It’s been a frustrating year for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Historically one of the most dominant programs in college basketball, the Blue Devils have struggled in the early going, limping to a 5-5 start while dropping out of the Top 25 rankings for the first time in nearly five years.
Coach K was in an unusually sour mood following Saturday’s loss to conference-rival Louisville (Duke’s third straight defeat), which led to a testy exchange with student reporter Jake Piazza in his post-game press conference. Krzyzewski’s rant immediately went viral with many criticizing the legendary coach for his condescending response to a seemingly innocuous question.
Piazza, an econ major who made the nine-hour drive from Durham to Louisville for Saturday’s game, later addressed the incident in his column for the Duke Chronicle, admitting his first encounter with Coach K did not go quite as he had hoped. “Coach K’s response was far from ideal, but after the press conference I went about writing my postgame article like any other game I’ve covered, albeit slightly embarrassed after being roasted in a room full of my fellow reporters,” said Piazza, acknowledging the “flood” of Twitter notifications he’s received since the clip began making the rounds on social media. “This was not exactly how I expected my first postgame question to Coach K to go.”
Regretful of the tone he struck on Saturday’s Zoom, an apologetic Krzyzewski called Piazza to clear the air upon returning to campus. “Our call was short, but the sincerity in his apology was genuine,” wrote Piazza. “In the end, I appreciated the call.” Resilient as they may seem, athletes and coaches aren’t always receptive to criticism with many prone to lashing out in the heat of the moment. Piazza happened to be the collateral damage Saturday, though even after getting an earful from Coach K, the young reporter won’t shy away from asking tough questions in the future.
“What I will remember most from this weekend, however, is the support from all the journalists (both sports and non-sports) who reached out or replied on Twitter, and I can’t thank everyone enough for that,” said Piazza. “As a young journalist figuring the industry out, it was a tremendous confidence-booster to see so many other people in the field encouraging me to keep asking questions, and I fully plan on doing so.”
Krzyzewski and the slumping Blue Devils will look to get back in the win column when Georgia Tech visits Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday night at 9 PM ET.