Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel said he left Mike Krzyzewski’s seat open Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium out of respect for the head coach.
Krzyzewski, 69, missed his first game of the season Saturday against Boston College. He’s expected to miss at least a month, while he recovers from a successful back surgery late last week.
“That’s his seat,” Capel said after the Blue Devils’ 93-82 win. “He’s still here. It’s not like he’s not coming back. He’s the head coach of Duke basketball, so that’s his seat.”
Capel said the coaching staff did the same last season, when Krzyzewski missed one game because of an illness.
Duke forward Jayson Tatum said before tip off he thought about his head coach. Krzyzewski called the team prior to the game to wish them well.
“It was definitely different,” Tatum said of not having Krzyzewski on the bench. “But Coach didn’t want us to think about him too much. He wanted us to focus on the game. But hopefully he’ll be back soon.”
Capel agreed. He called it an “unfortunate situation,” but said the most important thing is that Krzyzewski gets back to full strength.
“He means a lot to all of us,” Capel said. “He’s a guy that gives you confidence, because of how much he believes and because of how much he’s accomplished, and because the relationship that he has with all of us. ... He’s a guy that has this incredible ability to make you feel like you can do anything.”
Not only was this Krzyzewski’s first game missed this season, it was also Capel’s first stint as a head coach this season. Under Capel, the Blue Devils stormed out to a 19-point halftime lead. Duke senior forward Amile Jefferson injured his right foot late in the first half, and Duke was forced to go small in the second half.
Boston College took advantage of Duke’s deficiency in the front court and cut the lead to eight points late in the game. But Duke stepped up with a couple of big shots and prevailed.
“It was different. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” Capel said. “But it was exciting. And it was exciting because these are our guys. And that’s what I’m about. I’m never into me. I’m all about our guys and this moment and stepping up and doing whatever I can for our program. So we’re in this position, and we all have to step up, and I believe we all will step up.”