By David Teel
3:12 PM EST, March 1, 2013
University of Virginia security followed planned procedure and “did its job” when fans stormed the John Paul Jones Arena floor Thursday after a basketball victory over Duke, athletic director Craig Littlepage said Friday.
Prompted by media questions during his postgame news conference, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski criticized security for not getting his team off the floor before fans rushed the area.
“Based on what I’ve seen (on video tape) and what I’ve heard from staff, we had a plan developed for post-game situations like this, and the plan was followed,” Littlepage said via email Friday. “Our plan was communicated to Coach K with specific mention of a ‘safe zone’ in front of team bench/scorer’s table in the event the court was rushed.
“It appears our staff did its job of getting personnel from Duke to the safe zone. It took approximately one minute to get Duke’s team to its locker room following the handshakes.”
Krzyzewski implored reporters after the game to focus on Virginia’s 73-68 victory, keyed by Joe Harris’ career-high 36 points.
“I don’t want to demean the game by this,” he said. “They played great, Harris was unbelievable, that’s the story of the game. … I don’t want to take away from Virginia’s great win.”
But Krzyzewski also expressed concern about celebrating fans and the losing team being in such tight quarters.
“When we’ve lost in the last 20 years, everybody rushes the court,” he said. “Whatever you’re doing, you need to get the team off first. Celebrate. Have fun. Obviously, you won. That’s cool, but just get our team off the court and our coaching staff before students come on.
“Put yourself in a position with one of our players or coaches. I’m not saying anybody did this, but the potential is there all the time for a fan to come up to you and say, ‘Coach, you’re a…’ What do you do? What if you did something? That would be the story, right? So, we deserve that kind of protection.
“I’m always concerned about stuff like that, especially this time of year. What if that happened and we get a kid suspended, or that becomes the national story? It is not all fun and games when you’re rushing the court, especially for the team that lost. Again, congratulations to (the Cavaliers) and they should have fun and burn benches and do all that stuff. I’m all for that. They have a great school, great kids, but get us off the court.”
Each of Duke’s four losses this season -- North Carolina State, Miami and Maryland are the others – were on the road and ended with fans rushing the court.
At N.C. State, a student confined to a wheelchair fell to the floor during the chaos and was aided by Wolfpack forward C.J. Leslie.
At Virginia, media are sequestered in a corner perch far above the court, so I had no clear view of Duke’s postgame exit. Celebrating with fans, most of them fellow students, the Cavaliers were in no hurry to depart.
Indeed, point guard Jontel Evans will long (always?) remember fans hoisting him onto their shoulders.
Have at it, as long as the opponents are secure.
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