Duke University men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski announced Monday that he will take a leave of absence from the program due to an upcoming surgery on his lower back. According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Krzyzewski will coach Wednesday’s ACC game against Georgia Tech, then leave until he recovers.
“Coach K” was suffering from a herniated disc in his lower back and will undergo surgery Jan. 6 to remove a fragment of the disc. The school said in its statement that Krzyzewski’s anticipated recovery time is up to four weeks. In his place, assistant Jeff Capel will coach until Coach K returns.
It isn’t the first time Krzyzewski has taken a leave of absence from the program mid-season. In 1994-95, Krzyzewski also left the school due to complications with a back surgery.
Krzyzewski was in the midst of coaching a Blue Devils team that has a 12-2 overall record.
Since 1980, Krzyzewski has served as the Blue Devils’ head coach. He has led Duke to five NCAA Championships, 12 Final Fours, 12 ACC titles and 13 ACC Tournament championships. It isn’t only college basketball where Krzyzewski’s impact has been felt. He also was the coach of the United States men’s national basketball team, rallying the team to three gold medals (2008, 2012, 2016).
Despite White’s words, Krzyzewski told Graham Bensinger in August that he “doesn’t have plans for the future.”
Capel, Krzyzewski’s replacement, is a former player under the Hall of Fame coach. Previously, he was the head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University and also at the University of Oklahoma. Coincidentally, Capel was one of Duke’s best players when Krzyzewski last had a lengthy leave of absence.
Last season in February, Capel stepped in to coach after Krzyzewski was out due to an illness. He helped guide the Blue Devils to an 80-71 victory over Georgia Tech.