Duke’s Krzyzewski set for last game before surgery

DURHAM, N.C. — Duke knows that coach Mike Krzyzewski will be taking time away from the team for another surgery, but it’s unclear when guard Grayson Allen and Krzyzewski will be back in active roles with the No. 8 Blue Devils.

Krzyzewski will coach his final game Wednesday night against visiting Georgia Tech before undergoing surgery on his lower back Friday.

This just adds to what has been a saga-filled season for Duke, with injuries and Allen’s indefinite suspension for a tripping incident last month perhaps trumped by the next sabbatical for Krzyzewski.

Eighth-ranked Duke (12-2) was the Atlantic Coast Conference preseason favorite and held the No. 1 preseason national ranking.

Krzyzewski said the past three games have been disjointed for his team, but some of that might have been masked by outcomes against Tennessee State and Elon. Then the Blue Devils were exposed in an 89-75 loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday.

“It’s not that we’re selfish,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re not playing as one.”

The Blue Devils are hoping freshman center Harry Giles can make more progress. Some of that was evident against Virginia Tech, but there are issues as he comes off preseason knee surgery.

“He just has to be out there,” Krzyzewski said of Giles, who has played in three games. “He gets tired. He gets winded. He’s just not in shape yet. … He’s learning in real time.”

With all this clamor about Duke, Georgia Tech’s surprising victory against North Carolina to open ACC play is overshadowed.

First-year Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner will face a Hall of Fame coach for the second game in a row, going from Roy Williams to Krzyzewski. The Yellow Jackets didn’t look good for much of the pre-ACC schedule.

“We had, as I call it, a truth telling,” Pastner said. “(The players) were told some things they needed to hear.”

The Yellow Jackets (9-4) go for another significant conquest despite projections that they’ll finish near the bottom in the ACC.

“No one can say we can’t win any games in the ACC, now,” Pastner said. “I want us to have a mentality that we belong here. I want that winning mentality.”

Against elite teams, Pastner said the Yellow Jackets don’t need to be home run hitters but simply keep to the basics.

“If we just hit singles, stay simple and sound,” he said. “We’re going to leave it all on the floor. These young men have bought in.”

Following the Georgia Tech game, Krzyzewski is stepping away for an extended period for the first time since his absence for a large part of the 1994-95 season.

Associate head coach Jeff Capel will serve as the interim coach, beginning with Saturday afternoon’s home game against Boston College.

After Friday’s surgery to remove a fragment of a herniated disc, the anticipated recovery time for Krzyzewski is up to four weeks. The school announced in a release that after many conservative treatment options during the last month, it was determined that a surgical procedure was necessary to resolve the problem.

Krzyzewski, who turns 70 next month, is the all-time winningest Division I men’s basketball coach (1,055-323) and last summer completed his time as the U.S. national coach by directing a third gold medal-winning performance. This is his 42nd season overall, and his 37th at Duke, where he has won five national championships.

Capel, a former Duke guard, was a head coach for nine seasons combined between Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma. He has been on Duke’s staff since May 2011, filling in for Krzyzewski for a victory at Georgia Tech last season when the Hall of Fame coach was dealing with an illness.