Monday, November 14, 2005

Blue Blood

Nothing like a fresh book about the greatest sport there is* -- men's college hoops -- to prepare you for the new season. Blue Blood surveys the Duke-UNC rivalry since it began in 1920. Though author Art Chansky is a lousy speller and shows his true color (powder blue), his book makes for a good read.

Rather than discuss it further, I wanted to list a few things I didn't know before. If it seems Duke-heavy, then I'm showing my true color (royal blue).

1. Red Auerbach, an assistant coach at Duke, was hired as head coach in 1949. He had a last-minute change of heart and left for the NBA, where he won nine NBA titles with the Boston Celtics. Makes you wonder if he could have done something similar at the college level, beating John Wooden to the punch by more than a decade.

2. For the past 50 years, every matchup between the two schools has featured at least one ranked team. The last time they were both unranked when they played was in February 1955, which was so long ago that Doc Brown hadn't yet invented time travel.

3. Dean Smith's frustrating Four Corners offense, which brought a game's tempo to a standstill because there was no shot clock, was invented in 1963 by accident. During practice, point guard Larry Brown (yes, that one) misread a defensive switch as a defensive breakdown and attacked the basket. Coach Smith saw ingenuity in this mistake and played around with it until he developed a form of offense that would annoy basketball fans for years to come.

4. Though its Gothic campus was designed by a black architect named Julian Abele, Duke's early record of racial progress is relatively weak when it comes to basketball. Adolph Rupp, who resisted integration at the University of Kentucky and openly used racial slurs, very nearly came out of retirement to coach Duke in 1973. He backed out only because his farm manager died the day Rupp was to accept. Three years earlier, Don Blackman, Duke's first black scholarship player, transferred to Rhode Island. Ouch.

5. In a 1979 game, after UNC executed a poor shot that missed the rim entirely, a few creative Duke students started chanting "Air-ball!" They invented the term, and it most certainly caught on.

6. As an 8th grader back in Alaska, former Duke player Trajan Langdon was lab partners in biology with Jewel.

7. Regarding Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (aka Coach K): his infamous American Express commercial, criticized as a glorified recruiting video, was shot and produced by Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris. Like past Duke coaches Vic Bubas and Bill Foster, Coach K has three children, all daughters. Finally, the back property line of Coach K's estate is also Chapel Hill city limits. What's more, he has never visited Franklin Street, the place where UNC students converge and celebrate.

* For those curious, the second greatest sport is women's college hoops. Don't know what's third, but I assure you it's a distant third.


Mainline Mom said...

Coach K has NEVER visited Franklin Street? Come ON!

My company headquarters is in Chapel Hill and I do research with a professor at Duke. Nice campus indeed.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Great. Another book I don't have time to read but really should. I did know about Trajan and Jewel, though, so I suppose I could skip over that part.

Neel Mehta said...

MM: Coach K might be a little afraid of Franklin Street. I know that if I saw a past or present UNC coach on Ninth Street in Durham, I wouldn't do anything aggressive, but would fear for his safety. Unless it was Matt Doherty, who looks like he could kick some ass.

APL: Hey, this is what I do. I read these books so you don't have to.

bdure said...

Neel, Neel -- Ninth Street is the only place in the Triangle to which a UNC coach could travel and not be recognized. I love the place, but still ...

Trajan and Jewel would make a cute couple, don't you think?

I can't stand Auerbach, who took gamesmanship to extremes in the NBA. That said, I'm glad we Dukies dodged the Rupp bullet.

Not a Chansky fan -- unless I've confused him with someone similar, I think I've even exchanged hostile e-mail with him after he wrote something that offended me as a journalist first and a Dukie a distant second. But most UNC grads aren't like that. Especially my lovely wife.

Neel Mehta said...

Trajan and Jewel would make a cute couple, don't you think?

Yeah, I guess. I just hope their kids grow up to have his teeth.

Not a Chansky fan -- unless I've confused him with someone similar

It's probably him. He's not the best writer, but with this subject matter, the author can afford to be an awful writer, so long as he doesn't make too many glaring mistakes. I even let the blatant Duke hatred slide.