Section 17: The Fall of Sparta

We’ve got a special guest column today coming from Nick Schwartz, a friend of Crazie-Talk and a fellow Cameron Crazie. Nick hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the Michigan Wolverines. In other words, he had twice as many reasons to see the Spartans fall to the Duke Empire on Wednesday night.

Tom Izzo and the Spartans fraternized with the enemy Wednesday afternoon. It didn't help their cause. (Photo property of Crazie-Talk)

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo led his team through KVille on Wednesday to show his guys that the Crazies are just normal human beings.  It apparently did not impress Spartan forward Draymond Green, who tweeted that KVille failed to impress him more than the campout done by the aptly named MSU student section, the Izzone.  Nonetheless, MSU came out looking about as intimidated as any team I’ve seen in Cameron.  The Spartans gave new life to the term “throwing the ball away.”  Thanks to a combination of great Duke ball pressure and likely some Spartan nerves, MSU repeatedly passed the ball to the sidelines without one of the other four Spartans touching it.

Yet Duke was not a whole lot better, committing its own fair share of turnovers and failing to convert many opportunities on the offensive end.  It looked like the headlining game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge might be a long, laborious affair.

Until a certain freshman took over the game.

Kyrie Irving rose to the occasion Wednesday night. (Photo DukeBluePlanet)

As you are probably well aware, Kyrie Irving poured in 31 points, breaking his previous career-high of 17 with an 18-point first half, which included many key 3-point plays.  While Nolan Smith likes to claim Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” as his theme music, on Wednesday night, Smith took backseat to Kyrie “introducing himself” to America on ESPN.

And I couldn’t have been more pleased with what I was watching.

Hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, for most of my life I’ve had the opportunity to watch consistently solid MSU teams pummel over my beloved Michigan Wolverines.  Like many other Michigan fans, I have developed a love-hate relationship with the teams led by MSU head coach, Tom Izzo.  Izzo was born, went to school, and has almost exclusively coached in Michigan.  From his reign at MSU, beginning in 1995, the Spartans have managed an 18-8 record against Michigan (counting 5 of Michigan’s wins which were later vacated). Going back to the “Flint”stones era of Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, and Charlie Bell, Izzo has almost always managed to attract the state of Michigan’s top players.  Yet, it is hard to not to root for his teams.  Aside from some of the extracurricular activities of Zach Randolph, Izzo has managed to run a clean and consistent program, attracting and graduating many commendable student-athletes, standing in opposition to many of his peers.  And how can you argue with the style of play?  MSU has developed a reputation for playing strong man-on-man defense, relentless rebounding, and pushing the ball up the court after made baskets.  Izzo has been known have his players perform rebounding drills in shoulder pads.  If only Rich Rodriguez would borrow the idea for his defense.

Izzo’s ability to get the most of his players is astounding.  Pistons fans who remember Cleaves’ brief stint in the NBA can certainly attest that some of Izzo’s most successful players did not get by simply on talent (who does that NOT remind you of, cough, Calipari, cough).  While many Tarheels often jibe at Duke’s lack of stars in the NBA, MSU is much less heard come the All-Star game.

This year’s Spartan team has many similarities to those of the past.  In the likes of Cleaves and Drew Nietzel, point guard Kalin Lucas assumes a leading role.  After a junior year that ended with a ruptured Achilles, the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2009, the same year the Spartans unfortunately fell short in the National Championship, returned and is leading the team in scoring while hitting almost half his shots.  If there is a more established and talented point guard in college basketball than Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen, it is Lucas.  That’s why all signs pointed to this game as a litmus test of Irving’s current status as a very good guard or one of the premiere guards in America.  And unlike most science experiments, the results are without question.

To be fair, for most of the game, Lucas did not even look like the best point guard on his team.  Lucas was overshadowed by his backup, if you can reasonably call him that, Korie Lucious, who led the Spartans with 20 points.  Lucious matched every bit of Irving’s quickness and threw in a barrage of jump shots, drives, and 3-pointers to ensure that the game never got out of hand.

But he's only a freshman, right Kalin? (Photo DukeBluePlanet)

While any win at any time over Michigan State is certainly impressive, the Blue Devils can take some things away from this game.  First of all, the perimeter defense needs to improve.  Korie Lucious and Kalen Lucas were able to penetrate at will and get into the lane.  Fortunately, MSU mostly took advantage of this late in the second half when Duke was in command of the game.  Furthermore, the interior defense could see some improvement.  The Spartans outrebounded Duke, grabbing 15 offensive boards.  The Plumlees often looked lost on defensive switches, leading to some easy baskets by Garrick Sherman, who otherwise did not appear capable of creating his own shot.  Miles will continue to have to focus on stop committing soft fouls if he wants to play a greater role on the team.

