Legendary Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Tuesday to discuss numerous topics, including Jahlil Okafor’s recent two-game suspension. The former Blue Devil was involved in a pair of physical altercations in Boston the day before Thanksgiving.
Both fights were caught on film.
“I talk to him a lot and I talked to him about this,” Krzyzewski said in-studio on Gio and Jones. “Jah is as good a kid as you’ll (find). He’s a loving, good kid. It shows that crap can happen to anybody, especially if you put yourself (in certain situations). I’m Catholic, my wife’s Baptist. We used to learn about Catholic religion and people would say, ‘You’re not supposed to sin.’ Well, every religion says that. What they used to tell us is, ‘Don’t put yourself in the occasion to sin.’ That’s what happens with a lot of these guys. They put themselves in the occasion of getting into trouble – and sometimes trouble’s around that. You may not get into trouble, but all of a sudden, boom. Jah has to stay away from that, and he knows that. He will. I told him to quit apologizing. You’re a great kid, just move on. And he accepts that responsibility. I don’t know if you’ve ever had him on, but he’s as good a kid as I’ve had an opportunity to coach.”
While most people were surprised, if not stunned, that Okafor was involved in these altercations, Krzyzewski wasn’t – not because Okafor is a bad person, but because he knows bad things can happen to good people.
“I’ve been a teacher for 41 years,” Krzyzewski said. “I know that in my own program, we recruit great kids all the time. We look at three things: talent, academics and character – all same level. Good kids can flunk an exam, can miss something. In college, they might drink too much. It’s not like they’re not a normal student, so anything can happen. So you want to prevent things from happening. We knew going into Philadelphia that they did not have veterans. That worried us. (We) loved the city, the people. But the organization, there wasn’t those two or three veterans on the team who understood what it was like to be on the road. Being an NBA player, it’s lonely – especially at 19. You don’t go to class anymore. You’re a pro athlete who has to perform. You have to learn how to do that. Where’s the book on that? The book is with veterans and you have to learn from that. So I think that will be one of the things that I would think would happen there.”
Okafor is averaging 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for the 76ers (1-21).