Observations from Duke-St. John's

Staff writerJanuary 30, 2011 

— Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving is scheduled to have a protective boot removed from his right foot late this week, but coach Mike Krzyzewski still is downplaying the possibility that Irving will return this season.

Irving has been out since suffering an injury to his right big toe on Dec. 4 against Butler. Krzyzewski said removing the cast will merely trigger another long-term stage of Irving’s rehabilitation.

Krzyzewski said Irving is getting better and will have more tests on the toe after the boot is removed. But Duke’s biggest concern, Krzyzewski said, is what’s best for Irving’s career and not getting him back this season.

“We’re not looking for him to come back,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re looking for him to get well.”

• Sunday’s result wasn’t good for the ACC, which saw its highest-ranked team (No. 3 Duke) fall to an opponent (St. John’s) that has lost five of its nine Big East games.

Even though fans left the arena shouting the praises of the Big East, Krzyzewski downplayed the game’s significance in the rivalry between the conferences.

“It has no reflection on a conference,” Krzyzewski said. “A late January game just talks about St. John’s and Duke.”

• Steve Lavin, who has captured the imagination of St. John’s fans after leaving broadcasting to resume his coaching career, said Krzyzewski has been a mentor for him.

Early in his career, Lavin wanted to be known for defense and sent letters to Krzyzewski and Purdue coach Gene Keady seeking advice. Keady now is on the St. John’s staff as a special assistant.

Krzyzewski’s advice helped Lavin as he made the transition from interim coach to head coach at UCLA in the mid-1990s.

“It was very valuable advice,” Lavin said, “and to this day I still apply it.”

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-8942, or @kentysiac on Twitter

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