OPINION: Those Danged Dukies
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I have hated North Carolina almost my entire life. My first memory of basketball was when the Tar Heels beat Illinois in the 2005 National Championship and tarnished Illinois’ magical season. I didn’t understand much, I just knew that Illinois was good and North Carolina was bad. Over the years, that naturally led me to side heavily with Duke in the bitter North Carolinian rivalry. However, Duke’s long history of treading the line between fair play and dirty shenanigans, paired with the recent outburst of highly questionable decisions regarding the rules, player safety, and overall integrity, has forced me to reconsider my loyalty to the Blue Devils.
First and foremost, I am a diehard Illinois fan. I always have been, and I probably always will be. Unfortunately for all of us Illini fans, when late March rolls around, Illinois seems to be sitting at home more often than not. Because of this, I have looked for others teams to root for come late March and early April. Most of the time it’s just a one or two year fling, like Kentucky with John Wall or Kansas with Ben McLemore and then Embiid and Wiggins. But Duke has been a team that I repeatedly turn to.
I cheered for them against Butler back in 2010 and again versus Wisconsin in 2015. I have always respected Coach K for his work at Duke as well as with the USA Men’s National Team. I also remember Grayson Allen diving for loose balls and making other impressive hustle plays in that National Championship game in 2015. But so much has changed in a year and a half. Coach K has decided that he is above the law, and apparently Grayson Allen has come to the same conclusion.
After that impressive Tournament showing in 2015, Allen has been underwhelming. He has not performed on the court like we expected him to, and he’s become one the dirtiest players in recent years. I love good, hard play probably more than the next guy. I’m all about dishing out a hard foul to a player driving to the hoop, or being pesky on defense and not allowing the opposing players to have any semblance of personal space. However, Allen doesn’t just play hard. He plays dirty. There are some things that players just don’t do. Tripping is one of those things. It is an unwritten rule that players do not trip other players. Apparently Grayson Allen does not follow that.
Over the past season and a half Allen has tripped a Florida State player, a Louisville player, and an Elon player. It’s not an isolated incident. Allen has repeatedly put others players at risk. Also he may or may not have pushed a Florida State assistant coach. The assistant coach defended Allen saying, “That was not a dirty play. He plays hard, he dove after a loose ball.” Obviously nobody can say for sure if that was dirty or not, but I think Allen has the lost the benefit of the doubt by continually making dangerous, harmful plays.
After tripping two players in the span of a month last season, the ACC decided not to suspend Allen at all. They “reprimanded” him, but that clearly did nothing, not that anyone really thought it would be effective. Most players don’t even change their poor habits after a game or two suspension. Being publically scolded without any actual consequences would obviously not be the most effective route to go.
Speaking of laughable punishments, Coach Mike Krzyzewski brought out the big ol’ “suspended indefinitely” after Allen’s trip/flip out against Elon. It’s one thing to say a player is suspended for one or two games, but it’s a whole different thing to say that he is suspended indefinitely. For a player to land that designation they must’ve really messed up, like, by tripping/shoving/pushing an opposing player repeatedly.
Now, “suspended indefinitely” doesn’t have a specific amount of time associated with it. It’s really just until the coach figures you’ve learned your lesson and changed your habits. It’s like sending a kid to stand in the corner when he gets in trouble. In most cases making the kid stand there for an hour is excessive, just like suspending a player for an entire season. On the flip side, making the kid stand there for 30 seconds does absolutely nothing, just like how Coach K’s “suspended indefinitely” sentence on Allen turned out to be just one game that did absolutely nothing.
When a star player continually breaks the rules because the coach has been so lax about punishment, the coach has to really crack down to get him to stop. If Coach K sits Allen for a game after his very first tripping incident last year, Allen probably never blatantly trips a player again. Allen would’ve seen that Coach Krzyzewski was serious and that he doesn’t tolerate any rule breaking whatsoever.
Conversely, since Coach K hasn’t done anything about the tripping, Allen has continued to break the rules without seeing any repercussions. This has led to him feeling like he’s above the law. After over a season of no punishment, it’s extremely difficult to corral an unruly player.
Suspending Allen indefinitely is the best way to try to fix the problem. It sends the message of “you’ve been so bad that I can’t even settle on an amount of games that you’re suspended.” But then Coach K brought him back after one game. Coach K was getting surgery and he didn’t want to leave that monumental decision to the interim coach, but there were other ways to handle that situation.
So if we have learned anything from this messy situation, it’s that Grayson Allen and Coach Krzyzewski feel like they’re above everybody else. Then again, that’s just Duke’s persona as a whole. I see that known but I don’t see why I was ever a fan of them, I guess I was just trippin’.