The Mike Krzyzewski vs. John Calipari battle has become perhaps the biggest coaching battle in college basketball. Often, the narrative is that Krzyzewski is the head of the upstanding Duke Blue Devils program, and he has high-character kids, and he makes them better men and blah blah blah. Calipari has been seen more as the “used car salesman,” snatching up superstars for a one-and-done deal to get to the NBA, and again, blah blah blah.
As of yesterday, that narrative has changed. The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy wrote a story on the Boston Celtics’ Semi Ojeleye, who once transferred out of the Duke program. That decision to transfer was met with a great deal of resistance from Krzyzewski, and he didn’t handle it well. He screamed, Ojeleye’s mom cried, and Ojeleye, moved on to win AAC Player of the Year.
When the following season started with Semi in a similar role, Ernest tried reaching Krzyzewski again, to no avail. So the family asked for a second meeting, this time with Victor accompanying his mother to Durham.
According to Joy, a very different Coach K met them in his office. She said the coach ignited when asked about Semi’s prospects and jumped out of his chair. A terrified Joy knelt in front of the enraged coach.
“He shouted at me. He said, ‘Am I lying, Am I lying?’ Just like that,” she said. “My oldest son said, ‘Coach, she didn’t say you were lying, she was only asking a question.’
“I had tears streaming down my cheeks, and I said, ‘Coach, you’re way up there and I’m down here. That’s why I kneeled down and said forgive me. I didn’t say you were lying. I would never say that.’ Victor, for the first time, he felt so humiliated, so bad and ashamed I was treated like that. It’s OK. I just didn’t want him to feel like I was being rude to him. I just wanted to ask the question. Is there anything my son needs to do and achieve the privilege to play? Because if you never play, nobody sees your talent. And he tells me he does everything you tell him to do, so if you’re working hard behind the scenes, please, even if it’s five minutes, let him play.
“So when I sat down, he said, ‘You’re OK, you’re OK, that’s OK, that’s OK, you haven’t done anything wrong.’ And he went back and sat in his chair. I said ‘I’m sorry,’ and he said, ‘You don’t have anything to be sorry about. You’re fine.’ ”
Yikes. Couldn’t be John.
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