Coach K Misses the Point

by Suzie Raven
Special to iVoryTowerz

No one expected Duke University’s men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (a.k.a. Coach K) to be happy about a loss to unranked Wake Forest, especially since it helped rival North Carolina take his team's place at #3 in the polls. Still, there’s no need to make excuses or comment on the styles of other teams.

Krzyzewski‘s indirect jab at North Carolina's Coach Roy Williams on Duke’s radio station after the Wake Forest game was even more unnecessary than making excuses. "[Freshman guard] Nolan [Smith] hyper-extended his knee at Maryland and has been dealing with that since – and unlike other schools we don’t release our injuries – so I thought he played a strong game tonight. It was good to see that. He has been getting healthier although he did tweak it again tonight," Krzyzewski said.

Williams, who openly discusses his team's injuries with the press, reacted to Krzyzewski's reference to “unlike other schools” on his radio show this week. He told an “unspecified person” to "coach their own damn team, I'll coach my team."

Criticizing Williams for disclosing injuries makes no sense. North Carolina’s most notable injury this season is a sprained ankle that star guard Ty Lawson suffered four minutes into UNC’s victory against Florida State three weeks ago. Lawson’s a key player – he averages 13.6 points a game and leads the team’s signature fast break with his speed. When Lawson misses five straight games, people are going to notice. People surely noticed him writhe in pain on the court after diving for the ball and then walk to the locker room on crutches. Fans immediately panicked about the upcoming game against Duke. Why shouldn’t Williams disclose the status of Lawson’s injury? We’re talking about a high ankle sprain, not a top secret new strategy that will be the key to winning another national championship.

North Carolina’s laundry list of injuries does not end there. Reserve guard Bobby Frasor suffered a season-ending knee injury in December and back-up point guard Quentin Thomas started games while suffering from the flu. Fourth-stringer Marcus Ginyard has seen significant playing time despite his own sprained right ankle. In the Virginia Tech game, forward Danny Green also played with the flu.

North Carolina has a deep bench, but these injuries obviously don’t just skim the surface. Still, unlike his counterpart at his rival, Williams took their loss against Duke gracefully two weeks ago and without excuses. "They got any shot they wanted," Williams said after that loss. "I don't know very many times tonight that our defense dictated what shot they got. They had better spacing, more patience."

The classiness with which Williams leads his team allows fans to focus on what’s really important, such as the 32 points Tyler Hansbrough scored in this week's 84-70 victory against North Carolina State.

Duke’s second straight loss to an unranked team cost them: they slid down to the #5 spot in the nation. Williams said it best when he told Krzyzewski to “coach their own damn team and I’ll coach mine.” Clearly, Williams' strategy works.

(Duke takes on St. John's today – Saturday, Feb. 23 – and UNC plays Wake Forest tomorrow.)

(In the photo, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr. – left – accepts a USA Basketball jersey from Coach Mike Krzyzewski – right – during a special program at the Pentagon's athletic center called "Hoops for Troops" in 2006. The photo is by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF, for the Department of Defense; the photo is in the public domain.)

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