Duke has suspended Grayson Allen indefinitely. That had to happen. Because too much had happened. He has tripped opponents three times in nine months. He has said he’s sorry. He said it again last night, just after he’d tripped an Elon player.
He should have been suspended by Duke last season and was not. After Allen Incident No. 3, Mike Krzyzewski — who did call Allen’s act “unacceptable” and made him apologize to the player he’d tripped — seemed to dig in his heels by saying: “I handle things the way I handle them. 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.”
Many — if not most, if not all — read this as yet another example of Coach K arrogance/Duke arrogance, which can be palpable. The same guy who upbraided Oregon’s Dillon Brooks for celebrating an NCAA tournament victory over Duke with what the great coach deemed too much enthusiasm hadn’t yet suspended a Duke player who’d become a menace to opponents. When he gets on his high horse, the second-best coach in the history of college basketball renders himself an easy target.
But here I offer a word or two of sympathy for the chief Blue Devil: That part about him knowing Grayson Allen better than anyone else? He’s right. And he surely knows his All-American has a major problem — anger management, juvenile petulance, use whatever label you want. That’s why Allen had to sit, why he will sit: Not to satisfy those of us on the periphery but to do what’s best for Grayson Allen.
If you saw Allen’s impassioned reaction after Trip No. 3, you might have thought he was mad at the world for something he’d done. (He did appear to be yelling at the referee who’d assessed a technical foul.) I interpreted it — and I don’t know Allen at all — as someone going through the stages of wrestling with the awful reality of messing up in public the same way he’d messed before: First anger at everyone else, then utter self-loathing.
Nothing good was going to happen for Allen if he’d played in Duke’s next game. He needs professional help. (As smart as he is, Coach K isn’t a licensed psychiatrist.) About this, there could be no circling-of-Duke-wagons, none of the boilerplate “We’re-Duke-and-everyone-else-is-just-jealous” response. There could be only grave concern and follow-through care for a conspicuously troubled player.
A lot of people hate Duke. I get that. (I’ve been accused of being among that number, though I’m not. I have great respect for that program and especially that coach.) A lot of people will say that if Allen had been playing for any other program and especially any other coach, the ACC would have suspended him in February when Krzyzewski did not. What can I say? Rank sometimes does have its privileges.
But this has gone beyond punishment, although punishment is deserved. Grayson Allen could not benefit from being shielded any longer. If he cannot control himself on the court — and it’s clear he cannot — he had to step away from the court for a week, for a month, for however long it takes. This is no longer about basketball. It’s not even about Duke. This is about one young man.