On the offensive end, there were times when the Blue Devils shot selection was questionable.  Most notably, Kyle Singler went 5-14 from the field, and seemed to force many jump shots with plenty of time remaining on the shot clock.  At this point in his career, Kyle has essentially earned the right to shoot when he sees fit, but with an offense full of so many options on a night when the running game was relatively quiet, I would hope he remains patient on nights when others are shooting better.

Nevertheless, a win is always win, and against MSU and the second best active coach in college basketball, always a great win.  I was glad when Izzo turned down the opportunity to potentially coach LeBron James in Cleveland, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting the opportunity to see the Coack K and the Blue Devils soundly defeat Izzo’s Spartans.

And who knows, they might find themselves battling it out once again come March.

Thanks again to our friend Nick for writing up this article. Up next, the Blue Devils travel to New Jersey on Saturday to face a familiar foe from last year’s national championship game…

Weighing In: Duke and the FIBA World Championships

Sometimes at Crazie-Talk we get together to discuss a hot story in the Duke-i-verse that merits some serious thought. Once on Coach K’s choice to return to Team USA back in ’09, and once, more recently, when the Blue Devils were turning their swag to 11 en route to the 2010 National Championship.

Today, Jake and Amogh discuss two Duke storylines through the lens of international (read: European) hoops and the veritable Brawl of Basketball: The FIBA World Championships. Enjoy.

Pocius had the floor on his senior night in 2009, but he didn't see much playing time on it in four injury-riddled years. (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

On Marty Pocius Being More Successful in Europe

The Lithuanian basketball team rode on the back of a familiar player to the FIBA Final Four.

Martynas Pocius, who played at Duke from 2005 to 2009, has been the firebrand that sparked his country’s team to unexpected heights in basketball’s biggest international event. Today, Pocius faces off against his former coach, Mike Krzyzewski, and the loaded young USA team.

Pocius (pronounced “Poat-zoos” for some reason) had a terrific reputation coming out of prep school in New Hampshire: scoring prowess, incredible leaping ability, and a pair of impeccable calves that soon caught one sweater loving coach’s attention during several ESPN broadcasts. Perhaps Coach Rick will invite Marty stateside for Duke’s game against Saint Louis this December 11. You know, to massage those spectacular calves.

Yet despite all the hype and sweet musculature, Marty never lived up to his 5-star rating at Duke. Or perhaps more accurately, Marty was never dealt the right cards.

The first factor in Pocius’ lukewarm career was injury. Ankle problems limited his effectiveness for two years, culminating in a medical redshirt in 2007-2008. In his fourth academic year, Pocius was technically active, but saw scant minutes off the bench in a Sweet Sixteen season. He decided to forgo his fifth year of eligibility to play professionally—back home in Lithuania. More on that later.

Compounding Pocius’ inconsistent health was (go figure) Duke’s tremendous guard depth. Over his career, Marty was buried in the depth chart behind a formidable group: DeMarcus Nelson, Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, Greg Paulus, Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams. When healthy, fans attributed Marty’s pineriding to a lack of defensive skills and penchant for fouling (not an uncommon criticism for European players, after all). The truth is, if you miss practice at Duke (injured or not), it’s hard to crack the starting lineup. Coach K is pretty consistent on that. It’s even harder if, as in Marty’s case, you have three to five NBA-level guards on your team. Not everyone can play on bad ankles. Not everyone is Brett Favre.

It’s fitting that Pocius’ best performance—14 points on 5-5 shooting in 17 minutes—came in one of the darkest moments of the past decade: Duke’s first round ACC Tournament exit to NC State in 2007. And unlike last year, the team didn’t learn from losing to the lowly Wolfpack—they went ahead and lost to VCU. Even when he won, his team lost.

But enough with the negativity.

