DURHAM -- Duke University head men's basketball coach Michael Krzyzewski's 30-year coaching reign effectively ended on Tuesday, say multiple sources close to the program. The Plumlee Family Syndicate, LLC, now has full operational control of the basketball program in respect to every decision from making the season schedule to managing individual players' playing times to selecting targets for future recruiting, according to an unnamed source on the basketball staff.
Krzyzewski will remain as figurehead, losing neither his position nor pay, just his power, the insiders say.
The shift involved no action on the part of the Duke University athletic administration or the university as a whole. Neither Duke Athletic Director Kevin M. White nor University President Richard H. Brodhead knew of this seismic shift in the university's premier athletic program at the time of this article's first press run.
"What happened here is unprecedented in college athletics," said John Feinstein, who is a sports writer, sports analyst and a Duke graduate with connections inside the Duke basketball program.
"This occurred purely as a matter within the basketball program -- and even then it was not a revolt of the coaching staff or the players, but a legally mandated transfer of power within the program. It was something that could only happen in a purely democratic organization like a Krzyzewski-led basketball team," said Feinstein.
Every decision on the Blue Devil team, from starting lineups to last-second play calls, has always been made by straight one-person, one-vote by the team, with Krzyzewski only voting to break ties, according to Feinstein. "It is the same system he used with the Olympic team," said Feinstein, "except with Team USA, of course, K (Krzyzewski) doesn't break the ties, (former Duke player Carlos) Boozer does that."
How this happened, Feinstein says, is clear: Krzyzewski was caught off guard in what he thought was a recruiting coup of the first order. Even as a master manager, some rivals say manipulator, of people, Krzyzewski never foresaw the full ramification of one recent recruiting decision. Many outsiders thought the tipping point occurred with the commitment to Duke of Marshall Plumlee, the younger brother of two current players, rising-junior Miles Plumlee and rising-sophomore Mason Plumlee -- but Feinstein said not.
The key event was the signing of a written contract made between Krzyzewski and Perky Plumlee, the father of Miles, Mason and Marshall, before the eldest son, Miles, would commit to Duke. According to Feinstein, the contract guaranteed scholarship offers to "any Division-I-eligible Plumlee family member" -- which is the clause that got Krzyzewski commitments from Mason and Marshall -- as he expected -- but also brought commitments to five other family members.
These include the Plumlee brothers’ father, Perky, their mother, Leslie, their uncle, Chad Schultz, another uncle, William Schultz, and their grandfather, Albert Schultz.
After gaining a majority voting bloc on the Duke University men's basketball team, the Plumlee family immediately took full control. Perky spoke frankly earlier this week about what the family's overall commitment means for Duke. "It means all Plumlees, all the time," said Perky.
Incredibly, it is not clear, college basketball analysts say, that the Blue Devils will not actually be better over the next several years with the little-used Plumlees and their kin dominating the Blue Devil roster than the past season's national championship team.
Perky, besides being a lawyer, played basketball at Tennessee Tech. Uncle Chad played basketball at Wisconsin-Oshkosh from 1983-1986. Uncle William played basketball at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the NAIA national runner-up team for the 1971-1972 season. And Grandfather Albert played basketball at Michigan Tech in 1944 and the U.S. Air Force Service Team in 1945.
Mother Leslie played basketball at Purdue, and, analysts noted, is a trained pharmacist.
It is unclear whether the youngest Plumlee sibling, sister Madeline, has any interest in basketball, but if she does, she will also be guaranteed a spot on the men’s roster.
Gary D. Gaddy’s favorite niece (this week anyway), who used to be someone who spit after saying the name of Tyler Hansbrough, recently wrote of herself: "Anyone who knows me will tell you that I bleed Carolina Blue."
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday July 30, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy