The Best of the Worst of Duke-UNC

February 8, 2012

The days surrounding the first Duke-Carolina basketball game are always the strangest time of the sports year for me.

Before turning 18, I was a rabid Duke fan. So rabid I took a copy of The Kinston Free Press sports page to school on Feb. 4, 1993 and use it to taunt my Tar Heel fan friends. So rabid that, during my most recent move, I finally purged a Duke 1991/92 national championship hat with signatures from Bobby Hurley (!), Thomas Hill and Antonio Lang. So rabid that a Cherokee Parks jersey survived that purge and still hangs in my closet.

But I left all that behind when I went to college at NC State. Rather than support a college I didn’t attend, I discarded childish things (like triumphant fandom) in favor of more grownup fare (grimly low expectations). The old feelings still stirred occasionally, most notably during Duke’s 2001 national title run. But in 2010, I could barely rouse any feelings as Brian Zoubek wrecked charming Butler. The rare re-emergence of the old Duke feelings usually occurs around the first Heels-Devils matchup of the year.

Now, I’m part of the mass of sports fans with no real link to Duke-Carolina, THE GREATEST RIVALRY IN ALL OF SPORTS. While not actively hostile to the game or its surrounding hype, I do find it all a little tiresome. So, while the rest of the sporting world previews its brains out, we offer those on the outside looking into this rivalry a list of the Best Moments in Duke-UNC History For People Who Hate Duke and UNC.

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The clothes make the program

September 7, 2011

Chin up, Kenny Tate. That hideous uniform may be your program's ticket to relevance.

The Maryland Terrapins debuted the first of what will likely be many new uniforms on Monday night: Two-Face-style unis inspired by the bipolar Maryland state flag.

Maryland

It’s hard to tell which side of the uniform is Harvey Dent and which is his evil half; each is criminally ugly.

Hideous though they may be, Maryland’s new uniforms could be a big first step down a lightly trodden path to national relevance. In a story last week at Grantland.com, Michael Kruse described how an emerging program built itself on a long line of fashion faux-pas:

Oregon clearly is the beneficiary of its unique relationship with Nike boss Phil Knight, a 1959 alum who has used his fortune to give the Ducks every potential material advantage. But the most consistently conspicuous portion of Knight’s lavish contributions are the team’s much-discussed uniforms — the yellows and the greens, the blacks and the grays, the highlighter neons and the stormtrooper whites, the many different helmets and jerseys and pants and socks and shoes, the more than 500 possible combinations in all.

The football Ducks of Oregon are something new. They didn’t get people to watch because they got good. They got good because they got people to watch. They are college sports’ undisputed champions of the 21st century’s attention economy.

Now comes Maryland, the first true challenger to Oregon’s primacy in the “attention economy.” UnderArmor, based in Baltimore and founded by former Maryland football player Kevin Plank, has outfitted the Terps for several years. This season, however, is the first for which UnderArmor has rolled out an Oregon-style menu of designs.

Cowabunga, dude!

It’s not clear how many possible outfits Maryland can build. At a fashion show debuting the new looks, 16 players wore 16 different uniforms. Some feature a bizarre white helmet with gray squiggles, designed to look like a tortoise shell.

As Kruse notes, several other schools are adopting Oregon’s look: West Virginia, Boise State, Arizona State and fellow ACC teams Virginia Tech and Miami, among others.

But Maryland is the first to go beyond borrowing the Oregon aesthetic. The Terps are stealing the Ducks’ DNA by tapping a sportswear company helmed by an alum to create buzz with its garish uniform designs.

Will Maryland be able to replicate the Ducks’ results? Or will the on-field outcome be as unsightly as the uniforms themselves?


A LeBron James Screed

June 2, 2011

LeBron James takes a break for a photo during a game this season at Philadelphia.

For the start of the NBA Finals, Instead of Texting has been lucky enough to host a couple of guest entries. Here’s the latest, from lifelong Cleveland sports fan Jeff Strowe.

So it has come to this. Of course it has.

As a Cleveland fan, you just knew that the nemesis would rise and make its presence known. Despite the trials and tribulations along the way, the posturing, the attempts at pushing their head coach aside, and the regular season setbacks, it is the truth that the Miami Heat, that stacked AAU-like band of brothers are in the NBA Finals. Having fairly simply dispatched of the Celtics and the Bulls, King James, D-Wade, and little cousin Bosh are on the big stage soaking up the fawning accolades that are coming hot and heavy from national pundits, primarily those in Bristol who at least can say that they were on the bandwagon from the beginning.

So, as the Finals tipped off last night and Dirk & Co. threw their arsenal at the “Heatles,” I took notice with deep disappointment that it could have and possibly should have been my Cavs in the Finals the past two seasons, with LeBron delivering on that long-sought-after championship he had promised Clevelanders back in ’06 after first tasting some playoff success. The fan part of me remains bitter, hoping that the Mavs rally behind their star and move quickly and fiercely towards a dismantling of the Heat, cementing Dirk’s and Kidd’s legacies and avenging their botched series in ’06. The other, more realistic part of me, though, watches with an air of inevitableness, waiting for James to hawk his way across the court and hit some key shots down the stretch, stifling Dallas’ momentum, delivering on a championship, hugging D-Wade and Darth Riley, and then smugly accepting his MVP trophy, reminding us again that he needed to go somewhere to play with players he could trust and “that wouldn’t hide when the lights got brightest.”

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O’Cain returns to run Pack offense

May 31, 2011

Mike O’Cain is back with the Pack!

Well, sort of.

