My Coach K Memory

I spent three glorious years on the campus of Duke while attending Duke Divinity School.  Growing up with no real ACC allegiance, I only really need the acceptance letter to become a Duke fan.  For the next three years I attended as many Duke basketball games I was allowed.  One of my fondest memories was watching them win their third National Championship from the hallowed halls of Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2001.  Then the crowd walking, chanting, and smashing together into the quad to burn benches to celebrate.

My roommate and I would play racquetball in the gym next to Cameron on occasion and there on the court next to us would be Coach K.  We would watch him play and you could tell he was a competitive person.  One day he was walking out as we were and for the first time I put two and two together on exactly how tall he is.  He looks short when he is coaching his 6 foot umpteen inch players.  In reality he is 5’10”, my height.

It was in 2001 that I was able to go to my only Duke/Carolina game.  Me and some fellow soon-to-be ministers had seasons passes to the games that year (students in graduate schools camp out of a weekend for the chance to buy season tickets to the games).  But if we wanted good seats we would have to join the ranks of the undergrad students and camp out a few days before the game.  For two nights we slept in a tent just outside Cameron and I was able to score a seat in the middle of Graduate Student section, second bench up from the court.

The night before the big game Coach K would always gather the students waiting to get into the game and thank them for their dedication.  He would tell us to represent Duke with all the passion and energy we could but also with all the respect and pride.  It was there that I first his illustration of the fist.

In basketball there are five players, like there are five fingers on a hand.  If you attempt to attack with only one of those fingers you won’t make too much of an impact and probably break the finger.  Yet if all five fingers work together, bury their pride as individuals, they turn into a fist.  A fist can make a huge impact.  If the five individuals work together on the court then a great impact can be made in the game.  He told us we needed to hold his players up to that standard and he counted on us, the Cameron Crazies, to be a part of that fist.

The next day, at the joyous occasion that is the Duke/Carolina game in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  As the teams came out, we the students, stood silent and simply holding out a fist.

Coach K can capture the imagination of anyone and fill that person with confidence and pride.  This season has been one of milestones for him.  He added to his status and the winningest coach in the NCAA and also, as of last night, the ACC (passing Coach His class and how he holds his players, coaches and people around him, including the Cameron Crazies, to the highest standards possible only deepens my respect and admiration for him.

This video sums it up beautifully…Congrats Coach K!

Reflection on UNC by a Duke Fan

As a Duke fan I look at the news that is coming out about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and their student athletes with remorse and sorrow.  I don’t read articles about them taking teacherless classes with silent cheers or a constant smile on my face.  I don’t watch news reports about the findings of 18 years of academic fraud while dancing like Carton.  As a Duke fan, I look at this situation at UNC with sadness.

Here is why.  For me the Duke/UNC rivalry always represented the best of North Carolina Universities.  The two top schools going head to head in every way possible; academics, sports, and pride.  They are only separated by a few messily miles and yet hold some world renowned programs within their walls and stadiums.  I want both schools to live up to that expectation.  Actually I wish this for Wake Forest and NC State as well.  I want the Tobacco Road rivals to represent the best schools and the best sports in the entire nation.

My heart breaks to hear of this scandal at UNC because now their reputation is tarnished.  It will take a long time to get them back to where they use to be.  I want UNC at the top of their game in the classroom, and on the field/court.

I want that because it is that much sweeter when Duke wins and I know we have beaten the best of the best.  I hope UNC can get their act together and recover from this.  I have a feeling they will.

Bracketology and Theology

On my official bracket I cannot pick anyone else but Duke to win. I know their chances are slim this year but I have hope they can do it. I’m a Blue Devil fan and to admit they cannot make it seems to make me less of a fan. I witnessed two UNC fans place a bet with one another. One bet UNC would go all the way and the other bet they wouldn’t. This proves some things about UNC fans but the point is a ‘fan’ bet against his team. Are you a trully a fan if you do that? I you don’t think your team can make it all the way does that make you less of a fan?

At church we would say that would make you weak in your faith. True, hardcore faith is the believe in God and that with God anything is possible. Yet if I asked God to save me as I jumped off a roof, would God? Can you be faithful and believe that God cannot do everything we ask? Yet God has done many miracles in this world, cured people, saved people, transformed people, is there a limit to God’s ability?