One year removed from his Duke career, Marty is thriving in what is clearly his natural habitat—EuroBasket. He averaged 8.1 points per game in sixteen games this past season with BC Zalgiris in Kaunas, Lithuania, a city just 102 kilometers away from Marty’s native Vilnius. (Editor’s Note: Vilnius factors largely in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, a book I’m about to finish. Oh, how FIBA brings it all together…)

In the World Championships, Marty has scored 61 points in 128 minutes of action, acting as a key reserve for a Lithuanian squad that has largely exceeded expectations. In Lithuania’s huge “upset” over (soon to be former) world number one Argentina, Pocius was scintillating: 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting (including two treys) and 4 rebounds in just 26 minutes of action. Stick it, Luis Scola.

While players mature mentally and physically at different stages in their careers, one can’t help but wonder what Marty could’ve accomplished at Duke if he had been injury-free. Or, on a more extraneous note, had he attended a University whose calling card wasn’t tough, American style guard play, he certainly would have played more (again, barring injuries).

(Jonathan Givony of anti-predictive NBA draft site DraftExpress started a tweet war the other day claiming that Coach K had wasted Pocius, before finally admitting that he had never seen Marty play a minute in college. So, all’s well that ends…idiotically?)

Disregarding the woulda coulda shouldas, when this story bottoms out, it’s redemptive and happy. By proving himself in international basketball, Marty also proved he belonged at Duke.

We wish Marty the very best with his career in Europe. As he faces his former mentor tomorrow against Team USA, we anticipate a big performance under the bright lights and fiery eyes of his opponent’s coach.

And just like against the Wolfpack in ’07, we hope he loses. Sorry, bro.

UPDATE: Marty got the start against the United States today, and showed well: 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. However, Kevin Durant was unstoppable, setting an American record with 38 points, and Team USA got the 89-74 victory. Congrats to Marty on a great tournament, he certainly turned a lot of heads. And I know Majerus watched every minute scrupulously.

You can follow Marty’s entertaining Twitter here: @LTUMarty.

Coach K PO'd some media folk the other day, but not these ones. They seem cool. (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

The Briefly Noted Saga of Coach K vs. the Israeli-American coach of Russia/Former USSR

OK, OK. I know we’re late to this party. Team USA’s already avenged 1972 beaten Russia in the FIBA quarterfinals. Doug Collins is still righteously pissed off even if his new star in Philly, Andre Iguodala, was part of the “B-deem team” that took out the Bear Nation.

Even if the Russians are not the Soviets (because in Soviet Russia, ball dunk you) and the Cold War is twenty years past, the officiating catastrophe in the 1972 gold medal game between the U.S. and USSR still infuriates a lot of people.

Coach K, a veteran of West Point and former Army Captain, is one of those people.

I’m about 50% tempted to give Coach a mulligan on his faux-pas in calling David Blatt, an American and Israeli citizen, a “Russian” and being offended by Blatt’s innocuous belief that the USSR was the rightful winner of the ’72 game. Only fifty percent because only that much of it was wrong, or even mildly offensive.

Since K has established himself as one of the top coaches in the sport, he hasn’t needed to be a firebrand in the media like he used to be (after all, he ‘loves Dean Smith’ these days). I was surprised by these comments not only because of their inflammatory nature—it should’ve been easy for some assistant to tell the acting American basketball ambassador that Blatt was, in fact, an American (somebody hire Reggie Love). It just seemed out of character for K to be so unsavvy with the press.

But, as any Mad Men fan has learned from Roger Sterling‘s feud with “the Japs,” military allegiances run deep. And although K stated that Blatt’s comments had “absolutely” no effect on his game preparation, I have a feeling this whole thing fired up the old soldier in K, even after he realized his mistake on Blatt’s nationality.

After the game, Coach K sheepishly praised Blatt. He knew he was wrong. The game went over without controversy. The right team won. All good, right?

Not for Adrian Wojnarowski, it wasn’t.

WTF, Woj?

Wojnarowski, a reporter for Yahoo! Sports, originally reported Blatt’s gracious response on this issue. He then went on to write a livid, flamethrowing piece on K’s behavior, calling the comments a “desperate stunt” to motivate his players while “in [a] haste to exploit that old American gash” of the ’72 game.

He goes on to say that K’s “low-rent” actions were an attempt to rile up American public hatred of the Soviets. To Wojnarowski, this somehow proves that K has no faith in his own team. So apparently, not only is K a old fogey bigot, but he’s not even patriotic enough to believe his own team could win. Huh?

I don’t think a doctoral thesis could legitimize that kind of harsh claim, and Wojnarowski certainly does not. Not to mention Woj’s offering of an irrelevant opinion on whether the ’72 squad should have accepted their medals: “This 38-year blood war with that loss has gone on long enough,” and the team should accept their medals graciously. Yeah, I’m sure they haven’t heard that before.

