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March Madness Means Coast-to-Coast Double for Duke

Posted March 23, 1999

— At Duke, big basketball victories are marked by raucous celebrations that feature towering bonfires at the center of campus.

But students on campus have remained subdued even as both the men's and women's teams reached their respective Final Fours.

For some, there was a very practical reason.

``We're saving our energy and conserving wood,'' said Charles Ellis, a senior from River Vale, N.J. ``The best is yet to come.''

The Duke women stunned top-ranked Tennessee 69-63 on Monday night to earn their first Final Four berth. A day earlier, the top-ranked Duke men's team beat Temple 85-64 to reach its fifth Final Four this decade.

How rare is that double? So rare that Georgia is the only other school to have both a men's and women's basketball team reach the NCAA Final Four in the same season, accomplishing the feat in 1983.

Before that, Indiana did it in 1973, when the NCAA ran the men's tournament and the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women oversaw the women's championship.

Some students say the women's trip through the NCAA tournament has been more compelling than the men's because expectations were lower.

``It's kind of like the women are David and the men are Goliath,'' said Michael Dobbyn, a senior from Canton, Mass.

``Everyone follows the men and going to men's games is amazing,'' Ellis said. ``It adds so much to the semester. The women have almost kind of sneaked up on us. All of a sudden, it's like `Wow! They beat Tennessee and now they're in the Final Four, too.'''

The feat posed a unique dilemma for Duke athletic director Joe Alleva, who spent most of Tuesday trying to figure out how to get from the NCAA women's semifinals in California on Friday, in which Duke plays Georgia, to the men's semifinals in Florida the next day, when Duke plays Michigan State.

For Alleva, it created a coast-to-coast conundrum because he was unable to make connections between San Jose, Calif., and St. Petersburg, Fla., using commercial airlines.

Late in the day, he finally secured a private charter to take him, university president Nan Keohane and faculty representative Kathleen Smith on the ambitious journey.

``I guess I'm going to have to do a lot of sleeping on planes and get some books,'' Alleva said. ``But there was no doubt we were going to do this. You don't get this unique an opportunity very often.

``It's double the frenzy.''

On Tuesday morning, the Blue Devils' ticket office opened 15 phone lines and still was unable to field every call, assistant ticket manager Bobby Sorrell said.

The school received 3,500 tickets for the men's event and 700 for the women's event.

``It's mission impossible around here because we have about the smallest athletic department in the country and here we are, with two teams in the Final Four,'' Sorrell said. ``That's OK. I'd take this problem every year.''

Duke women's coach Gail Goestenkors won't have to go far to find out what the Final Four is like. Coach Mike Krzyzewski's office is just two doors down a blue-carpeted hallway in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Krzyzewski was one of the first to congratulate Goestenkors when she showed up for work Tuesday morning.

``He watched the game and you could see the joy on his face. It was genuine,'' said Goestenkors, who's completing her seventh season at Duke. ``We're going to talk more later. I want his advice because he's been there and this is new to me.''

Flowers flooded Goestenkors' office on Tuesday, but by 8 a.m., she was breaking down film of Georgia.

``I'm already in that mode where you've got to get ready for the next game,'' Goestenkors said. ``He (Krzyzewski) came in and said, `Take at least this morning and this afternoon and just enjoy this. Appreciate this and then go ahead and prepare. But you need to enjoy and allow your team to enjoy this moment.'''

Krzyzewski and Goestenkors have forged a strong working relationship that goes back to her hiring in 1992.

``He said when I first came here, `I don't want Duke men's basketball to be the only winner here, I want people to think about Duke basketball as a winner,''' Goestenkors said. ``I wanted to know that's what they wanted. I felt that if the men's program could do it here, the women's program could do it here. That's what we're on the verge of.''

But wait a minute. What if the women win and the men lose?

``People here get emotionally involved with the men's team, whereas the women's team is just starting to pique everyone's interest,'' Dobbyn said.

``If the men don't win it and the women do, it would be pretty somber around here, and that's too bad,'' he said. ``But the prevailing attitude would be disappointment for the men not winning it rather than excitement for the women winning it.''

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