This may seem like a loose connection between college basketball fans and theology but these are questions my, and probably many other, parishioners and pastors for that matter, deal with. Doubt can set in. We struggle with what we see and what is on our hearts. For Christians though we are given something that helps us get through all this…hope.

There is a difference between optimism and hope. Miroslav Volf wrote in a 2004 article in The Christian Century, “Hope is not based on the possibilities of the situation and on correct extrapolartion about the future. Hope is grounded in the faithfulness of God and therefore on the effectiveness of God’s promise…Optimism is based on the possibilities of things as they have come to be; hope is based on the possibilities of God irrespective of how things are.” (Quoted in Bishop Larry Goodpaster‘s book, There’s Power in the Connection, p. 126)

Hope is rooted in something beyond this world. As we fill out brackets and watch 32 games in the next 48 hours, there is hope that my team wins. But deeper hope is found in the knowledge that in the end, no matter how it all plays out, God wins.

Quiet Leadership – Shane Battier

There is a great article about one of my favorite basketball players. Shane Battier is one of my favorite not because he played two years I was at Duke and I witnessed him win a National Championship. It is his leadership. This New York Times has a great, although long, article on Shane and his leadership ability. Here are a couple of quotes.

For most of its history basketball has measured not so much what is important as what is easy to measure — points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots — and these measurements have warped perceptions of the game. (“Someone created the box score,” Morey says, “and he should be shot.”) How many points a player scores, for example, is no true indication of how much he has helped his team. Another example: if you want to know a player’s value as a ­rebounder, you need to know not whether he got a rebound but the likelihood of the team getting the rebound when a missed shot enters that player’s zone.

One well-known statistic the Rockets’ front office pays attention to is plus-minus, which simply measures what happens to the score when any given player is on the court. In its crude form, plus-minus is hardly perfect: a player who finds himself on the same team with the world’s four best basketball players, and who plays only when they do, will have a plus-minus that looks pretty good, even if it says little about his play. Morey says that he and his staff can adjust for these potential distortions — though he is coy about how they do it — and render plus-minus a useful measure of a player’s effect on a basketball game. A good player might be a plus 3 — that is, his team averages 3 points more per game than its opponent when he is on the floor. In his best season, the superstar point guard Steve Nash was a plus 14.5. At the time of the Lakers game, Battier was a plus 10, which put him in the company of Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett, both perennial All-Stars. For his career he’s a plus 6. “Plus 6 is enormous,” Morey says. “It’s the difference between 41 wins and 60 wins.” He names a few other players who were a plus 6 last season: Vince Carter, Carmelo Anthony, Tracy McGrady.

It is worth the read and demonstrates a true sense of quiet yet extremely effective leadership. HT: Call & Response Blog from Duke Divinity’s Faith and Leadership

Duke Curse – Is it worth beating Duke

I’ve never really heard of this until I started to read posts on The Duke Basketball Report. They have a great article there that quotes year after year what happens to teams the year after they beat Duke in the tourney. It is staggering which begs the question, is it worth beating Duke?

