Mike Krzyzewski to Return vs. Pitt: Latest Comments and Reaction

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2017

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 04: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils looks on during their game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 4, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 110-57. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

There will be a familiar presence on the sideline when the Duke Blue Devils hit the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium to face the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday.

The school announced men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski will return from his absence following back surgery he underwent to remove a fragment of a herniated disc, per Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com.

The team's official Twitter account shared the news Thursday:

Krzyzewski hasn't coached since Duke's 110-57 win over Georgia Tech on Jan. 4.

Duke's official website noted the surgery took place Jan. 6 and forced the coach to miss the team's last seven games. Associate head coach Jeff Capel filled in for Krzyzewski, but the Blue Devils went just 4-3 during the span that included back-to-back losses to Florida State and Louisville.

They also lost at home to North Carolina State but built some momentum with two straight road victories over Wake Forest and Notre Dame.

Krzyzewski will lead Duke against archrival North Carolina in his second game back, which means he will have a contest against a Pittsburgh squad that is an abysmal 1-8 in ACC play to get back into the flow of things.

The coach's absence has been part of a turbulent season for the Blue Devils. They started the campaign ranked No. 1 in the country but have fallen to No. 21 and seventh place in the ACC at 5-4.

Krzyzewski even held a meeting at his house during his absence and temporarily kicked the players out of the locker room and didn't allow them to wear team gear, per Jeff Goodman and O'Neil of ESPN.com.

What's more, the Grayson Allen saga has dominated Duke-related headlines since he was suspended indefinitely after tripping Elon guard Steven Santa Ana. He previously tripped Florida State's Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Louisville's Raymond Spalding.

That indefinite suspension turned out to be a mere one game, and the leniency of the punishment was met with criticism.

Criticism aside, Duke is well-positioned for a late run now that the winningest coach in men's basketball Division I history is returning. Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Amile Jefferson have all returned from previous injuries to join a talented roster that already included Luke Kennard and Allen.

The Blue Devils will have opportunities to earn critical wins down the stretch against Virginia, North Carolina (twice), Florida State and in the ACC tournament and could be sitting favorably come Selection Sunday on March 12, especially if the selection committee takes Coach K's time away into account when evaluating Duke's previous struggles.

As long as the Blue Devils round into form and play in March like they were expected to all season, the up-and-down start to the campaign will be long forgotten.

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