Let this be lesson to you, faithful readers of PCHA…The Dilemma is not to be trusted. He would have you believe that I’m such a rabid Duke fan that I was rooting for the Blue Devils to beat Butler last evening. Obviously, all of you know that D.S.C. has a heart as big as all outdoors, so this would be impossible. Unless you went to Duke, are currently teaching at Duke or were getting blown by Thomas Hill at your local watering hole while the game was on, there was no reasonable excuse to not root for the greatest college basketball upset in recent memory.
Like history’s other great monsters, however, The Dilemma’s propaganda does spring from a kernel of truth. Duke is my second favorite team in a sport I care nothing about (Go Northwestern!). Unlike The Dilemma, a rabid Yankees fan, I understand visceral hatred for teams with fan bases full of entitled dickheads and bandwagon jumpers. If the Yankees team plane collided with the Notre Dame football team plane and crashed into a Staples Center filled with Lakers fans, I might finally believe in god.
So, I can understand why the greatness of Duke might get under people’s skin. I spent many years at a leader in the douchey college clubhouse (Go Big Green!), and we can sense our own like a bear senses a woman having her period. Duke students are up there with those at Dartmouth, Princeton, USC, Bob Jones University…there’s little that isn’t loathsome about them. So, if you’re predisposed to rooting for or against college teams based on their fan bases, go wild.
But if, unlike my simple-minded colleague, you are able to separate the program from the student body, two entities that have little to do with one another (which is why college sports are ridiculous and basically indefensible), there’s no real reason to hate either Duke basketball or Coach K. In fact, they are pretty much the only program in college basketball that is able to both compete at a consistently high level and use the term “student-athlete” with a straight face.
Sure, some of the douchiness from the student body has bled into the composition of the basketball team. J.J. Reddick is indefensible (although he actually will have a pretty good NBA career, so get used to him). Carlos Boozer proved to be all about the Benjamins in bailing on the Cavs (although he actually might be as good as the Bulls can do this off-season, so I should get used to him). Elton Brand completely fucked over his buddy Baron Davis by luring him to the Clippers only to leave for more money (although he did write that awesome e-mail to a Duke student, and was the most underrated NBA player of the Aughts). One whiny son of a bad white coach is one too many.
However, when you come after Christian Laettner, you are forgetting yourself, T.D. Because in 1991, Duke was Butler, and Christian Laettner was Gordon Hayward (he of the bible-verse-laden basketball and man-crush on Andy Roddick…which is to say, all these guys are dickheads). With one essential difference…Laettner was the greatest college basketball player of our lifetime…there is no fucking chance on earth he misses two wide-open looks at the basket with the game on the line. How do I know? In the 1992 Eastern Regional game against Kentucky, he didn’t just hit debatably the greatest shot in college basketball history, but went 10-for-10 from both the field and the line. In 1990, he sent the Blue Devils to the Final Four with a last second shot against UConn (I’m starting to understand The Dilemma’s hatred…it’s a hard moment when a preppy from Connecticut figures out life is unfair). And in 1991, Duke (at that point the little team that could, the progenitor of Gonzaga and Butler) shocked UNLV, one of the greatest teams of all-time (who, with Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, et. al. had crushed them in the championship the year before), in one of the great upsets in NCAA history.
Now, I know that the Duke of today isn’t that Duke. They are no longer the unlikely small private school that people love to root for in the tournament. That’s because Michael William Krzyzewski is the GREATEST COLLEGE COACH EVER. He’s the one who actually has been able to do it, to turn a school with actual students on their roster into a national powerhouse. Somehow, Mark Few and Gonzaga gets blown for making a few Sweet 16s…at a school with much higher academic standards, Coach K has won four Championships, made four other Finals, three other Final Fours, etc., etc. He’ll be the winningest coach in college basketball history in a couple of years, and his players have both consistently graduated and been drafted into the NBA. All this without a Sam Gilbert, the dark shadow of the great hypocrite John Wooden. All this without vacated tourney appearances, shots of players in handcuffs or really any hints of impropriety that don’t come from bloggers looking to make a name for themselves (Andrew Sharp? Come on!). And, oh yeah, he stopped the bleeding of U.S. Olympic basketball in his spare time.
As for your dirty play charges, T.D., seriously? I’ve seen tickle fights with harder shots than Laettner put on Timberlake (you know it wasn’t Justin, right?) And you’re arguing against Tyler Hansborough getting smacked? I think you’ve lost some perspective. Most retarded though (and that’s saying something) is your contention that Coach K is somehow not committed to Duke and bailed when his team wasn’t good, something you base on the fact that the only team to miss the tourney since his fourth year was during the season he was forced to leave the team because of exhaustion and back problems. In actuality, the team was 9-3 when Coach K was forced to take a sabbatical, and had many of the same players as the team that made the Finals the year before. That they finished 4-15 after he left illustrates that he’s one of the few coaches that actually makes a difference, not that he somehow shirked his duty. Given that he’s coached for 30 years at the same institution, has passed up three legit offers to go to the NBA (the most recent for $40 million, a piece of the Lakers, and a chance to finally coach his lost recruit Kobe Bryant), and that he’s donated millions to Duke and the Durham community, maybe even you can admit that was a bridge too far.
However, given your blind hatred of the only college basketball team that’s both good and honest, I doubt it. I understand, though. Not every team can be as lovable and honorable as the New York Yankees.