Wojnarowski pulls a low-rent stunt of his own, bringing up the murder of Israeli athletes at the ’72 games as a counterpoint to the “ache for the ages” that the loss to the Soviets was. Dude, what does that have do with Coach K?

The venomous article is a lot to extrapolate from a few off-color comments from a man who led Team USA back to the same gold medal stand that his friends and colleagues were denied in 1972. I understand that Wojnarowski is paid to take such polarized positions, and considering his normally solid work, I was surprised by this sudden take-off on Air Gregg Doyel.

K certainly made a mistake. But not the kinds of mistakes that Wojnarowski claims. I’m tempted to say Kiss the Medals, but Team USA still has Lithuania to take care of.

Crazie-Talk thanks you for reading this article, if you’ve gotten this far. Be sure to keep tabs on two big games at noon EST: Duke Football’s showdown with Wake Forest, and of course, the United States-Lithuania semi-final match.

Go Blue Devils, and Go America.

Weighing In: Tournament Swagger

After two dominating performances in the first and second rounds, Duke has countered the doubters and proven its merit as one of the favorites to cut down the nets in Indianapolis. Before we face off with Purdue on Friday, Jake, Chong and guest-author Arun reflect on three things the team has done to get this far—and that will help push us to our eleventh Final Four appearance.

Chong- Interior Passing

Much has been made this season about the emergence of Duke’s big men as a key difference with this year’s Blue Devil squad.  Yes, Brian Zoubek has finally developed an offensive game that can complement his rebounding skill.  Yes, Lance Thomas actually isn’t triple-pumping every (missed) lay-up.  Through all of this, though, what really strikes me as the difference in our inside game is the improvement in interior passing.   Though this doesn’t apply to the Plumlee brothers, it’s no secret that Duke’s starting big men aren’t the most athletic players in the country.  Thus, it’s unreasonable to expect to just feed Lance in the paint and expect him to put the dream shake on Jajuan Johnson or Demarcus Cousins (too bad we don’t have Travis Leslie, right?).   Over the past month and a half, we’ve begun to see more pick and rolls, oftentimes culminating in a Zoubek layup off a Scheyer assist.   We’ve also noticed better passing coming from all our big men, but particularly from Lance.

If Duke wants to make a serious run for the championship, this crew is going to have to continue making crisp passes within 15 feet of the basket.  This way, we not only use our size to score, we also use it to physically wear down the opponent.  The efficiency of our interior passing, my friends, is why we’ve been able to utilize our big men in such a productive fashion, all while relying less and less on the three-point shot.

Jake“Team” Defense

Jon and Zoubs team up for the blocked shot. Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com.

The numbers speak for themselves. Duke has allowed a combined 97 points in the first two rounds: 44 to Arkansas Pine-Bluff and 53 to California. OK, so maybe the Pine-Bluff game isn’t that big of a feat (although no disrespect to the SWAC). But the Berkeley Boys were a dynamic offensive team before meeting Duke in the second round—it was the first time the Golden Bears had failed to score 60 points all season. Like Duke, Cal boasted a ‘terrific trio’ of guards—Theo Robertson, Patrick Christopher, and Cal’s all-time leading scorer, Jerome Randle. But they were stymied. Christopher, who missed the first several minutes with a cut, never got into the flow of the game, mustering just 2 points. Randle got free in the first half for several layups (thanks to some illegal picks from the linebacker-esque Markhuri Sanders-Frison). After seeing him hit a 30-footer at the halftime buzzer of Cal’s win over Louisville, many Duke fans worried that Randle would go off Eric Maynor style in the second round. But as ESPN regional blogger Brad Bennett wrote, Nolan Smith got angry and locked Randle down. (Ironically, former Dukie Jamal Boykin was Cal’s best offensive player Sunday—can we take a little credit for that? OK maybe not). Duke Chronicle columnist Alex Fanaroff compared our defensive performance to a boa constrictor, slowly leaking the life out Cal with a dominant rebounding performance. That’s an apt metaphor, and one that must continue to apply. We have three great scorers on this team, but our 9 man rotation will provide the extra defensive oomph all the way to Indy.

Arun – Free of the Three?

The "Four Pillars'" presence in the paint has had a huge impact on Duke's offensive and defensive effectiveness. Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com.

