After Grayson Allen did the unthinkable -- stretching his leg out Wednesday night against Elon and purposefully tripping a player for the third time in his career -- Mike Krzyzewski made it abundantly clear that no amount of public pressure or outcry would dictate how he punished his player.
"I handle things the way I handle them,'' the Duke coach said. "And I think I've handled this correctly, and I will continue to handle it correctly, and I don't need to satisfy what other people think I should do.''
He went on to say that he is both a teacher and a coach and that he knows Allen better than anyone.
Fair point. Mike Krzyzewski doesn't have to suspend Grayson Allen because reporters think he should or because the Twitterverse has lit the torches and gathered together with the virtual pitchforks. He needs to suspend him because taking proper action is what Mike Krzyzewski is supposed to be about, because his internal methods haven't worked and, very simply, because Grayson Allen has earned it.
A year ago, Krzyzewski had no problem making time for a decorum lesson in the handshake line with a player who wasn't his own, when he told Oregon's Dillon Brooks his showboating was beneath him after an NCAA tournament game.
How then can Krzyzewski allow a player wearing a Duke uniform to get away with what he has permitted Allen to do again (and again)? If there truly is an honor to wearing a school's name on one's chest, surely it isn't asking too much for the player to behave honorably.
To say otherwise flies directly in the face of who Krzyzewski is, or at least who we have come to believe he is. He is a West Point graduate whose very pores ooze righteousness. He is not a charlatan or a huckster who won 1,000 games but a coach whose reputation is as impressive as his coaching record. Krzyzewski has long been about dignity and class, building a program that is beyond reproach and leading the United States back from its own international hoops morass to the gold-medal stand.
He is college basketball's voice, if not its moral authority, the yoda master people seek when they need insight on the state of the game, the one opinion in a coaching Tower of Babel that actually carries some weight.
How can Krzyzewski condone poor sportsmanship, let alone such dirty play? To suspend Allen wouldn't be kowtowing to public pressure. It would be living up to the high standards Krzyzewski has set -- and soared above -- his entire life.
If that isn't reason enough, there is this: Allen needs to be suspended. He needs a punishment in the same way a small child who keeps breaking the same rule in utter defiance of his parents is practically begging for the timeout chair.
We have seen contrition from Grayson Allen before, just as he showed in the postgame locker room Wednesday night. He has apologized to his other trip recipients, just as he did to Elon's Steven Santa Ana. Coach and player have had long heart-to-hearts, as they did in the coaches' locker room following the Elon game. And Krzyzewski has meted out internal punishment already, as he vowed to do after this incident.
Yet here we are, back where we started less than a year ago. The viral vortex starts to swallow Allen and Duke whole once again.
There is no guarantee that a suspension will get through to Allen, that a more public shaming will make him stop this disastrous and dangerous behavior, but there is evidence --- three full leg lengths worth -- that Krzyzewski's other solutions haven't worked at all.
Krzyzewski thinks he is helping Allen. He isn't. If the actual tripping of Santa Ana didn't prove that, Allen's behavior afterward should have. Allen reacted as if he had been the one tripped -- not the other way around -- by screaming and pounding the bench and carrying on as if he in some way had been wronged. Only long afterward, once the buzzer sounded and the media swarmed him, did we see the tears and hear the emotional Allen apologize.
Where was that shame in the immediate aftermath? Did he understand what he had done? Did he appreciate the gravity of it? Or did he think he was being victimized, hit with a dead-ball technical because the officials were predisposed to think ill of him?
Frankly, Allen's histrionics alone should have earned him at the very least a second-half benching. But let's give Krzyzewski the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume he didn't see the play live, didn't watch a replay at the half and went off only Allen's indignation.
Fine. But he has since seen the video, and he knows what Allen did, and he should know that this isn't just repeat behavior. It's escalating. The first trip was a little leg thrust from Allen's back after he tangled with Louisville's Ray Spalding under the basket. The second, a surreptitious half-kick when no one was looking, was directed at Florida State's Xavier Rathan-Mayes, with whom he'd shared a few pushes.
The trip Allen sent to Santa Ana was somewhere between a full-on swing of the leg and Draymond Green's patented groin shot.
There's no excuse this time, no defense that it was an accident. The dead-ball technical foul removed any gray area. To argue that Allen shouldn't be suspended because the play somehow wasn't whistled a flagrant 2 is laughable. It might not meet the rulebook criteria, but Allen's move against Santa Ana was the very definition of flagrant.
There are roughly 4,200 young men playing college basketball this season. How many others have repeatedly tripped opponents? Either Allen has the worst footwork since Elaine Benes, or he has a problem and it's up to Krzyzewski to help him solve it.
In October, a sheepish Allen sat down with me and talked about the mistakes -- his word -- he made the previous season. He was clearly embarrassed and upset with himself. His mannerisms were as telling as the words he said.
He admitted he has long since had a hard time channeling his competitive fire, but he refused to give himself an out, saying his behavior was inexcusable. At the time, Allen just wanted to look forward, and though he said he knew he wouldn't get -- and didn't necessarily deserve -- a blank slate, he hoped he could show people his true colors.
"I know there's never completely a blank slate,'' he said then. "That's going to be replayed and not forgotten about, but for me, every opportunity I get to step on the court is an opportunity to play the game again and play the game the right way.''
Instead, the player who said he hid in his dorm room as social media exploded with video of his misdeeds is here again. People see him now as a punk -- no longer merely the victim of silly Duke stereotyping, but earning his spot alongside Blue Devil villains Christian Laettner and J.J. Redick. People now have three pieces of video as evidence (even Laettner stomped on Aminu Timberlake only once).
Those who know Allen or have met him would say the comparisons are unfair. The person they know away from the court is quiet and humble, even shy.
But most people won't get a chance to sit down or get to know Allen. They know only what they see, and what they see is punkish behavior out of a player who at best appears to be a petulant baby and at worst appears to be a sore winner.
As such, it's up to Allen's coach to help him. Coaches teach players lessons the hard way all the time. They bench starters for cutting class and suspend athletes for violations of team rules that the general public isn't privy to.
There is no secret offense here.
There is a very public act -- a very public, repeated act -- and only one person has the authority to not merely tell Grayson Allen it is unacceptable but show him.
And that's Mike Krzyzewski.