For those who may not know, the Duke Curse was discovered by Julio and his
brother the Scientific Tuba Player, who realized it’s great power at Indianapolis in 1991, asking Jerry Tarkanian if beating Duke was really worth it. As events have proven since, it is not. Consider the evidence:
– 1984, Washington. The next year they played in Durham and were so riddled with injuries that Detlelf Schrempf had to play point guard. A long decline ensued and their German connection dried up.
– 1985, Boston College, lost coach Gary Williams soon thereafter to Ohio State. Program revived long enough to beat UNC, then self-destructed and lost Jim O’ Brien to…Ohio State.
– 1986, Louisville: A long, slow descent followed, complete with probation.Crum finally run off. In 2005, Rick Pitino finally got the Cards back to the Final Four.
– 1987, Indiana: A painful down period until 1992 Final Four (where they lost to…..Duke). Controversial coach Bob Knight forced out in 2001 (see below).
– 1988, Kansas: Probation, lost coach.
– 1989, Seton Hall: slow decline ensued, finally arrested by Tommy Amaker, who almost got them to the Elite Eight.
– 1990, Vegas. Lost rematch, lost coach, lost most prestige, got Rollie Massimino
– 1991 – Duke wins title.
– 1992 – Duke wins title.
– 1993, Cal. Probation, lost coach, big scandal, big stinking mess.
– 1994, Arkansas: a small probation, faded for several years, Nolan Richardson fired in bizarre sequence of events.
– 1995 n/a
-1996, Eastern Michigan: Lost coach (to Cal), faded from view, not heard from since. Bonus Curse: Ben Braun fired at Cal in 2008.
– 1997, Providence: Program peaked, fell, lost coach to UVa. Bonus Curse: Pete Gillen fired after a dismal run at Virginia
– 1998, Kentucky: Lost players to hardship in ‘98, draft, transfers at the end of ‘99, a rash of serious auto related problems. In 2001-02, chemistry problems and Jason Parker injury doomed the ‘Cats. .
– 1999, UConn: El-Amin arrested for marijuana possession, Hamilton left, two car/image problems. Doug Wrenn arrested for alleged shoplifting before the season, suspended twice. El-Amin suffers a critical injury in tournament, team loses to Tennessee in NCAAs. Wrenn kicked off team after a post-season arrest. – 2000/2001, Florida: lost Mike Miller and Donnell Harvey to the NBA. Had a series of injuries the following season. Knocked out early in tournament two years in a row. Teddy Dupay implicated in gambling scandal, kicked off team.
– 2001 – Duke wins title.
– 2001 – UConn flames out in regular season, can’t even make the NCAA field.
– 2002 – Indiana loses Jared Jeffries to early entry.
-2003 – Kansas loses head coach Roy Williams to UNC – 2003 – Former UConn star Khalid El-Amin loses case, ordered to pay $54,000for beating man.
– 2004 – Indiana’s loses forwards Patrick Ewing, Jr., and Sean Kline, to injuries. George Leach has struggled with injuries as well. Indiana finishes at14-15.
– 2004- Ben Gordon leaves UConn for NBA
– 2005 – Indiana finishes
15-14. Mike Davis retained, but told he must win more. The entire state of Indiana misses the tournament.
– 2005 – UConn assistant coach Clyde Vaughan arrested for solicitation,.Antonio Kellogg arrested for marijuana, Charlie Villanueva leaves after twoyears for the NBA. UConn lost to N.C. State in the tournament after Denham Brown said they “were used to losing” and wouldn’t be able to handle being down to UConn.
– 2005 – Kansas loses to Bucknell in the first round. Bucknell had atotal of five scholarship players on the roster.
2005/2006 – UConn’s Marcus Williams and A.J. Price busted for trying to sell
hot laptops. The Huskies, overwhelming favorites for the title, go on to lose to
George Mason.
– 2006 – LSU defeats Duke. 2008 – John Brady fired in mid-season.
– 2007 – VCU – Florida A.D. was in the air to hire Athony Grant after BillyDonovan’s bizarre NBA career lasted a weekend or so. After he decided to bolt back to Gainesville, the A.D. flew straight back and never offered Grant the job.
– 2007 – Tubby Smith leaves Kentucky under pressure. In the fall, Kentucky loses at home to Gardner- Webb in an all-time low for the program.
– 2008 – Bob Huggins trips at the airport and ends up at the hospital.

Clergyman and Speedo Guy

I missed out on this piece of Cameron Crazy history but thanks to Jonathan at The Ivy Bush I could catch up with it. I knew Duke Divinity School students loved their seats at the Duke Games. I knew they had passion and vigor for team. I did not know one student would take it this far but I love his dedication and his enthusiasm. If you don’t know him, let me introduce you to your fellow clergyman, The Speedo Guy!

Duke VS UNC = respect and class

I don’t get ESPN on the 14 channel of cable I buy for $8.45 a month. I wish I did but I don’t. I attempted to go out to a sports bar and watch the game last Saturday but every last one of them were crawling with UNC fans and I would have to stand to watch the game. I ended up listening to it on the radio (which is very enjoyable!) It was a good game and congrats Tar Heels on a well played game. I hope we can see round three at the finals of the Tournament on Sunday!

What I did miss but listening to it and starting to listen to it AT tip off is what the students did. When I watched the clip on about the game I noticed that all the crazies were wearing a blue ribbon for the UNC student body president, Eve Carson, who was murdered earlier that week. That made me a proud Duke fan.

I love the rivalry and I am I glad to be a part of the best rivalry in ALL of sports. But it makes me proud that students, coaches and fans, can put aside their dislike for the other color of blue and honor a life that was taken WAY to early. That makes me proud to be a Duke Alumni, a Blue Devil Fan, and an ex-Cameron Crazy.

Thank you Cameron Crazies for the class you have as fans and for the love you have for that wonderful basketball program.