Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski runs practice day after medical scare at Wake Forest

lkeeley@newsobserver.comMarch 6, 2014 

Thursday afternoon, the day after a lightheaded and dizzy spell brought him to a knee and prevented him from meeting with the media following the conclusion of Wednesday’s game at Wake Forest, Mike Krzyzewski was back at it, running practice. Krzyzewski, 67, was tired after spending a few hours after the loss at Duke Hospital, undergoing tests to make sure there wasn’t a more serious health concern.

USA basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, who has worked with Krzyzewski since 2005, talked to his good friend early Thursday afternoon.

“We’re all aware of our ages and our circumstances,” Colangelo, 74, said. “Right now, he is a little tired, I know that for sure. He’ll take the necessary precautions, I’m sure. Timing is everything (in) life, and he feels he has a lot to get done here before the season is over.

“Mike is who he is, in terms of his intensity, in terms of his style, his m.o., and it would be hard to change all of that. But he’s the one who knows his body, his health, and he’s the one who has to make all those decisions, like we each have to in terms of what we can do and what we choose to do.”

Krzyzewski had not been sick leading up to the game, and his assistants didn’t notice anything was wrong until a timeout early in the second half. A bout of lightheadedness brought Krzyzewski to a knee in the huddle, and head trainer Jose Fonseca immediately rushed to attend to him.

It was a concerning enough scene that Duke athletic director Kevin White, who was seated a few rows behind the bench, stood up and inquired about what was transpiring. Krzyzewski, more subdued that normal – especially during the 17-0 Wake run that won the game – finished the game on the sideline, but the lightheadedness persisted. The Duke medical staff recommended that he skip his postgame media obligations. Assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski spoke in Krzyzewski’s place. Krzyzewski was able to walk out of Joel Coliseum under his own power.

“Just the emotion of the game, obviously we weren’t playing as well as we needed, and there’s a great emotional investment into the game. Maybe the emotion got the better of him,” Wojciechowski said. “Again, we expect a full recovery.”

It’s been an emotionally taxing season for Krzyzewski. His older brother’s unexpected death on Dec. 26 brought him to tears during the national anthem before Duke’s game on Dec. 28. He missed a practice to attend Bill Krzyzewski’s funeral in Chicago, and Duke came out flat and was beaten by a short-handed Notre Dame team on Jan. 4. After another perplexing loss, at Clemson, Krzyzewski took full responsibility for his team’s struggles in the next postgame press conference, saying he wasn’t as engaged as he should have been in the wake of his brother’s death.

Krzyzewski’s notable medical history dates back to the 1994-95 season, when he missed the final 19 games of the season after suffering from exhaustion and undergoing back surgery. In his absence, the Blue Devils went 4-15 under assistant Pete Gaudet. On April 4, 1999, Krzyzewski, then 52, had his left hip replaced just six days after losing to Connecticut in the national championship game. He had been slowed by the pain in his hip from osteoarthritis all season, and he said afterward that it affected his ability to coach. Three years later, on March 27, 2002, Krzyzewski had his right hip replaced.

Wednesday night wasn’t Krzyzewski’s first bout with lightheadedness – a similar experience in Feb. 2005 left him collapsed on the floor in Cameron Indoor Stadium during a timeout against Georgia Tech. Krzyzewski, then 57, called it a “minor” incident and joked that his wife and daughters would let him hear it after the game. He also said then that he gets lightheaded “a lot,” but Duke’s senior administrator for basketball, Mike Cragg, said those episodes don’t happen often anymore.

Colangelo had his own health scare recently, undergoing a procedure last Thursday to inset some stents and alleviate some blockage, he said. Krzyzewski had called to check on him, so Colangelo did the same one week later.

“So today, I told him, ‘Look, I know we’re close, but you don’t have to follow everything I do,’ Colangelo said, joking. “Then I found out that his situation is a lot different than what I had; that’s the great news.”

Krzyzewski will be 69 by the time the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro begin. Colangelo said there was no age-related discussion or hesitation to bring Krzyzewski back.

“Only this, that he has always been aware of the fact that there are variables, always, in any kind of arrangement, and health is one of them,” Colangelo said. “All things being OK, all of us are committed to one another and to the chore at hand and in the future. The only thing that would really disrupt that would be health. But why discuss that possibility until you have to?”

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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