Duke head men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski criticized the NCAA on Tuesday night for “just plowing ahead” with a college basketball season in spite of players’ mental and physical health.
Rather than directly calling for a cancelation or pause of the season while the coronavirus pandemic worsens around the country, Coach K instead called on the association to come together and find a solution. Throughout the opening weeks of the college basketball season in both the men’s and women’s game, the sport has been plagued by positive cases, spontaneous outbreaks, and ethical questions.
“I would just like for the safety, the mental and physical health of players and staff to assess where we’re at,” the Duke coach said.
At the same time, Coach K made a point of noting he’s “not sure who leads college basketball” and said any sport run by a complicated committee with various priorities is inherently “not agile,” which made Krzyzewski, whose voice carries powerful weight in the sport, strike a pessimistic tone about anything improving.
Coach K acknowledged the virus is already a scary and dangerous challenge to the sport, even because of something as simple as players being prevented from returning home to visit their families during the holidays. With vaccines looming and expected to cut down transmission and hospital problems across the nation, Coach K alluded to the idea that even waiting until further into the winter could make college basketball a significantly less risky endeavor. He is not the only coach to bring up this point, as Iona’s Rick Pitino shares this sentiment.
Prior to the start of the season, Coach K had partially endorsed a Bubble for the NCAA Tournament (though he questioned the logistics of such a big event), and while it seems the association is forging ahead with plans for some sort of single-site March Madness, there may be increasing pressure for individual conferences to put together Bubbles for conference play, as Villanova coach Jay Wright has called for.
There’s also the fact that Krzyzewski is 73 years old, and after college football coaches like Nick Saban have become infected, it’s become increasingly concerning to see people whom doctors consider health risks during the pandemic coaching games inside while teams find positive cases left and right.
It’s hard to say what may be the impetus behind Coach K coming out vocally against the current situation. Maybe he was just frustrated after playing a home game in front of an eery, empty Cameron Indoor Fieldhouse. Either way, Coach K is clearly correct in his assessment and this could signal momentum behind changes to how this college basketball season operates.