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Now that Grayson Allen is sitting, Coach K needs to keep him there awhile

Pat Forde
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Grayson Allen needs to sit, and now he will. And while he’s sitting, he may well need counseling.

Something is not right with the young man when he plays basketball, similar to the way something is not right when Draymond Green is kicking basketball opponents, Ndamukong Suh is stomping opposing football players and Luis Suarez is biting people on the soccer pitch.

The Duke guard is a dirty player. Not misunderstood. Not unfairly villainized. Dirty.

He’s intentionally tripped three players in his past 25 games played, from last February through Wednesday night. He’s expressed remorse for his actions – and then repeated the same punk behavior.

At the risk of playing armchair psychologist, there appears to be a competitive anger problem or an impulse control problem or both. Whatever is going on, playing more basketball isn’t going to address the issues.

Mike Krzyzewski has already tried that. He let Allen play through his past transgressions, tripping Louisville’s Ray Spalding and Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes last year. That didn’t work, because there was Allen sticking the leg out yet again Wednesday night and tripping Elon’s Steven Santa Ana, then having a legitimately unhinged meltdown on the bench when he was called for a technical foul.

That’s a guy who needs some time away from the playing floor. And some help.

Wednesday night, in the fresh aftermath of the latest incident, Mike Krzyzewski was in High and Mighty Mike Mode.

“I handle things the way I handle them,” Krzyzewski said postgame. “I think I’ve handled this correctly, and moving forward, I will continue to handle it correctly. I don’t need to satisfy what other people think I should do. I’m a teacher and a coach, and I’m responsible for that kid. I know him better than anybody, and so to think that it’s the last thing that’s said about this to him is wrong.

“Obviously, we will do more – doesn’t mean that you have to see it or anybody else has to see it – but what he did tonight was right. That’s what people do. They say they’re sorry; they accept responsibility.”

Given time to take a breath, review the play and think it over, Krzyzewski did the right thing Thursday morning. He suspended his serial tripper.

But now it’s time to do more, and Duke is in the process of that. This is a program that has taken great pride in doing things The Right Way, largely with success (though not always). But great pride goeth before the fall, and one of the existing threats to truly doing things The Right Way is a resistance to admitting when you’re doing things The Wrong Way.

Image-obsessed college sports programs have gotten themselves into plenty of trouble over the years by ignoring their flaws and burying their problems. Penn State’s institutional denial of the Jerry Sandusky horror was an extreme example, but Penn State football and Duke basketball have a similarly high opinion of themselves.

This, clearly, is a much more mundane situation. But handling it correctly requires Krzyzewski to look at it objectively and say that he and the school have failed as much as Allen has failed. Whatever they’ve done in an effort to modify the junior’s behavior, it hasn’t worked.

This has gone farther than Christian Laettner’s on-court churlishness, and much farther than J.J. Redick’s goading of opposing crowds. This isn’t playing with an edge; it’s crossing a line. This is taking the Jerk Dukie Stereotype to a new low.

Unlearning this kind of impulsive in-game behavior likely will take some real time and real effort.

We tend to be cynical about college sports suspensions because we’ve seen so many of them fortuitously timed to end when the competition becomes more serious. I’d be surprised if Krzyzewski allows the schedule to dictate Allen’s return.

The next games are Atlantic Coast Conference contests, so go time is already here and theoretically Allen will miss some of those. (Duke doesn’t play again until New Year’s Eve against Virginia Tech.)

But beyond that, no coach in college basketball is more secure than Krzyzewski – he’s not coaching for his job anymore than Nick Saban is at Alabama. Probably even less.

Losing a few games without Grayson Allen isn’t going to hurt Coach K, or Duke. Sitting him down until he can get a grip on how he conducts himself while wearing a Blue Devils uniform is imperative for all parties.