The independent news organization of Duke University

A coach of the people

The highlight of the opening of Duke's basketball season earlier this week was not Gerald Henderson's Swat-Heard-Round-the-World (though don't forget to give Jon Scheyer credit for breaking up that fast break in the first place) or even DeMarcus Nelson's super slam.

No, the best part about the opening rounds of the CBE Classic was more subtle than that-though maybe equally, if not more, audible-and had nothing to do with the action on the court.

After a brief two-game suspension, the Cameron Crazies were right back where they belong-breathing down the necks of the slovenly sports writers.

For those who missed it, in the first two exhibition games no students were allowed to stand on the floor behind press row-where the Crazies have traditionally situated themselves for years-because the Durham Fire Marshall declared it a violation of the fire code.

And although some may wish to thank the Duke Student Government for the return of the Crazies to press row, I would like to also thank the most influential person on this campus: men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Bringing national championships to Durham is in Coach K's job description, being a champion for the Duke student body isn't. But it's a role he has taken on anyway, particularly at a time when it seems like a lot of administrators haven't.

In a press conference Nov. 4 after a victory over N.C. Central, Krzyzewski was asked to give his thoughts about the students being forced back away from the court.

"See, my thing is, move the press," Coach K said in a room of reporters. "Put the press in the end-zone. I mean, nothing against the press, but...I think we should accommodate our students in the best possible manner all the time."

When Krzyzewski found out why the Crazies had been pushed back, he asked where the Fire Marshall had been for the past 50 years, what Duke had suddenly done wrong and how the problem could be fixed without hurting students.

"I know I'm going to get letters," Krzyzewski said. "My brother is the captain of the fire department. I do not believe in fires. Just take care of the students as well as possible."

Just to reiterate, so I don't get letters: Coach K does not believe that fires are desirable but does believe students "are on the team, too," and deserve to be as close to the court as possible.

Within days, it was decided that the Crazies would be put back in their rightful place, and don't tell me Coach K's comments did not carry significant weight in that choice.

I mean, hypothetically speaking, if Coach K were to tell people to apply for American Express cards and then use them to buy brand new Chevys, they would do it, right? Even President Brodhead has been rumored to drive up to the WaDuke for dinner in a Duke-blue '98 Impala and then flash his AmEx Black Card to tip the valet.

When Coach K says that average students make up Duke's sixth man, it's more than a little cliché-but, as Georgia Southern learned Monday, it's also a little bit true.

The Blue Devils benefitted from the Cameron Crazies being at full force when the crowd started counting down the shot clock early as the Eagles were on offense.

Georgia Southern forced up a desperation shot with several seconds still left on the clock-twice.

So although having students close to the court may not be as important as, say, Greg Paulus getting healthy, it does play a role in creating the atmosphere Cameron Indoor Stadium has become famous for.

For the students' sakes-and for his team's-it's good to know Coach K gets that.


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