PHILADELPHIA -- There is irony, and then there are cruel twists of fate. The bracelet twisting Mike Krzyzewski’s wrist for this NCAA tournament is certainly both, but much more the latter.
It’s there in honor of Deanna Rivers and Chris Stewart, two high school athletes Krzyzewski didn’t know and never met. They were killed a year ago in a car accident that left two of their high school friends battling debilitating injuries for the past year.
The group, high school classmates at Shenendehowa High School in upstate New York, was coming home from a University at Albany-Siena basketball game in downtown Albany.
On Friday afternoon, Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils and Albany will tip off in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
In between the accident and this game, Krzyzewski reached out to the Rivers family by phone and invited them down to a game. While they were in Durham, Deanna's parents, Deborah and Brian Rivers, gave Krzyzewski a few trinkets, including a bracelet.
He put it on that day and hasn’t taken it off since.
“I told them I would wear it," Krzyzewski said. “So it’s an easy thing to do. It’s an amazing, amazing tragedy. I have three daughters and eight grandkids, and I can’t even imagine that. I can’t even imagine that."
Krzyzewski was reluctant to talk about the gesture, responding to a question from an Albany reporter by saying just that, “You know, I’d rather keep it a private thing."
But folks in Albany are anxious to spread his good deeds. They’ve barraged the Duke sports information folks with emails about the story, and a Facebook site devoted to Deanna Rivers included a post that called Krzyzewski a "class act."
Their loyalties aren’t likely to be torn come game time. It’s hard not to root for a 15-seed against the likes of Duke, especially if the 15-seed calls your backyard home.
But should the Blue Devils advance, chances are they’ll pick up a whole new set of fans from their one-game rival.