A day after screaming at the Duke student section for a chant he thought was inappropriate, Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski has taken a step to make amends.
At the end of the first half of Duke’s win against Pittsburgh Tuesday night, the Cameron Crazies broke out in a chant for Panther head coach and former Blue Devil assistant and player Jeff Capel to “sit with us.” This led to an enraged Krzyzewski to tell the student section to “Shut up!” He later approached the Cameron Crazies, yelling at the students that Capel is “one of us” while beating his chest.
After the game’s conclusion, Krzyzewski apologized for his outburst—sort of. The long-time Blue Devil leader said that he misunderstood what the fans chanted but stayed firm that mentioning Capel by name during the contest was inappropriate, even suggesting alternate chants for the Cameron Crazies.
On Wednesday afternoon at about 3 p.m., Krzyzewski took further action to make up for what occurred the night before, holding a surprise private speech for tenters present in Krzyzewskiville. The 40 to 50 students were called by the line monitors for what seemed to be a normal tent check before line monitors informed them of a surprise, according to Robert Lane, a Duke senior and tenter who was in Krzyzewskiville at the time.
The present tenters and line monitors then entered the media room in Cameron Indoor Stadium to listen to a 30-minute speech. Krzyzewski discussed the fragile emotional state—induced by Kobe Bryant’s recent death and his close relationship with Capel—that led to his reaction, as well as other stories involving Duke basketball over the years. He also showed a brief clip of Cameron Crazies in the past to instruct the students on how to act in the future, according to Lane.
“Today was about sort of clearing the air between Coach and the tenters, if there was any air that needed to be cleared,” co-head line monitor Ben Succop said. “Just to kind of bury the issue and grow and move past it.”
Debbie Savarino, an assistant director of athletics at Duke, as well as Krzyzewski’s daughter and freshman guard Michael Savarino’s mother, primarily orchestrated the meeting between Krzyzewski and the students, according to Succop.
“I immediately called Debbie during halftime and spoke to her,” Succop said. “She was confused because she couldn't really hear, and she wanted to handle things with the respective folks on each side kind of to communicate the message.”
When asked for a statement on the meeting, Duke men's basketball spokesperson Mike DeGeorge directed back to Succop.
During Krzyzewski’s speech, he went into significant detail about his relationship with and grief over Bryant, which the coach said left him “emotionally charged,” according to Lane.
Additionally, a history of Duke’s student section jeering Capel when he played at Duke in the 1990s provide further fuel to Krzyewski’s fire.
“Coach K said that him and Capel were really close because Capel was a guy who was part of their program when they were having a tough time building the program,” Lane said. “Apparently Capel was having a really tough time when he was a senior because he was trying to figure out what he was going to do after graduation, and people actually were booing Capel for the first half of the season because he was doing so poorly. And he started figuring stuff out, but Coach K has just been defensive after hearing stuff about Capel, so that’s why he got mad at the student section [Tuesday].”
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After explaining his emotional state Tuesday, Krzyzewski continued on to tell the students a few other stories, including one about a tissue to help explain the pride his program takes in calling Cameron its home.
“[Krzyzewski] said that he drops a tissue on the floor, sometimes before practice, every couple years or so,” Lane said. “And he sees if anybody picks it up, and if nobody picks it up, he will host a team meeting and be like, ‘Why didn’t we pick this up?,’ and...nobody says anything. He's like, ‘I picked it up because this is my floor. This is our floor.’”
Tuesday night was certainly bizarre for Duke basketball—this may be the only time a head coach was restrained by a referee from charging at his own student section—but Krzyzewski attempted to pick up the pieces, or tissues, at Cameron Wednesday afternoon.