Mike Krzyzewski dismissed his first student-athlete in 35 years as Duke’s head coach on Thursday, when the university announced through a press release that junior Rasheed Sulaimon was no longer a member of the Blue Devils basketball program.
“His talent does not outweigh his issues,” a source within Duke’s basketball program told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on Thursday.
“It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner,” noted Krzyzewski in his brief statement on Thursday. “After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program.”
ESPN’s source answered the ever-so critical coaching axiom of all—is he better than his problems?
In recruiting, it’s the most delicate evaluation an assistant coach can determine throughout a college’s teenage courtship process.
But it took three and a half decades for Coach K to dismiss his first player because of one of two reasons. Either Mike Krzyzewski’s recruits play better than their problems or he doesn’t bring players with problems into his program.
Somewhere, a hot-seat, renegade, or morally-averse coach looking to win fast and move, while invoking a nothing-to-see-here-move-along governing mantra, will scholarship the once heralded Texas high school recruit—albeit after Sulaimon, per mid-season NCAA transfer rules, weathers the year-and-a-half that he must refrain from competition.
College students, not just athletes, rarely progress through school free of hang-up or hitch. Remarkably, until Thursday, Duke’s players have.
The Blue Devils are loved or hated depending on one’s emotional response to consistency and perfection. They don’t win because they are better than their problems. They win because they don’t have any, at least big ones.
A single blemished retention rate is one part of why Duke is Duke—the most divisive team in college basketball.
On Saturday, 4th-ranked Duke takes on 2nd-ranked Virginia in a preview of what could be the National Championship game. The Blue Devils will be without Sulaimon, once a Top 50 recruit nationally, who has seen his minutes and offensive production dwindle each season since arriving at Duke in 2012.
After an NCAA tournament victory over Duke in 1997, the former University of Virginia Head Coach Pete Gillen—then leading Providence’s program—jokingly and fittingly compared the Blue Devils basketball program to a classic television program.
“Certainly Duke is Duke. They’re on TV more than Leave it to Beaver … reruns.”
Duke basketball certainly has been more Leave it to Beaver than any other college basketball program in NCAA history.
Rasheed Sulaimon is Mike Krzyzewski’s first Eddie Haskell.