On Wednesday, following a 15-point home loss to Illinois, legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski suggested that perhaps we should reassess playing basketball during the pandemic.
“We made an assessment,” he said. “I’m not sure who leads college basketball. It’s done by committee. Anything that’s led by committee is not agile in handling a situation. There was a consensus. It wasn’t like well-planned. Just that we were going to start Nov. 25. That was made without knowing where the vaccine was, how many cases. Basically, it was more a mentality of get as many games in as possible. I would just like for the safety, the mental and physical health of players and staff to assess where we’re at.”
Krzyzewski didn’t call for the basketball to be shut down temporarily, but it was clear that he thought that would be the result of the assessment.
Duke subsequently made the decision to cancel the rest of its nonconference slate. To Mike’s credit, he acknowledged that such comments may be construed differently because his team, at this stage, does not appear to be up to Duke’s typical, lofty standard. He is 73 years old and has had some health issues, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he is a bit concerned about being out there himself.
Nate Oats was asked about Krzyzewski’s comments yesterday, and he didn’t hold back.
Nate Oats on Coach K wanting to delay play due to COVID-19: “Let me ask you a question. Do you think Coach K would be saying that if he hadn’t lost those two non-conference games at home?”— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) December 10, 2020
You really should listen to the entire answer which can be found here, because his intent was less about busting on Coach K and more about why players having the opportunity to immerse themselves in the sport they love is better for their mental health, a stance with which another legendary coach, Tom Izzo of Michigan State, agrees.
Tom Izzo if NCAA should halt hoops season— TikiAndTierney (@TikiAndTierney) December 10, 2020
"You talk about mental health. These kids were stuck at home for 5 months. Imagine being 20 years old and being at home with your parents.
The greatest mental health is when an athlete is in athletics."
it’s tough to argue with that point. These few young men playing basketball while being tested regularly are not moving the needle with regard to community spread. If fans can’t attend then fine, but taking the game away from kids who want to play is unnecessary and wrong.
Still, he very much implies by the way that some coaches wear their masks like a chinstrap that they perhaps are less worried about the virus and more using it as a crutch. Of course, that Coach K soundbite drew most of the attention and the blue checkmarks had plenty to say about it.
CBS analyst Matt Noriander recalled a time when Nate was similarly direct about Arizona.
Reminder: Nate Oats did a halftime TV interview during the NCAA Tournament while at BUFFALO and essentially called Arizona overrated going into the locker room. Then Buffalo rolled Arizona and he basically doubled down and said his team was just as talented. https://t.co/9Iur2g3KuB— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) December 10, 2020
Buffalo’s next tournament game was Kentucky, and Oats went in on Wildcats coach John Calipari, saying that he had been “whining” about the lack of experience on his roster. Kentucky won that game by 20 points, but it’s clear that Coach Oats has no fear when it comes to speaking his mind. In some ways, he reminds of Lane Kiffin in that regard.
Some more reactions:
Text from one coach to me after seeing this comment about Coach K from Nate Oats:— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) December 10, 2020
“NCAA will be on his campus in 45 minutes flat. Dead man walking.” https://t.co/e01Ir87JWS
Coaches that are taking shots at K are foolish. Coach your own team. Worry about your team. Don’t waste time having takes on others. It’s hard enough to coach your own team. You don’t need to speculate on others opinions.— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) December 10, 2020
Quick thought on Nate Oats' comments. ... Can we at least all agree that it's refreshing for a younger college coach to go out and talk shit and stir the pot instead of stay silent or whine anonymously?— Brendan Quinn (@BFQuinn) December 11, 2020
Alabama coach Nate Oats off the top rope. This will not be well received in Durham. https://t.co/TThundNwC2— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) December 10, 2020
Last night on SportsCenter, @SVP talked about Nate Oats comments.— Chicago Gump (@GriffinTSmith) December 11, 2020
Scott said this about the 2 non-con games Duke canceled "Those were games Duke was not going to lose and this recent announcement wasn't about Michigan St. or Illinois, they weren't ducking anyone." pic.twitter.com/jUYnw35zkl
Aside from the part about the NCAA showing up at his doorstep, you have to like the way that Nate is using his brash personality to raise the profile of the program. When is the last time you remember anything about Alabama basketball discussed on a national scale like this? This man is unafraid to challenge the sport’s elite and ruffle some feathers, and that is exactly the type of attitude we need to see instilled in the players. The way he’s recruiting, Alabama may well be among those national elite soon.