Rushing the court seems like it’s a daily occurrence in college basketball this season and Duke is no stranger, with four losses and four court stormings this year.
Following Duke’s 73-68 loss to Virginia on Thursday night, the Cavaliers’ student section rushed onto the court as soon as the final buzzer rang, giving neither team ample time to prepare for the masses that flocked to the hardwood.
In his press conference, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski addressed the court storming—displeased not with the storming itself, but the lack of measures taken to protect his players and coaching staff. Krzyzewski was upset by the security, or lack thereof, around to help escort his team safely off the court, never taking away from the accomplishment of the Cavaliers.
“Just get our team off the court, and our coaching staff, before students come on,” Krzyzewski said.
The two key issues—players’ and staff safety and players’ reactions—seemed to be ignored by the Virginia security, as fans were allowed to rush the court from all angles, including the Duke bench’s side.
Krzyzewski said that he had no problem with the court being rushed, but he noted his team had little protection from a large group of excited college students sprinting through and past them.
There also is another variable in the court-storming safety equation—the reaction of Duke players. It’s potentially volatile for the players to be in that situation following an unexpected road loss in which emotions were running high.
“If they run at us, it’s fair game. We’re just protecting ourselves,” senior Mason Plumlee said.
It is not so much the fact that a fan could bump or come close to beating up the 6-foot-10 Plumlee, but it is his reaction that could be costly.
“Just put yourself in the position of one of our players or coaches,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m not saying any fan did this, but the potential is there all the time for a fan to just go up to you and just say, ‘Coach, you’re a…’ or push you or hit you.”
Plumlee also addressed this scary uncertainty.
“You don’t know what’s gonna happen,” Plumlee said. “Guys shouldn’t be defenseless. Half these people are drunk, you don’t know what’s gonna happen.”
The players and coaches never took away from Virginia’s win or their fans’ right to storm the court—but the Blue Devils are court storming vets by now. They know the danger. Other teams have seen it too—last season, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams pulled his players off the floor before a loss to Florida State.
“It’s not all fun and games when people are rushing the court. Especially for the team that lost,” Krzyzewski said.