Via Owen Good, fellow N.C. State/Technician alum and Kotaku.com columnist, we learn that the Wolfpack’s offensive coordinator on EA Sports’ NCAA Football 12 is an homage to the former Pack coach. Good lays it all out in a post on the game’s new “Coaching Carousel” feature:

That leads us back to Owen O’Cain. When you pick up NCAA Football 12, that’s the name of N.C. State’s offensive coordinator. (Game producer Ben) Haumiller himself put that in as a nod to Mike O’Cain (pictured at top), who was State’s head coach when I was the sports editor of Technician, the student newspaper. You can see the name in that screengrab. (Evidently he was hired from within after a surprise departure, the way O’Cain himself was when Dick Sheridan abruptly stepped down in 1993.)

O’Cain’s sort-of appearance in the game is a reminder of how odd his tenure at State was. As Good notes, O’Cain’s teams included some excellent players (led by Torry Holt) and had some astounding wins (FSU in ’98, Syracuse in ’97 and ’98, Texas in ’99). He also sandwiched the FSU and Syracuse ’98 wins around a horrific loss to Baylor and failed to beat North Carolina in seven tries, speeding him toward a cold-blooded, Thanksgiving-morning firing in 1999. Few were sorry to see him go, but O’Cain did oversee some of the program’s greatest victories.

O’Cain is now the OC at Virginia Tech.


20 years of Nantzisms

April 4, 2011

The IoT team looks forward to the end-of-game Nantzism almost as much as "One Shining Moment."

The national title game can be a hit-or-miss affair.

The NCAA final can be as long on drama as any sporting event, but it’s often an anticlimax after two frantic weeks of March Madness. For every Duke-Butler, there are two or three Duke-Michigans. Or, even worse, Duke-UNLVs.

But there’s one thing you can always count on: the Nantzism. That’s Jim Nantz’s game-closing call, a cornball explosion that has attended the end of every title game since 1991, when Nantz joined Scooby Doo villain Billy Packer at the announcing table.

The Nantzism is a sacred event, even spawning its own aprocrypha. For instance, we’ve always remembered his 1999 call: “Just when you thought you can’t, UCONN! The Huskies win the national title!” This line has come up in IoT conversation many times over the years.

But when we watched the video for this feature, we found that he actually said something quite different: “Just when people say you can’t, you can! And UConn has won the national championship!”

That’s not much fun.

When Nantz is good, he’s bad. And when he’s bad, he’s spectacular. Here are our top Nantz calls of the last 20 years:
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Coach K responds to Jalen Rose

March 29, 2011

It took a few weeks, but Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has responded to Jalen Rose’s charge that the only black players recruited by Duke are “Uncle Toms.”

Rose’s comments, Kryzezewski said on a Chicago radio station, were “very insulting to everyone here at Duke but especially, not just our African-American players, but any African-American students.”

Rose made his controversial comments in the ESPN documentary, “The Fab Five,” which aired two weeks ago. Most interestingly, K addressed his failure to recruit Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King:

“We were very successful against them and, to be quite frank with you, we recruited Chris Webber,” he said. “I didn’t recruit Jalen Rose because we had Grant Hill and I’m happy with that. We didn’t look at the other, Juwan Howard [because] we knew he wasn’t going to come to Duke. The other two kids we didn’t think were the caliber that could play as well as Thomas Hill and Brian Davis and Billy McCaffery. They’re good kids. They were good kids.”

That sounds reasonable to me. Duke’s group did win a national title.

Read more here.


Arizona brand beats Duke brand

March 25, 2011

“Lute (Olson) is one of the top coaches to ever coach in college and that brand never went away, even though there were some not-so-good things happening, and then Sean (Miller) is just a heck of a coach. He’s a really good guy, but he’s a great coach and he had his team so well prepared. It was a great hire for them, to build back a brand that was right — you know, it’s there.” — Duke men’s basketball CEO Mike Krzyzewski, after last night’s season-ending loss to Arizona.

Coach K’s right — Sean Miller has really rebuilt that Arizona brand. At this juncture, Duke basketball’s brand managers are probably looking at that turnaround and asking themselves some difficult questions. Are we delivering on Duke basketball’s brand promise? Are we effectively communicating our value proposition? Are there fundamental flaws in our brand architecture?

Identifying Duke’s problems weaknesses challenges potential growth areas opportunities will require some soul-searching, a deep dive into the current state of the Duke basketball brand; the 30,000-foot view won’t be enough. Assess every touchpoint with customers. Focus-group this thing. Put some black-belt, Six sigma mojo on it.

Who knows what K’s brand management team will find? Maybe Duke’s frontline staff have been operating in silos, and it’s time to tear down the walls between them. Vertically integrate. Challenge the status quo. But as K and his team do so, they need to make sure they’re defining roles and clearly communicating action steps to each member of the team. Really flesh out that vision for the future state, and identify the change agents who can drive the process.

Once Duke’s defined the problems challenges opportunities, K should launch the solution phase of the process with an off-site, all-hands brainstorming session to start: a no-holds-barred approach where no idea, no matter how back-of-the-envelope, is dismissed. It takes that sort of environment to really cultivate outside-the-box thinking. K may want to bring in some outside thought leaders, critical thinkers who are plugged into best practices for reviving an aging declining faltering opportunity-blessed basketball brand.

The good news for Krzyzewski is that his company organization team family has a lot of quality human capital to draw on. K’s going to need buy-in all the way up to the C suite. But getting sweat equity from everyone shouldn’t be a problem for Coach K. The man knows how to motivate.

I think K’s management team is going to find that this isn’t a burning platform situation. The solutions here are evolutionary, not revolutionary. But that doesn’t mean there are going to be easy solutions. Just bringing in new brand ambassadors next year won’t solve the problem. There are no Band-aids for Duke’s problems issues opportunities and no workarounds to greatness excellence increased market share.