May 5, 2003 DURHAM Somewhere in coach Mike Krzyzewski's secret lair, beyond the elevator with the fingerprint-only access button, is the rug where he sweeps almost every unpleasant thing that happens to his basketball players at Duke. The latest lump under that rug is 6-4 shooting guard J.J. Redick, who was questioned by campus police last month with four other students outside a dormitory room from which the reek of marijuana was so strong that another resident smelled it seeping from under the door and called for help.
According to the report filed by campus police, who didn't press charges and referred the case to the Office of the Dean of Students, all five students were lined against a wall and searched. While no marijuana was found, the report said the students had red, glossy eyes and a strong smell of marijuana about their person. A homemade bong was found inside the room, along with traces of what police said looked to be marijuana.
In late April, Redick was cleared of wrongdoing by the school, which believed his explanation of that night that he had been in the wrong room at the wrong time, and that whatever his friends had been doing, he hadn't partook of the marijuana. Further, Redick told school officials, he was about to leave the room before police arrived but had stuck around to check his campus e-mail account.
Take it from us at the Sports Journal, Redick very easily could have been telling the truth. This is a kid who has shown remarkable maturity on the court and in the locker room, and he was probably the most natural leader on the team last season despite being a freshman. His father is a former substance-abuse counselor who always has urged his children to beware of alcohol and drugs. Another of the five students questioned that night claimed possession of the homemade bong that was found in the room. Again and read this sentence several times, please the Sports Journal is not saying Redick is guilty.
But there is a trend here: Duke basketball players run into trouble, and the trouble generally goes away, or at least has no impact on their athletic endeavors.
Other Incidents: No Games Missed
A number of current and recent Duke basketball players have gotten into trouble with the law or the NCAA, and for the most part nothing has happened to them as far as their basketball participation is concerned. Nothing that the public would know about, anyway.
In this group of ugly incidents swept under Krzyzewski's rug, Redick stands out as the most innocent player of them all. He was, after all, cleared by the school in a case with little physical evidence and no impartial eyewitnesses, only the stories told by the five students in that dormitory room. Who smoked? Who didn't? Who knows?
As for the other Duke players who have made headlines for the wrong reasons, taken on a case-by-case basis, it's not such an ugly list. In most cases charges were dropped, if they were ever filed at all. In two incidents, the act or the facts about the act didn't happen until the player had used up his eligibility. As a group, though, it exudes ooze and makes Krzyzewski look something less than tough.
Chris Duhon? Fined $90 and ordered to do 10 hours of community service for underage drinking in January 2001. Games missed at Duke? Zero.
Casey Sanders? Ordered to undergo a domestic violence assessment by a campus doctor and placed on something similar to six months probation in exchange for having charges of assaulting his girlfriend dropped. The woman accused the 6-11 Sanders of grabbing her arm and throwing her against a wall at her Carrboro home. Games missed at Duke? Zero.
Shelden Williams? Named on a rape complaint while a high school senior. Although charges were never filed and the case eventually was dropped, Williams was suspended from his high school, kicked off his basketball team and ruled ineligible for the McDonald's All-America Game for violating curfew during the trip to Ohio in which the rape was alleged. All along, the accuser refused to withdraw her accusation, although she also refused to participate in the prosecution. Games missed at Duke? Zero.
Sometimes, Too Late For Debate
The only time Krzyzewski got tough publicly, at least with a potentially wayward player in recent years was with little-used walk-on Reggie Love, who was suspended from the team for the 2002 ACC Tournament after it was discovered he had been charged with underage drinking and driving while impaired several months earlier.
Love later was invited not to return to the team after embarrassing internet photos of one of his forays into Chapel Hill circulated. Think of an X-rated version of the Larry Eustachy incident at Iowa State, except Love was unable to smile for the camera.
Throw in the eligibility-endangering actions of Corey Maggette and some unexpected hooliganism from Matt Christensen, mix in heaping doses of accompanying silence from Duke, and you've got a picture that isn't pretty.
According to the federal investigation into corrupt AAU coach Myron Piggie, Maggette accepted more than $2,000 from Piggie while in high school, which would have made him ineligible to play his one season at Duke in 1998-99. Of course, those charges didn't come to light until after Maggette left for the NBA.
While Duke has maintained it couldn't possibly have known if Maggette took money from Piggie, and that may be true, it's also true that there was no shortage of people in college basketball who knew at the time that Piggie was a very shady character who spent a lot of time with Maggette. In the end, the episode represented one more example of the Blue Devils encountering a fresh pile of you-know-what in their living room and looking the other way.
The NCAA still hasn't ruled on the Maggette case, although it could vacate Duke's runner-up finish in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. From Duke, silence. Apparently, this story can't go away fast enough for Krzyzewski.
Christensen, a fiery but clean role player throughout his Duke career, chased down official Bruce Benedict after the Blue Devils lost to Indiana in the 2002 NCAA Tournament and wouldn't let him leave the court.
Because Christensen was a senior and finished with his eligibility, there wasn't much for the NCAA to do but order him to write Benedict a letter of apology, which Christensen did, and withhold from Duke the reimbursement for Christensen's per diem during that weekend of games. Duke's official stance? Silence.
The only harsh statement made about Christensen's out-of-character behavior was from the chairman of the NCAA basketball committee, who happened to be Lee Fowler from N.C. State. Said Fowler, the Wolfpack's athletic director: Mr. Christensen's behavior seriously violated the principle of good sporting behavior that is expected of participants in intercollegiate athletics. We want to emphasize to everyone, particularly young people, that this type of behavior is completely unacceptable.
There has been a lot of that going on at Duke recently, behavior that is completely unacceptable, but you wouldn't know it from looking out on the floor, where players continue to play in games while their off-court issues bubble, fizzle and finally get swept under the rug in Krzyzewski's office.