A March Tradition Unlike Any Other: Hating Duke

March 16, 2012


Now that March Madness is upon us, The Washington Post has found a way to combine two of America’s favorite pastimes – filling out brackets and hating the Duke Blue Devils. With apologies to my Duke friends, presenting March Mad-ness:

This is about finding the most reviled school in college hoops. We asked Post readers for the teams they just can’t root for, and you sent in more than 200 comments. After tallying the recommendations, we’ve arrived at an eight-team field. Check out the bracket (and let your blood begin to boil). Also, take a look at the eight teams and read why they made the cut.

Of course, Duke is the overwhelming favorite.*

This is the third item I’ve come across on a national website this week about loathing the Blue Devils, and it’s not exactly like I’ve gone looking for any of them. NBCSports.com’s College Basketball Talk ran this post today about the post-career life of Christian Laettner, maybe the most hateable Dukie ever. That was tame compared to Slate.com’s “Worse Than Laettner” piece, a six-page chronicle of “the 18 most hateable moments in Duke basketball history.”

I’m not exactly fond of Duke either, but I don’t think I’ve seen so much hating since this.

 

* N.C. State fans may have a difficult choice to make at the end of this. The bracket sets up fairly well for a Duke-UNC final.


ACC expansion: Watered-down rivalries and random divisions

February 9, 2012

Remember all the great moments from the Wake Forest-N.C. State rivalry? Neither do we.

When the ACC raided the Big East a few years ago in a desperate attempt to become a football power, it ended one of the things that I used to love about the conference — every team played every other team once a year in football and twice in basketball.

I especially miss the double round-robin in basketball. The added familiarity with opponents better prepared ACC teams for March Madness, and it made conference rivalries stronger. If N.C. State lost its first game against one of the Big 4, I always knew there would be a rematch.

With the expansion to 12 teams, it was bad enough that N.C. State was no longer guaranteed to play Duke twice in basketball (or at all in football). With the conference growing to 14 in a year or two, it was inevitable that more rivals would play each other less frequently.

Under the new scheduling format announced last week, each basketball team gets one primary rival to play in a home-and-home every year. In N.C. State’s case, it’s Wake Forest. No offense to the Deacons, but the one home game that Wolfpackers care about above all others is against Carolina. Once every three years, the Tar Heels won’t have to come to Raleigh.

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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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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.


Jalen Rose Says Uncle (Tom)

March 16, 2011


Like most of college basketball-loving America, Jeremy and I both watched ESPN’s “Fab Five” documentary on Sunday night. The film took me back to the peak of my sports fandom. As a die-hard Duke basketball fan, I was intrigued by the Fab Five in 1992, but I don’t remember having a visceral reaction. A year later, I was avidly on board with them. The documentary was a reminder of their singular on-court style and deeply challenging off-court style.

Since Sunday, the film’s racial politics have touched off debate. Most of the discussion has centered on the Fab Five’s racially tinged comments about Duke. Specifically, there’s been a lot of dissection of Rose’s assertion that the only black players Duke recruits are Uncle Toms. In the classic sense, Uncle Toms are black men who ingratiate themselves to whites. As Grant Hill points out in his rebuttal, Rose’s Uncle Tom seems to be something else: a black man with no discernible black qualities. Hill appears as the film’s chief example, although none of the Fab Five directly accuse him.

(I’m wondering when a certain Michigander will weigh in on this. I’d imagine plenty of big thoughts on this are floating around in that wrinkly head.)

Rose’s teammates — Jimmy King, Ray Jackson and Juwan Howard — spoke harshly of Duke. And hilariously: Christian Laettner was a b****. But their name-calling fell within the realm of generally accepted competitive trash talk. Rose went farther, launching a political attack against Duke’s recruiting practices. I hesitate to take his comments seriously now. As mentioned elsewhere, Rose was acknowledging his feelings from 20 years ago, not necessarily stating a current opinion.

The Uncle Tom discussion was one of many points where I wished Chris Webber had been involved. Read the rest of this entry »


The Classic 68 Tournament

March 13, 2011

Just in case you need some help getting in the mood for March Madness, NCAA.com is running the “Classic 68” bracket to determine the greatest game in NCAA Tournament history. The bracket matches up memorable games from Tournaments past and lets fans pick the winners until a champion is crowned.

Even if you don’t want to vote, this is definitely worth checking out because the NCAA has posted complete videos of nearly every game in the bracket. So if you’re an N.C. State fan who wants to relive some past glory, you can watch Jimmy V run around the court looking for someone to hug after the 1983 title game upset over Houston. Or if you’d just rather experience a little schadenfreude, there are a couple of gems from 1999 available: Carolina’s first-round loss to Weber State and Harold “The Show” Arceneaux and the Connecticut-Duke title game, which ended with Trajan Langdon dribbling the ball off his foot.

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