The Part Where I Say Nice Things About Duke Basketball

Thursday, April 08, 2010
Yes, you read the title correctly.

I, lifelong Tar Heel fan and passionate Carolina alum, am going to write something nice about the Dook basketball team which just won the national championship. Sorry. Duke, not Dook.

See, it is hard to be nice.

As a matter of fact, before I am nice, let me state for the record that I despise Duke - the university in general (really, the undergraduate part) and their basketball team in particular.

I don't like their annoying players making annoying faces complaining about the fouls they have never once committed.

I don't like their student body, most of whom are former New Jersey residents who couldn't get into the Ivy League.

I don't like their creepy, faux-Gothic campus, where I have it on good authority that Count Dracula and Vlad the Impaler have summer homes.

And, most of all, I despise their smug, condescending, monomaniacal, impossibly self=promoting, narcissistic, bullying, complaining, rodent-visaged Coach K.


But, dare I say it, I actually liked this TEAM, as a team.

And I think Coach K, that smug, preening...

OK, sorry. I think Coach K did an amazing job.

Three things about this team that I like and respect.

1. Coach K, although considered by all to be one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game (though in one of the ironies of history the GREATEST coach plied his trade just 15 minutes down 15-501, but that's another blog entry) was willing to change his strategy and tactics year to year and even within the season.

Duke had suffered early exits the last few years in the NCAA tournament largely because Coach K went with five to seven man rotations and left high school All-Americans pining on the pines. Come tournament time, those five to seven guys were exhausted and ripe picking for teams with deeper rotations. This year, K ran an eight man rotation and the team steamrolled through the tournament.

2. Coach K spotted underutilized talent and gave it a shot.

Brian Zoubek is a large (7'1"), slow, ponderous player. But it became clear during the season that Duke was overly dependent on three perimeter players and that they were lacking inside presence. During the latter part of the year, Coach K brought Zoubek in off the bench and the big man's contribution was huge - he dominated the last thirteen seconds of the championship game against Butler.

3. This team played beautifully as a team.

They were surely the most talented team in the country in terms of high school All-Americans - Duke usually assembles the most talent of any team. But unlike - cough - Carolina's perhaps equally talented team, the Duke players clearly subordinated their own egos and talent to the larger, broader purpose of winning a championship. And they did.

I don't think that Duke was any better than the fourth or fifth best team in the nation this year.

But when it counted they were champions.

And that has something to do with leadership and a commitment to a broader purpose beyond the individual.

Just one question...

Who in the world is the guy who just wrote that blog and what did he do with Todd???

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