Mike Krzyzewski has had enough of just watching tape and parts of practice.
He’s finally healthy enough to coach his Duke Blue Devils again after a month off recovering from back surgery.
Krzyzewski will make his return when Duke plays Pittsburgh on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“I’m going to be back on the sidelines,” Krzyzewski said during his SiriusXM radio show, which aired Thursday night.
The 69-year-old Krzyzewski had surgery on Jan. 6 to remove the fragment of a herniated disk in his lower back. Associate head coach Jeff Capel coached the No. 21 Blue Devils (17-5, 5-4 ACC) for the last seven games while Krzyzewski recovered, leading Duke to a 4-3 record.
“I have to commend my staff for the great, great job they have done,” Krzyzewski said. “With me being gone, Jeff Capel took over, and he did a marvelous job, just a tremendous job.”
The expected recovery time was up to four weeks and that’s exactly how long Krzyzewski was out. Dr. Allan Friedman, the Duke Hospital neurosurgeon who performed the surgery, gave Krzyzewski clearance to return for Saturday’s game.
Friedman had Krzyzewski on a strict recovery regimen that allowed him limited time over the last two weeks to attend parts of Duke’s practice.
“Basically I’ve been doing stuff every day really with our program,” Krzyzewski said, “not as much with the physical nature but with preparation and some of the things you just have to do in running a big-time program.”
Krzyzewski said he attended segments of practice and, when he began feeling tired, he would head to a conference room to watch a video feed of the team working.
Duke’s coaches came to Krzyzewski’s house after practices to discuss the team and prepare for upcoming games.
“We would discuss it and preparation for next game and next practice,” Krzyzewski said. “I got a chance to watch a lot of tape. I felt like I was one of the assistants. I was the lead scout watching the next team we were going to play.”
Things weren’t all smooth for Capel and the Blue Devils in Krzyzewski’s absence. Duke lost back-to-back road games to ranked teams Florida State and Louisville. Those games were played without senior forward Amile Jefferson, who was out with a bone bruise in his foot.
After a 70-58 win over Miami in the game Jefferson returned, the Blue Devils squandered two leads in losing 84-82 at home to N.C. State on Jan. 23.
The next night, ESPN reported, Krzyzewski held a team meeting at his house where he temporarily banned the team from using its locker room at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He also forbid them from wearing Duke gear in public.
Duke responded with road wins over Wake Forest, 85-83 last Saturday, and Notre Dame, 84-74, last Monday.
“I’m really proud of my staff and proud of my team,” Krzyzewski said. “This has been a time for me to reflect, too, about our team. Our season has been one of really a lot of adapting and adjustments because of all the injuries.
“We’ve never had a season, I’m not sure, many teams have ever had a season like ours where eight of our 11 guys have been injured. Not just the games they’ve missed but the practice time, the months of practice time together. Overall they’ve handled that well and we are trying to handle it even better now.
“We still have guys who are playing hurt and missing practice, but at least they are there.”
Krzyzewski returns as Duke starts the second half of its ACC schedule. The Blue Devils have three consecutive upcoming home games: Pittsburgh on Saturday, North Carolina on Thursday and Clemson on Feb. 11.