Arguably the biggest reason I consider the Duke Blue Devils to be my favorite college basketball team is because Mike Krzyzewski and his players and staff have always done things the right way.
Or so I thought.
For the better part of the past three decades, Krzyzewski has built the Duke men’s basketball program into one of the true titans of the sport. Coach K has amassed over 800 victories, 11 Final Four appearances and four national championships as the head man in Durham.
Arguably more impressive is that his teams have won so often while constantly staying out of trouble with the NCAA. In an era where often times winning and corruption have gone hand-in-hand in major collegiate athletics, Duke’s ability to win big and legally has been a breath of fresh air.
But with at least one blemish recently popping up that could potentially turn into a major black eye for the program, we now have to ask the question: Are Coach K and Duke not as picture perfect as we thought they were?
From reading well-respected Yahoo! Sports journalist Dan Wetzel’s recent eye-opening investigative article on former Duke forward Lance Thomas, the answer is definitely leaning towards “no, they’re not.”
To summarize, Wetzel reported in early September that, while at Duke in late 2009, Thomas bought over $97,000 worth of jewelry from a midtown Manhattan boutique jeweler. Thomas paid for $30,000 of the jewelry and was supposed to pay off the remaining balance within a two-week period after the date of purchase.
Given what we know about Lance Thomas, has your perceptions of Duke being a clean program changed?
The problem is that Thomas never paid, and now the jeweler is suing the former Blue Devil as a result. Given this sticky situation, the NCAA may soon become involved and launch its own investigation.
Surely, the first question they’re likely to ask is just how did a college student like Thomas have $30,000 lying around to spend on exquisite jewelry? It’s easy to see why this could seriously stain the pristine image of Krzyzewski and his program.
Even before Wetzel’s piece hit the Internet, the college basketball experts for cbssports.com published a piece in August where they surveyed nearly 100 head coaches anonymously. They asked them which coach is the best at bending the rules but not breaking them.
Unsurprisingly, controversial Kentucky coach John Calipari topped the list. But what could be considered surprising is the fact that Krzyzewski’s name came up on the list, too.
Here’s one anonymous quote from one of the surveyed coaches in the post that stuck out:
"J.J. Redick and Grant Hill courtside in Orlando to watch Austin Rivers play. Grant drives off in his Ferrari that was valeted and pulled up to the curb as Austin is leaving. American Express commercials. USA basketball."
The combination of Wetzel’s article and cbssports.com’s survey has now opened the door for fans nationwide to question whether or not Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils have really played by the rules all these years.
Of course, fans can only speculate as of right now. The NCAA has yet to launch an official investigation into the Thomas matter.
It could be tough to do so, considering how nobody from the jewelry store that’s suing Thomas wants to talk to the NCAA. Nevertheless, I (along with lots of other fans and experts) used to always believe that Coach K and his Blue Devils were as squeaky clean as they came in college basketball.
However, given what has transpired the past few weeks, now I’m not so sure what to make of my favorite team.