DURHAM, N.C. - Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski calls the past few months the most “trying time” he’s seen at the school, and he withheld comment on the lacrosse scandal until now because he felt it was the right thing to do.
The Hall of Fame coach has won three national championships and reached 10 Final Fours. He has been at Duke 26 years and is considered by many the face of the university.
“If you’re going to be in here for the long run, you’re going to have trying times,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday. “That’s just what happens, whether it’s a business, a family or a university if you’re in it for the long haul.”
Krzyzewski said during his annual summer meeting with reporters that he has been trying to “lend whatever guidance or insights I might have into the situation” to school officials, including president Richard Brodhead.
The case, in which three men’s lacrosse players are charged with raping a stripper an off-campus party in March, placed the school under intense scrutiny.
Earlier this month, Krzyzewski stood in the back of the room during a news conference to introduce former lacrosse assistant Kevin Cassese as the team’s interim coach. Krzyzewski said Tuesday he waited to talk about the case because, “I think it’s important for me to remember my place.”
“I am the basketball coach. I’m not the president, I’m not the athletic director and I’m not on the Board of Trustees, and don’t want to be.”
“What I’ve tried to do behind the scenes is say, ‘We’re with you. We’ll see what happens, and whatever happened if you did it, you should be punished,”’ he added. “Giving support does not mean you’re choosing sides. Giving support is what a university should do ... because we’re in the kid business.”
In April, a grand jury indicted team members Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. David Evans, a co-captain, was indicted on the same charges in May.
Mike Pressler, who spent 16 seasons as Duke’s lacrosse coach, resigned in April. Krzyzewski said he and his wife, Mickie, welcomed the Pressler family to their home and took them to dinner as a show of support.
“I don’t know what Mike Pressler did wrong in this case,” he said. “Whether he’s judged on a whole other thing, that’s another matter. He’s a good man.”
“It’s on the record: Anytime I’d been aware of something, I took care of it,” Pressler told the magazine in a story appearing on newsstands Wednesday. “But the administration felt that wasn’t going to be the case. For me to buck that would not be in the best interest of those 47 kids and all the alumni. Take a bullet? I’d do it again.”
Krzyzewski added: “A year ago he was playing for the national championship and almost won it. You have to have empathy for people in those situations.”
Pressler said he hoped people would remember more than just the scandal when recalling his time at Duke.
“I’m certainly not proud of what happened on March 13,” he said. “But in the end you’re not judged by one game or one season. You’re judged by the body of your work. And in the end I think our body of work has been very positive for a lot of people.”
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