark Few, have said they’ll continue to follow the lead of the sport’s decision-making bodies. Few and No. 1-ranked Gonzaga are on pause due to COVID-19 positive tests. Beyond physical health, Krzyzewski said he’s trying to address mental and emotional well-being.

“I’m going to do whatever they say. We’re gonna make the most out of everything they say, about everything that’s said. But yeah, it’s a different time,” he said. “It’s just a different time. And, you know, look, I just got my butt beat a lot (by Illinois). So anything I say someone can say, ‘Well, he’s saying that because he got his butt beat.’ And you know, do I think things should be done a little bit differently? Yeah. I mean, a lot of kids aren’t gonna be able to go home for Christmas; probably a time where they should for mental health.

“We’re just plowing through this.”

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)