In Duke’s Tuesday night matchup against Pittsburgh, the Blue Devils finished the first half with a double-digit lead, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski was anything but pleased.
With less than a minute left in the first half, Duke’s student section erupted in a “Jeff Capel sit with us” chant targeting former Blue Devil assistant coach, now Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel.
Krzyzewski erupted from the sidelines, yelling for his fans to “Shut up!” After the half ended, an irate Krzyzewski walked over to the student section to continue his scolding, again yelling at his fans that “[Capel] is one of us!”
After the game, Krzyzewski was informed what chant the students were actually yelling, as he did not hear clearly during the game which caused him to blow up on the Cameron Crazies.
"I don't know if I made a mistake on that, but I've never heard another coach's name yelled out in the middle of the first half when we're in a war with the team," Krzyzewski said. "I don't know if they were saying ‘Come sit with me.’
“We got a different look at what the hell was going on. I thought it was something personal...I apologize to the students for that.”
However, in his apology, Krzyzewski still scolded the student section for the context in which they called out Capel.
“I don't apologize for the timing,” Krzyzewski said. “You shouldn't say that…. In the middle of the first half and an ACC game, this isn't some cutesy little thing.”
This was not the first time in recent memory that Krzyzewski disagreed with the student section's approach to supporting the team. Just last year, Krzyzewski told tenters for the North Carolina game that he did not appreciate their berating of North Carolina State just a week before. In that game, Duke's fans cheered with mockery as the Wolfpack scored their 24th point against the Blue Devils, after scoring just 24 points in an entire game earlier that season.
As for if the Capel chant was intended to be a taunt or a nod to Capel's Duke ties was unclear to many, but co-head line monitor Ben Succop affirmed that he at least intended for the latter.
“When I heard the suggestion for the chant, my first thought was that it would be a fun and wholesome way to show Coach Capel our appreciation, considering his tremendous contributions as both a standout player and member of the coaching staff for Duke MBB," Succop wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
“My decision on the timing was based on two things: I didn’t want to have it during a media timeout or a floor timeout to interrupt Coach Capel in the huddle, and I wanted to give the chant enough time to build in volume without taking away from the flow of the game. So I decided to wait until Pitt had two consecutive foul shots to start it. The wording of the chant was misunderstood by [Krzyzewski] as addressed in his press conference, and I can absolutely understand why he reacted in that manner. I accept that the onus was on me to consider the high emotions and possible alternate interpretations that could have occurred.”
Capel himself did not take offense, as the Panthers' leader tweeted out postgame that he took "no offense" to the cheer.
Krzyzewski remained adamant that although his outburst was misguided, his care for Capel will always come first.
“I'm not going to go say, ‘Will you please tell me exactly what you're doing?’” Krzyzewski said. “So it's a mistake on my part, but I'd rather make the mistake and protection of my guy…. Let’s think of a different cheer.
"Jeff can sit with me any time, but not during a game."
Derek Saul contributed reporting.
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