Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said it was “the right decision” to postpone Wednesday night’s Duke-UNC game at Chapel Hill, while North Carolina coach Roy Williams said “it was very disappointing… but I understand that safety issues come first.”
With the teams now set to face off Thursday, Feb. 20 (WRAL/ESPN) at 9 p.m. — again at UNC — both are looking at a difficult stretch of games next week.
Wednesday marked the first time that the rivalry game had to be rescheduled.
“It was a smart thing to do,” Krzyzewski said on his SiriusXM satellite radio show “Basketball and Beyond.” “Their fans were not able to get to the game. We couldn’t even get a bus here. The main route you have to take there was a parking lot. The other thing you worry about is your own players traveling to get here and get back. It was a good decision.”
Under normal circumstances, Duke’s traveling party leaves via chartered bus around 7:15 p.m. for a 9:10 p.m. game at the Smith Center.
Due to Wednesday’s weather, the team moved its departure time back to 6 p.m. Duke assistant sports information director Matt Plizga said school officials were monitoring the weather as the storm hit with full force around 1:30 p.m. and began contemplating a proper departure time.
A clue as to how bad things were, Plizga said, was when the company that provides Duke’s pre-game catered meal had yet to arrive to feed the team. That crew left Chapel Hill at 1:30 p.m. and eventually arrived at Duke around 5 p.m.
More importantly, the bus trying to get to campus to take the team to Chapel Hill hadn’t arrived by 5 p.m. as it was delayed on roads that were snow covered and filled with cars people had either abandoned or were trying to drive home.
There was no indication the bus would be there by 6 p.m.
“As it progressed it became increasingly obvious we weren’t going to be able to get there,” Plizga said.
Gov. Pat McCrory urged people to stay off the roads and “not put their stupid hats on” by venturing out into harm’s way. UNC told its fans to stay home.
“The roads down here were like parking lots,” Krzyzewski said. “Gov. McCrory put out a state of emergency and said lets not be dumb about this. Don’t put your dumb hats on. Stay in.”
Krzyzewski and Williams, as well as UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham and Duke athletics director Kevin White, were all in communication with each other Wednesday afternoon.
They consulted with the ACC office and once it was clear that Duke’s team couldn’t safely make the journey the decision was made to postpone.
“The ACC ultimately makes that decision which they should,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s not up to coaches and ADs. The conference office makes decisions on postponements and makeup dates to make sure it’s done in an equitable way. Obviously you are ready to play that game. You want to play that game. They do, too. But it was the right decision.”
Because many season-ticket holders were unable to get to the Smith Center, UNC officials were prepared to open the doors to students and to let fans sit wherever they wanted, which would have made for a unique atmosphere to an already-charged game. Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige said that having the lower sections filled with students “would (have) been the coolest thing ever.”
“It was very disappointing to say the least because it was a huge game for us and our fans, a great rivalry game that so many look forward to playing in, coaching in and watching,” Williams said. “But I understand that safety issues come first as they of course should. We move on and get ready for Pittsburgh, another outstanding club that is playing well.”
The Panthers are ranked 25th and are coming off a last-second loss to No. 1 Syracuse.
Feb. 20 is the only date that wouldn’t force Duke or UNC to have to play on consecutive days, making it the most obvious choice for the rescheduled game. But now both Duke and UNC face the prospect of playing four games in eight days.
UNC has Pittsburgh at home on Saturday (1 p.m., WRAL), at Florida State on Monday (7 p.m., ESPN), Duke on Thursday and home with Wake Forest on Feb. 22 (noon, WRAL).
“I don’t like playing three games in a week again,” Williams said. “But Mike’s team has to deal with that as well.”
The Blue Devils face Maryland at home on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN), at Georgia Tech on Tuesday (9 p.m., WRAL), at UNC on Feb. 20 and home with No. 1 Syracuse (7 p.m., ESPN).
“It’s what you have to do,” Krzyzewski said. “There was no other place to play the game.”
After the game was officially postponed at 5:40 p.m., Williams spoke to the hundreds of students who had already gathered near the Smith Center to claim the best seats.
“I hope the people who made plans to come to the game last evening will be able to come next week,” Williams said Thursday. “People made a tremendous effort to get to the game last night and I want to thank them for that and I hope they will be in the building on the 20th.”