For the second time in his career, Mike Krzyzewski is taking time off from coaching the Duke men’s basketball team to have surgery on his back. Or so we’re being told.
Because two days after that announcement, Krzyzewski reinstated controversial guard Grayson Allen for Wednesday night’s game against Georgia Tech. Allen, who’d kicked, tripped, pouted, and slew-footed his way to an “indefinite” suspension in December, evidently needed only one game off to rediscover his chill. But for the first time in weeks, the biggest story surrounding Duke isn’t Allen; it’s Krzyzewski, and to a lesser extent interim coach Jeff Capel, whose performance over the next four weeks is an audition to be Krzyzewski’s heir presumptive. As Tate Frazier said on “T’d Up” before the news of Allen’s reinstatement broke, it’s a convenient bit of media manipulation — almost too convenient.
Now, Krzyzewski could’ve waited until he left the team to reinstate Allen. That would’ve allowed him to look tough and maintain his Molder of Young Men brand, all while Duke enjoyed Allen’s return to the court and Capel had to explain why Allen got to leave his time-out chair early. But Krzyzewski didn’t win more than 1,000 games as a head coach, including five NCAA titles and three Olympic gold medals, by being obvious. This way, his interim coach doesn’t take the heat for reinstating college basketball’s most hated player, and any surface-level conspiracy theorists get thrown off the scent. But he’s not fooling us: For the next four weeks, if Allen throws another in-game tantrum or slide-tackles Louisville’s point guard, it’ll still be Capel answering for Allen’s behavior — and Krzyzewski’s decision to reinstate him so quickly. Meanwhile, Coach K is going to be lying on his couch in a post-surgery haze, flipping through an advance copy of John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester.
John Calipari would commit the perfect crime. Krzyzewski would only commit a crime that’s just imperfect enough not to arouse suspicion.