Live by the three, die by the three. Since the days of Redick, it’s been the trademark phrase for Duke lovers and haters alike. And for good reason. In the past, when Duke’s guards didn’t make it rain from the beyond the arc, the Devils’ demise was soon to follow. All too often, a drought from the three point line spelled defeat for the Devils in the most crucial of games. (See: Villanova, 2009). The story has been different this year, especially for those games on the biggest stages. (See: California, last week). Still, having success without making the long ball doesn’t mean Duke hasn’t been attempting it. Last week against Cal, Duke shot an abysmal 3-17 from three (1-8 and 1-6 from Scheyer and Singler respectively) and yet still managed to cruise to a comfortable, double digit win. The quantity of shots hasn’t changed. Neither has the quality, even though it seems like wide open shots haven’t gone in as of late.

So what’s different? The answer doesn’t lie with shot selection, but instead with Duke’s personnel. It’s no secret that Duke’s four major frontcourt pillars have given us an edge this year in an area where we haven’t recently had it: offensive rebounding. With leapers like the Plumlee bros, a lanky workhorse in Lance Thomas, and a space eating monster in Zoubek, this year’s team excels in cleaning up the mess after missed three point shots. Miles and Brian in particular have improved their board-grabbing abilities from last season, and Zoubs has emerged as arguably the best offensive rebounder in the nation. More offensive boards have led to more second chance opportunities and easy points (oh, and some nasty tip-dunks too).

Duke’s not free of the three just yet—the long range jumper is still an integral part of our offense. But this year, having excellent rebounders down low can give our shooters some peace of mind. Peace of mind translates into shooting confidence. And confidence translates into buckets.

OK, so we’re feeling pretty good here on the blog. Back us up, Duke! See you tomorrow with a preview of the regional weekend. First up? Purdue.

Weighing In: Coach K and Team USA

Every few weeks, the five of us get together and discuss a pressing question related to Duke basketball. These  discussions are then compiled into a feature aptly entitled “Weighing In”.

Today’s question: how will Coach K’s involvement in Team USA affect Duke basketball?
Chong, Daniel, and Jake “weigh in”.

He's a winner.

He's a winner.

Chong

In the early 90’s, a young up-and-coming film director from Brooklyn echoed one of the most famous lines in advertising history: “It’s gotta be the shoes.” Since then, both the director, Spike Lee, and the product advertised, Nike Basketball shoes, have become synonymous with images of success and innovation.  Behavioral economists can  present a plethora of conjectures on why the commercial succeeded, but this perfect formula doesn’t require a drawn-out explanation.  The reason that Nike’s advertisement succeeded is simple:  Nike capitalized on the star power of Michael Jordan, along with the cinematic wizardry of Spike Lee, to catapult their basketball shoe line into an international icon.

Now, how does this relate to Coach K continuing his tenure as the leader of team USA basketball?  The answer correlates exactly with what Nike did with Michael Jordan.  Instead of using MJ, Krzyzewski’s experience with the best players in the world allows Duke Basketball to reap the benefits of its coach’s increased publicity.  If you’re a high school basketball stud, wouldn’t you want a coach that could harness your skills?  Coach K, by working with the likes of Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, would certainly fit the bill in terms of a coach who can handle some of the world’s hottest basketball talents.  From a recruiting standpoint, the fruits of Krzyzewski’s labor are already showing, as the class of 2010 is turning out to hold as one of the school’s best in recent memory.

But even if the international publicity does not help us (a scenario I just can’t believe), I feel that many critics of Coach K’s decision are forgetting one of the most important benefits of coaching such a talented squad of players.  Coach K, just like any other professional, constantly seeks to improve at his job.  Even if his “x’s and o’s” don’t translate to a higher-octane offense, Coach K will gain valuable experience and respect for being able to manage a group of highly-paid superstars.  We may finally be able to attract t the superstars that, over the last few years, have turned us down for the likes of Memphis, Kansas, and UNC.  We may, more importantly, be able to reload to make a serious run in the NCAA tournamnet.  Hopefully, Duke can replicate some of what the “redeem” team was able to produce in Beijing.  In the meanwhile, all we can do now is work with the talent we already have.  Just do it, Blue Devils.

back to top

line

Daniel

At Duke University, greatness is spelled: K-R-Z-Y-Z-E-W-S-K-I.

Take that, Merriam-Webster.

This ten-letter-mishmash of consonants represents Duke’s equivalent to John Wooden at UCLA, or Red Auerbach in Boston.  Despite his commitment to USA Basketball through 2012, Coach K has made his long-term intentions crystal clear; he began his career at Duke, and that’s where it will end.

