Why it’s important for Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski to have knee replacement surgery right now

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski directs his team as they play Troy in the NCAA tournament in March.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski directs his team as they play Troy in the NCAA tournament in March. cliddy@newsobserver.com

The summer plan appeared perfect for Duke to put together another basketball team capable of challenging for a national championship.

After losing eight players from last season and adding six freshmen, the Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski was consistently available for the team since his USA Basketball duties ended after 11 years as its coach.

The team was scheduled to take a trip to the Dominican Republic this month since NCAA rules allow a summer foreign trip and up to 10 practices in preparation to give the young team extra work.

That plan went awry this week with the worsening discomfort Krzyzewski felt in his right knee.

After consultation with doctors, Krzyzewski opted for surgery now rather than risk missing regular-season games. He missed seven games in January, when he had lower back surgery to remove a fragment of a herniated disc.

So Krzyzewski, 70, will undergo knee replacement surgery this week at Duke University Medical Center, his sixth surgery since April 2016.

Duke also cancelled its Domincan Republic trip, scheduled for Aug. 17-24, and the two exhibition games it was supposed to play there. Associate head coach Jeff Capel stepped in for Krzyzewski last season, but the team wouldn’t benefit from its trip to the Dominican Republic unless the entire team — including Krzyzewski — took part.

“While it’s disappointing that we aren’t able to make the Dominican Republic trip, this is a positive development for both our team and myself because it will allow us to be at full strength for the start of practice this fall,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “After three consecutive days of working with the team, it became clear that the condition of my knee wouldn’t be sustainable through next season. The best course of action is to correct the problem now rather than later, when our team would be more profoundly impacted.”

Dr. Michael P. Bolognesi, a Duke joint replacement orthopaedic surgeon who successfully replaced Krzyzewski’s left knee in April 2016, will perform this weekend’s surgery.

Depending upon his recovery, he could be home three days after the procedure. He would then begin a physical rehabilitation routine.

In the spring and summer of 2016, Krzyzewski had two ankle surgeries plus a hernia procedure in addition to his knee replacement. That didn’t stop him from coaching the Olympic team in July and August on its run to the gold medal at the Rio Olympics.

In preparation for its planned trip to the Dominican Republic, the Blue Devils held one practice last month and resumed their practices on Monday. Now that the trip is off, the rest of the practices have been canceled in accordance with NCAA rules.

Duke’s second summer school session ended on Thursday so the players are now allowed to return home. Duke’s fall semester classes begin on Aug. 28.

If Krzyzewski’s rehabilitation is not far enough along for him to supervise the team’s activities then, Capel would handle those duties as the team’s associate head coach.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC