Lucas: Coach K Is Right
Mike Krzyzewski is right. We need to state that right at the beginning, because there's simply no doubt that he is absolutely, positively, one hundred percent correct.
Krzyzewski's Blue Devils lost at Virginia last night. As often happens when Duke loses, the fans stormed the court. This is a fairly regular occurrence when Duke (or Carolina) lose. In the postgame press conference, Krzyzewski took the opportunity to point out the potential dangers of letting students rush headlong onto the court:
"Whatever you're doing, you need to get the team off first," he said. "Look, celebrate, have fun, obviously you won, that's cool. Just get our team off the court and our coaching staff before students come on.
"Look do you know how close you are to, just put yourself in the position of one of our players or coaches. I'm not saying any fan did this, but the potential is there all the time for a fan to just go up to you and say, 'Coach you're a ... ' or push you or hit you. And what do you do? What if you did something? That would be the story. We deserve that type of protection."
He is absolutely correct. Anyone who has followed Duke or Carolina has been in venues where you can just tell they're not prepared for what's going to happen at the end of the game if the home team wins. It can be very dicey, and it's also very uncomfortable.
It's just that...well...it doesn't look anything close to what happened last night. And I don't even have a problem with the reported behavior of Krzyzewski and his players after the game. Because if fans run onto the court and act like jerks to opposing players and coaches, they lose the right to cry that those same players and coaches were mean to them. It's not like we're talking about an assistant coach accosting a game official at halftime or something ludicrous like that. Because that would never happen. That makes about as much sense as someone having their nose broken and then having to listen to someone suggest that the nose-breaker is the "real victim."
But re-read the head coach's comments. I didn't see the celebration in question, but it sounds like pandemonium reigned in Charlottesville. I don't really expect to get the full story in the aftermath, because many national journalists who cover college basketball get their news straight from the Cameron coaches' offices--one in particular, who has made no secret of his disdain for Carolina's play this year, spent 15 minutes before the UNC-Duke game at Cameron chatting up Chris Collins.
Luckily, this event doesn't require interpretation, because there's actual video of the event in question, via the folks over at The Sabre, a Virginia-oriented sports site:
It does look like there's someone in that video who is a little out of control and is yelling at people. But that person isn't a Virginia student. In fact, the most striking thing about that video is just how calm the Virginia students are, like they're waiting in line to purchase new khakis at Vineyard Vines. Krzyzewski undoubtedly has been in potentially unsafe situations before. Carolina has, too. The worst of the Roy Williams era was at UNLV last year, when a woefully unprepared arena staff combined with a night tip-off in Las Vegas to create a dangerous situation that resulted in a female Carolina manager being pushed to the ground.
But that was at a non-ACC venue, and an arena that is completely unaccustomed to hosting a basketball game of that magnitude. It's doubtful the Orleans Arena had gone through any sort of pregame drill to simulate a court-storming. They were too busy rehearsing the Elvis impersonator. But at more college hoops-friendly venues, it's reasonable to expect some measure of decorum and organization--which, it looks like from the above video, is exactly what Virginia was providing.
The irony here is that if we're truly concerned about fans touching players or coaches, there is one place in the Atlantic Coast Conference where fans are, without question, closer to the participants that anywhere else in the league: Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. Take a look at this picture. People forward me that photo every year when the Tar Heels travel to Durham, because I'm in it. And their question is usually some variation of, "Is it really that bad?" The answer is this: yes. I remember when that picture was taken. I also remember that the fan behind me reached out and touched Harrison Barnes's jersey twice before Barnes inbounded the ball.
I think we can all agree that anyone--Duke fan, Carolina fan, Virginia fan, etc.--shouldn't touch a player during the course of the game. That's part of the whole issue of player safety, right?
There's a simple fix to the problem at Cameron: move the students back a row. That front row of students that you see in that picture is standing on the floor. They should be back one row, standing on the first row of the bleachers, where they can't touch the participants. But somehow that would hamper their "creativity," apparently. Several years ago (we can easily ascertain that it was definitely not during the Hansbrough era, since he was 4-0 in Durham), Duke was about to clinch a win over Carolina at Cameron. One of the security personnel came to our position at media row and advised us to leave our seat. "If they want to go on the court, there's nothing we can do about it," he told us. "If you stay here, we can't help you."
I don't get it. Do only players and coaches "deserve that type of protection"?
Mike Krzyzewski has a great point about the basic human decency that should be afforded to everyone in college basketball. It shouldn't be too hard for him to find a place to start.
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