The Average American Sports Fan is an Idiot pt. 1 : In Defense of Coach K

Taking a leave of absence for surgery, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski reinstated the suspended Grayson Allen to return to the lineup. Allen, Duke’s former captain and best player, had been suspended indefinitely for a series of incidents involving the tripping of opposing players. He was suspended from the team for a 3-week period and stripped of his captaincy. After Allen’s reinstatement, Coach K took some media abuse and public criticism.

The public gripe was that Allen was suspended for only one game, a conference loss to Virginia Tech. “I thought Coach K was a man of principle, but in the end, he only cares about winning,” reverberated around the sports world. “I’ve lost all respect for Coach K,” wrote numerous others on their social media accounts.

This public issue is NOT legitimate. Allen employed a cheap tactic, tripping, once he was beaten off the dribble. He was assessed a technical foul, suspended, and stripped of his captaincy. He had no intent to injure the other player, and in no way did he act with any malicious intent. His mistake demonstrated immaturity and foolishness, and he was punished accordingly. End of story.

While the case can be made that Allen could’ve been taught a stronger lesson through a longer suspension, blasting Coach K for bringing him back is absurd.

Sports fans love John Wooden, a man of principle who made no exeptions for anyone, no matter how great of a player that individual was. His rules regarding team dinners and punctuality applied equally to everyone. He’d suspend his best player for being out of dress code or for being late to a meeting. He recruited players who he thought had strong character. He once even rejected a top recruit after the recruit made a rude comment to his mother in a meeting with Coach Wooden. Wooden had strong values, and it paid off for him. Sports fans love him for that.

Sports fans also love Vince Lombardi, who is heralded for his success as a football coach. He coined the phrase, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lombardi was a win-at-all-costs guy, and sports fans loved him for it.

Coach K took a more balanced approach than these two guys. It’s his job to win basketball games, and it is his job to guide the young men on his team. He attempted to do both — to be a hybrid between Wooden and Lombardi. He suspended his player, gave him a relatively harsh punishment in stripping his captaincy, and reinstated him for the betterment of the team once Coach K felt he had been punished adequately.

Why must Coach K be publicly chastised for trying to strike a balance between two American ideals: principle and success?

Because the average sports fan is an idiot.