For the average coach, an opportunity to lead a star-studded Olympic team would require little deliberation.  Unfortunately for Mike Krzyzewski, he’s not the average coach.  The commander-in-chief of Duke University basketball carries with him a degree of responsibility and expectation to which other collegiate programs simply cannot relate.  Since its inception, Blue Devil hoops has established a rich tradition of winning…and winning big.  For the Durham faithful, anything short of a Final Four appearance is quite frankly a disappointing season.

Duke has been getting loads of flak from the media due to recent sub-par recruitment.  Should Coach K be spending less time with USA Basketball?  Maybe.  Is his presence with the “Redeem Team” hurting Duke’s recruiting?  Absolutely not.  Find me one kid who wouldn’t kill to play amongst the likes of a Lebron James or a Kobe Bryant.  Granted, most college ballers will never have this chance…but if you can’t play with the superstars themselves, isn’t playing for their superstar-coach an enticing alternative?  At the end of the day, any recruit looking to develop his game for the next level will recognize the second-to-none caliber of coaching offered by Coach K and company.  Why not learn from the best?

Simply put, Coach K’s presence in USA Basketball is tremendous PR for Duke University basketball.  Krzyzewski has revitalized the national team and restored its winning tradition—the same type of winning tradition he’s established at Duke; one that Cameron Crazies have come to expect, year in and year out.

To all the Coach K nay-sayers and Duke haters out there (there are lots of you)—take a step back and realize the big picture.  Yes, Coach K now has less time to scour the recruiting trail due to his Olympic commitment, but he also brings something to the recruiting table that no other coach can offer; he knows how to get the most out of world-class talent.  Recruits will recognize that, and respond accordingly.

For crying out loud, look at our incoming class in 2010!  Even WITHOUT Harrison Barnes on our commit-list, Duke already has one of the most impressive classes, if not the single most impressive class, in the nation.  Seth Curry’s timely transfer from Liberty was simply icing on the cake.  The addition of Barnes would be like spelling “National Championship” on top of that cake.

Duke will soon reclaim its perch atop college basketball.  For now, be patient, and watch Coach K win another gold medal.

back to top

line

Jake

In 2004, as Coach K was toying with the Los Angeles Lakers, junior Andrew Humphries wrote a letter, imploring Krzyzewski to remain at Duke. He closed the letter with an emotional statement–”Please still be my coach.” As fate would have it, Andrew and the rest of Blue Devil Nation got their wish:  Coach K elected to remain at Duke.

Humphries’ final line touched on an emotion present in every Duke fan—that of provinciality. We feel that Coach K is ours and belongs to no one else, a bastion of the our values, our spokesperson and leader. But it’s time we realize a painful truth: Coach K is more than just Duke’s coach. He is one of basketball’s premiere ambassadors, a successful businessman and promoter, and yes, the coach of the Redeem Team. We have harrumphed about these traits in our coach, claiming them as reason for our admiration and dedicated support of Duke basketball. We rejoiced when Team USA won the gold medal in Beijing. “Coach K is such a patriot!” we all exclaimed.

So why do we lament Coach K’s decision to do it all again? He’s hungry for more success. He wants to prove himself and help his country achieve even more athletic glory. Furthermore, he’s putting his reputation on the line for a second time. Win one gold medal, the media will claim that anyone could have won with the talent of Kobe, Lebron, and Carmelo. Fail to win a second? Then it’s all your fault, Coach.

We should feel lucky to have a Coach qualified to lead the Olympic team. K deserves this opportunity—and he deserves our support. The man is over sixty, and he’s managing three of the most difficult situations in basketball: the pressure of the nation on the Olympic team, the pressure of Duke fans, and the pressure of Duke haters. And he does it all with class and composure.

The biggest concern seems to be that our recruiting will suffer due to K’s absence from the circuit. Firstly, there couldn’t be a better reason for that truancy. Secondly, we signed our three recruits for the class of 2010 in the weeks following the national team’s victory over Spain. I personally saw Josh Hairston in Wallace Wade wearing a Team USA t-shirt the day he committed to Duke. Another Olympic triumph could lead to more recruiting success.

It’s time for Duke fans to let go of the notion that Coach K is only ours. He is a global basketball icon and Duke’s most recognizable face. What’s wrong with the rest of the world knowing it?

back to top