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With Or Without Coach K, UNC-Duke Rivalry Will Endure

Posted July 2, 2004

— Fans of the Duke basketball team are not the only ones buzzing about Coach Mike Krzyzewski's possible departure to the Los Angeles Lakers.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State faithful also are keeping close watch on the situation. If Coach K leaves, it could affect all the Tobacco Road rivalries.

People are emotionally tied to the Carolina-Duke and Duke-N.C. State rivalries. Krzyzewski is a big part of what makes those rivalries special, leaving people to wonder what will happen to the rivalries if he leaves.

"The rivalries here are so intense," said NCSU radio commentator Tony Haynes, who used to be on the Duke radio team.

Perhaps none of the rivalries is more intense than the showdown between Carolina and Duke.

Many Tar Heels fans have said they would like to see Krzyzewski accept the Lakers' offer to be their next head coach. Woody Durham, the radio voice of the Tar Heels for 33 years, said those fans are serious.

"I think they mean that," he said. "I think they do."

Durham said the rivalry would remain strong even without Coach K.

"You know the rivalry is there, and it always will be there regardless of who's at Duke and who's at Carolina," he said.

What the rivalries may lose is spark.

"I think it would be different for Carolina fans from the aspect that if Carolina starts to win games in the series, Duke fans are going to say, if Mike's not there: 'I know we would've won if Mike had been there.'"

Such a scenario may have occurred when Pete Gaudet filled in for Krzyzewski for the final 19 games of the 1994-95 season after Krzyzewski suffered a back injury. Gaudet's Blue Devils, who finished last in the ACC, played a classic game against UNC, pushing the Dean Smith-coached Tar Heels to double overtime before losing 102-100.

In the 2000-2001 season, Matt Doherty led the Tar Heels to an 85-83 victory over Krzyzewski's Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium in Doherty's first game against Duke as UNC's coach. Carolina also beat Duke in Chapel Hill in Doherty's last regular-season game before resigning under pressure.

Those games could be used as proof that the intensity of the Triangle rivalries does not depend on who the coaches are.

"If you go back over 50 years, you see rivalries are firmly entrenched in tradition and history," Haynes said. "That's why I don't think any coach is bigger than the rivalry itself."

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