Pundit accuses Duke basketball staff of avoiding nearby program

Duke basketball (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball schedule-makers will soon need a complaints department.

A certain segment of fans and media members — particularly of the local variety — would have you believe that Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski is equal parts selfish and scared when it comes to overseeing his program’s non-conference schedule.

Sure, such insinuations arise every year. That said, they seem especially fervent and frequent in regards to Duke’s 2020-21 scheduling-in-progress.

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These gripes come from misguided haters of all things Duke basketball or, in this most recent case, a longtime Tobacco Road pundit who graduated from NC State. See, on Wednesday, 99.9FM The Fan opinion-hurler Joe Giglio chimed in with his snark-flavored beef:

“Duke is putting together an early-season basketball tournament to promote social-justice activism. Good idea. One of the teams who will be invited to the event is an HBCU. Also a good idea. But you know what would be a great idea? For Duke to include NC Central.”

Granted, Giglio refrained from openly chastising Krzyzewski and his cohorts for having the audacity to invite a program that 1) has ties to the Blue Devils and 2) just so happens to be coming off a 4-29 season:

“Howard, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, will be in the Duke event. The Bison are coached by a former Duke player in Kenny Blakeney. And they have a five-star freshman in Makur Maker. So that makes sense. I’m not trying to deprive Blakeney or his team of a shot in the spotlight.”

So then what was Giglio trying to accomplish by bringing up what unbiased minds would view as a non-issue? Well, judging from the rest of his brief sermon, the underlying purpose was to spread a belief that Duke either is afraid of losing to an HBCU who’s made the NCAA Tournament three of the past four years or is deliberately ignoring a responsibility to help others in its community:

“Rather, I’d like to see NCCU get [its shot in the spotlight]. The only thing LeVelle Moton has done wrong at his alma mater is winning too much. Duke hasn’t scheduled the Eagles since 2007. It’s time to forgive Moton for being good. And it’s time for the Blue Devils to be more inclusive of their Durham neighbors.”

Seriously? Giglio comes across as casting unfair aspersions on the Blue Devils without considering the possibility of other factors being at play. Heck, looking back at what Moton himself said to the media leading up to Selection Sunday in 2019, maybe Coach K is just being nice by simply honoring the stated wishes of his coaching peer:

“Some coaches will say, ‘We’ll take on anyone. We’ll be ready.’ But I don’t want any part of playing Duke. Us playing against Zion [Williamson] would be like my 6-year-old son playing against me.”

Why not cry foul like this about Duke basketball’s nearby ACC counterparts?

It seems Giglio should also point out that the closest Division I HBCU school to his own alma mater is, you guessed it, NC Central. Yet guess what? After hosting the Eagles five times from 2008 to 2013, the Wolfpack hasn’t scheduled a LeVelle Moton squad ever since.

Could the explanation for this be that NC Central won on NC State’s home floor the last time they got together? Hmm. Some folks might want to know what’s up with that. Of course, that would require someone like Giglio to stop harping on what so-called evils Duke is up to nowadays just long enough to pose such a question to the coaching staff in Raleigh.

Finally, another related question comes to mind: what is North Carolina’s excuse for playing NC Central only twice since the HBCU entered the Division I ranks? All of the 10 miles between those campuses must just be an unreasonable obstacle to overcome on a regular basis. Yup, because of that extreme distance, let’s just give the Tar Heels a free pass on this matter as well.

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