In the wake of his team’s fourth upset loss of the season, as well as the fourth time Duke has incited the opposition’s fan base to storm the court this year, Mike Krzyzewski got a little bit heated. Coach K, who is as calm and mild mannered as an individual as there is outside of a game setting, reportedly traded explicatives with a rowdy Virginia fan that was hyped up on victory. It also irked Coach K that his team, which was being protected by a human chain of security guards, had to wait to get to their lockerroom as their path was blocked by students making their way to the floor.
It did not appear as if any of his players were in danger, but that didn’t mean that Coach K wouldn’t try to spin the story from “Duke loses to Virginia” to “Something has to be done about court storming!” His bait-and-switch worked, of course, as court storming has now become a topic of debate on every major sports forum while the result of the game is back page news. The funny thing about this is that nothing bad actually happened when the Virginia fans stormed the court. So what if there was some cursing between coaches and fans – does this not happen all the time at sporting events (even collegiate)?
Nobody was hurt yesterday, and the only recent injury during a court storming event came when a fan in a wheelchair decided to wheel onto the floor amongst the masses, which is something security should have never allowed in the first place. The only reason that people like Jay Bilas are on the airwaves bashing the idea of storming the court is because the sports’ most legendary coach brought the topic up, probably because he’s sick and tired of seeing so many kids cherish in his dismay (I believe the court has been stormed 28 times in Duke’s last 34 road losses).
Storming the court is a tradition of the game that shouldn’t be discarded because of the potential for a rancid interaction. Not everything in sports with a potentially negative outcome needs to be immediately stopped or banned. Adjusting the rules in the NFL to make vicious hits illegal; that I can understand because it has proven to have severe consequences on the quality of life for retired players. But preventing fans from storming the court with no outstanding incidents muddying the water? I just don’t see why that’s necessary.
Is Coach K right that opposing players could be provoked by fans if not properly protected? Sure, but coming from a man whose program produces a cheat sheet of embarrassing, personal or inappropriate chants about opposing players and encourages their students to memorize the information for every game, I’m not willing to accept that as a legitimate reason to end an enjoyable celebration routine.
Rushing the floor is a unique event that captures the essence of the college experience to a tee; it’s the culmination of the pride for your university, the pure excitement of the sport and being up close for a once-in-a-lifetime moment like a huge upset, something that has the potential to completely turn a program around. It’s the kind of memory that sticks with you for your entire life and establishes an intensely personal connection between student, student-athlete and school.
There are innumerable benefits of being a storied and consistently elite university such as Duke or Kansas. They hoard the best players, own the television ratings, gain the most notoriety and have the nicest facilities. It just looks bad for Coach K to want to put an end to one of the few things that programs like his don’t get the benefit of. You mean to tell me that college kids – and not just the fans, as I’m sure the feeling the players get when their fans flood them at center court is extremely exhilarating – shouldn’t be able to have an over-the-top and in-the-moment reaction to beating a team that they’ve been told is the best of the best their entire lives? That’s BS.
At the end of the day, I must admit that Coach K was right. Not enough was done to prevent a potentially dangerous court storming. He could have done a much better job of preparing his team to take away any motive for those Virginia fans to rush the floor by winning the game.
And if he and his team did their best and still didn’t get the job done, wouldn’t those Virginia fans have a pretty darn good reason to be on that court?