Duke Basketball: Coach K's Legend Grows with Wee Hours Practice Controversy

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Duke Basketball: Coach K's Legend Grows with Wee Hours Practice Controversy
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

In the hazy early-morning aftermath of Duke's 27-point loss to Miami Wednesday night, radio host Dan Patrick (reportedly) reported that the Blue Devils followed their nationally televised face-plant with an impromptu 1:30 AM practice.

The report was then swiftly and categorically denied by Duke brass:

 

 

 

 

Which was in turn followed by a producer from the Dan Patrick show explaining that the host's on-air comments had been misrepresented as news when they were in fact intended as humor:

 

 

Crisis averted. Internet intact.

In the 30 or so minutes that it took for the story to unfold, I kept returning to some variation of the following thought: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski may or may not have held a mid-morning practice intended to shame and intimidate his already humiliated team, but damn if it isn't believable.

By which I mean Coach K is such a legendary hard-ass you half-expect him to flog his team after a tough loss. Sure I had my doubts about the report's veracity, but never did I find myself doubting its plausibility.

You could have told me the man ran his players through South Beach in dunce caps and I'd probably have given you a perfunctory "That's Coach K for ya" before returning to the morning crossword.

Now let's imagine the reverse scenario.

The Dukies whip Miami in front of its home crowd. The next day Dan LeBatard gets word that Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga made two of his star players run laps around the arena until sunrise.

Your first reaction: Jim Larranaga, really? The avuncular balding dude with the Fred-Rogers-style pregame speeches? That guy did what?

A report like that would contradict everything you believe to be true about Jim Larranaga. In Coach K's case, it's a near-perfect personality match.

When high school uber-prospect Jabari Parker committed to the Blue Devils last month, ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan ran a column on the Chicago native's decision-making process.

Brennan led with the following:

Jabari Parker didn't have fun on his visit to Duke.

In fact, it was his worst. He "wanted to be a kid," he said. The Duke visit was "all about business."

Nor was Parker impressed by Duke assistant coach Chris Collins' close ties to the Chicago area. "He's not from Chicago," Parker said. "He's from Northbrook."

And no, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski didn't let Parker see a side of him no one else sees, or lower himself to the always-low levels many college coaches are willing to stoop to land a first-order talent like Parker's.

"He didn't let his guard down," Parker said. "He's Coach K."

Coach K isn't your buddy. He won't walk you to the stage on draft night. He doesn't have backstage passes to the Jay-Z concert.

Coach K's favorite song is "Ohh Baby Baby" by Smokey Robinson. Coach K doesn't change. Coach K is is the anti-change.

I'm sure Krzyzewski's intractability has lost him some recruits over the years, but it also holds a vital utility. Coach K's beady-eyed intensity is the filter through which the Dukies maintain their perennial dominance—it's what separates the blue chippers from the Blue Devils. And, love it or hate it, the system works.

Players don't make it to Durham unless they take the game of basketball seriously, so seriously in fact that they'd gladly subject themselves to a 1:30 AM practice if it means getting a chance to play for the winningest coach in men's Division I history.

Which is why Coach K doesn't need a military-style punishment system to hammer home the importance of this loss. His players already know it.

After all, they chose to play at Duke.

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