Duke coach Krzyzewski questions playing basketball during COVID-19 pandemic

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called on college basketball to consider whether it's best to continue playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I would just like for the safety, the mental and physical health of players and staff to assess where we're at," Krzyzewski said Tuesday night.

Krzyzewski's comments came after an 83-68 loss to Illinois and one of Duke's shakiest starts in years.

The five-time championship-winning coach said that the idea for everyone to start on November 25 wasn't well-planned. The goal, according to Krzyzewski, was to get in as many games as possible.

Many players won't be able to go home and visit family for holidays, Krzyzewski said, arguing that this is a time when they should do that for their mental health.

"We're just plowing through this," he said.

The sport is largely governed by an oversight committee. "Anything that's led by committee is not agile," Krzyzewski said, adding that he's "not sure who leads college basketball."

An NCAA official said the organization does not have a response to Krzyzewski's perspective on the current state of college basketball in the pandemic. "We don't have any comment," said David Worlock, the NCAA tournament spokesman.

Krzyzewski cited the rise in COVID-19 cases as the basis of his argument.

"People are saying the next six weeks are going to be the worst," Krzyzewski said. "To me, it's already pretty bad. On the other side of it, there are these vaccines that are coming out. By the end of the month, 20 million vaccine shots will be given. By the end of January or in February, another 100 million. Should we not reassess that? See just what would be best?"

Krzyzewski recognized that his comments could be taken the wrong way because they were made shortly after a 15-point loss to Illinois, which dropped No. 10 Duke to 2-2 on the season.

"We got our butts beat," he said. "For the good of the game and the mental and physical health of players and staff, we need to constantly look at this thing. I think that's a smart thing to do."

Duke has had two games postponed so far this season, but as Krzyzewski acknowledged, what happens in December isn't as important to some as fielding a tournament in March.

"I know the NCAA is worried about the endgame," he said. "They're not as worried about the game we're playing right now."
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