Nobody knows that college basketball is big business better than Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, but the Hall of Fame coach has always sold his program as a big family.
That’s why recent accusations in a story about Boston Celtics reserve forward Semi Ojeleye, who transferred out of Duke in the middle of his sophomore year, might be damaging for Krzyzewski.
Ojeleye’s family told Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald that Krzyzewski once shouted at them during a meeting just two weeks prior to Ojeleye transferring. They also claim that Krzyzewski told Ojeleye that leaving would be a bad idea.
Ojeleye eventually landed at SMU and enjoyed a nice career there before being selected by the Celtics in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft. But the story itself, if true, certainly makes Krzyzewski look like the villain.
The family claims they met with Krzyzewski about Ojeleye’s playing time after his freshman year and that the legendary coach was very receptive. However, when nothing changed in his sophomore year and they scheduled another meeting, Krzyzewski’s tone changed.
“He shouted at me. He said, ‘Am I lying, Am I lying?’ Just like that,” Joy Ojeleye said. “My oldest son said, ‘Coach, she didn’t say you were lying, she was only asking a question.’
“I had tears streaming down my cheeks, and I said, ‘Coach, you’re way up there and I’m down here. That’s why I kneeled down and said forgive me. I didn’t say you were lying. I would never say that.’ Victor, for the first time, he felt so humiliated, so bad and ashamed I was treated like that. It’s OK.
“I just didn’t want him to feel like I was being rude to him. I just wanted to ask the question. Is there anything my son needs to do and achieve the privilege to play? Because if you never play, nobody sees your talent. And he tells me he does everything you tell him to do, so if you’re working hard behind the scenes, please, even if it’s five minutes, let him play.
“So when I sat down, he said, ‘You’re OK, you’re OK, that’s OK, that’s OK, you haven’t done anything wrong.’ And he went back and sat in his chair. I said ‘I’m sorry,’ and he said, ‘You don’t have anything to be sorry about. You’re fine.’ ”
The Celtics power forward still won’t show ill will regarding his time at Duke, but it’s pretty clear the family is upset by what transpired prior to him transferring. And it will be interesting to see if Krzyzewski has any response to the claims, given that it flies directly in the face of his outward recruiting message.