The last time the NCAA tournament visited Greenville, in 2002, Duke was one of the teams playing there. Mike Krzyzewski refused to answer questions about the Confederate flag, which at that point still flew on the capital grounds in Columbia and would, shortly, ensure that the tournament didn’t return for 15 years thanks to an NCAA boycott.
Basketball returns Friday for a combination of reasons – the flag came down in the summer of 2015, less than a year before North Carolina enacted House Bill 2 and got this weekend’s basketball moved from Greensboro to Greenville – and this time, while Krzyzewski again “didn’t want to get political,” he couldn’t help it.
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“I don’t want to take away from the great people of South Carolina and the people of Greenville,” Krzyzewski said Thursday. “They have the right to host it whether our state is smart enough to have it. It shouldn’t be a contest of one another. South Carolina is known for great basketball and this is a great town. So we feel really good about being here. It would be nice if our state got as smart and would also host not just basketball tournaments but concerts and NCAA events.
“But maybe we’ll get there in the next century, I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Duke is sharing the Bon Secours Wellness Center with North Carolina, whose coach, Roy Williams has been even more outspoken in his criticism of HB2, which restricts the ability of cities and counties to pass antidiscrimination laws and ordinances.
When North Carolina played in Greensboro earlier this season – its only game in Greensboro this season, as it turns out – Williams referred to HB2 as “that stupid rule.” Thursday, he called the situation “very, very sad.”
“If I can’t play close to home I say give me the warmest place, because I’m tired of the wintertime,” Williams said. “But I don’t really look at it like that. I just think, again, sad is the commentary I’d probably use, the word I would use, because the people in the state of North Carolina and the kids in the state of North Carolina aren’t getting the opportunities that we’ve had in the past. And I think that’s the biggest thing with me right there. It’s just it’s not the way I’d like for it to be.”
South Carolina is likely to profit from HB2 as the NCAA makes its final deliberations on sites for events in all sports at all levels from 2019-22, with that announcement coming next month. Greenville and Columbia submitted bids for basketball and other sports, and with North Carolina out of the mix as long as HB2 is in effect, South Carolina is the top candidate to fill that geographic void. Next year’s NCAA basketball subregional, currently scheduled for Charlotte, could potentially end up in Columbia.
In 2002, the NCAA did not accede to a request by the National Association of Basketball Coaches to move the games, but it did stop awarding new events to South Carolina until the flag came down in 2015 – a dilemma North Carolina now faces indefinitely.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock