Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 02/25/20: A Bean Salad Burrito, Unreal 2OT Win for Wake Forest, Reliving Duke Basketball -- 1980-86

1. I cooked up a small pot of basmati rice and, on a flour tortilla, combined it with the bean salad I made for family dinner and some salsa. I liked it. Maybe I'll scramble an egg and add it and see if the resulting breakfast burrito might taste good.

2. I'd watched Michigan State defeat Iowa, 78-70, in an exciting, bruising, and bloody game late in the afternoon and thought that was it for college basketball today. Then a text flew in from Byrdman alerting me to the fact that the Duke/Wake Forest game had gone into overtime. I tuned in and found out that Duke had led Wake Forest, 78-69 with 1:12 left in regulation, but Wake Forest miraculously stormed back to tie the game, thanks to a late 3-pointer by Brandon Childress who, up to that point, had missed all ten of his shots from the field.

Something in Brandon Childress came to life in the OTs. He converted six of his ten shots and scored 13 points in the bonus periods. Wake Forest dominated Duke in the second OT and their fans swallowed them as they stormed the court after the buzzer sounded at the end of Wake's 113-101 triumph.

3. A couple days ago, inside my television's ESPN app, I saw that a documentary about Duke's Coach Mike Krzyzweski was available. It's been out for several months, but just now caught my attention. It's called, "The Class that Saved Coach K" and is about the group of players who came to Duke as freshmen in the fall of 1982.

When it comes to teams I pull for in college basketball, I am almost positive that Duke is at the bottom of my list. (Well, maybe Kenucky is. Yeah, now that I think about it, if Duke and Kentucky square off in the NCAA tournament, I'll probably pull for Duke.)  As a sports fan, with a few exceptions, I tend to side with underdogs and Duke has not been an underdog basketball program since -- well, since the early days of Coach K's tenure at Duke.

And tonight I remembered how I loved watching the Duke Blue Devils emerge in the time period covered by this documentary.  I remembered how Duke had clawed its way into the NCAA Tournament Championship game in 1978, and I feverishly rooted for them to defeat Kentucky, a team I had developed an irrational animosity toward. Kentucky won that NCAA title, much to my dismay, and out of Duke's loss, I became a mildly interested Duke fan.

In the 1970s, Bill Foster coached Duke. His coaching record was solid (113-64), but he left Duke after the 1979-80 season, took the South Carolina coaching job, and the Duke athletic director stunned the basketball world by hiring thirty-three year old Mike Krzyzewski who had been the head coach at Army for the past five seasons and had just completed a lousy 9-17 season.

Duke's basketball fortunes went south.

They had lousy seasons in Coach K's first three campaigns.

But, in 1983-84, when the "Class that Saved Coach K" (Mark Alarie, Weldon Williams, David Henderson, Jay Bilas, and Johnny Dawkins) were sophomores and were joined by a 1983 recruit, Tommy Amaker, Duke began to improve and I remember being hooked on the Duke comeback story -- and it makes sense that I would be. I wanted to see Duke overthrow the ACC's big dogs, North Carolina and Virginia, and seeing this young coach who'd been so maligned for the past three years begin to have success captured my imagination and interest.

So, tonight, I relived my relatively short-lived time as a fan of the Duke Blue Devils.

I enjoyed listening to the 1980s Duke players and Coach K reflect on those years between 1982-86. (I find Jay Bilas infinitely more interesting as a college basketball historian than as an analyst during games.) Even more, I enjoyed seeing the clips of video taken from games from those days.

In the end, though, I was not pulling for Duke when the Blue Devils faced Louisville in the 1986 NCAA championship game. As much as I admired all they went through to reach this game, I was all in with Louisville and their coach Denny Crum, the half-brother of one of my very best friends, Terry Turner. In fact, I watched that 1986 championship game with Terry and with another of my very best friends from Kellogg, Roger Pearson. I can't remember if we got together at Roger's apartment in Salem or at Terry's house in Gladstone, but I do know it's the last time I joined my lifelong buddies to watch an NCAA championship game and, tonight, as I watched Pervis Ellison score on a put back of Jeff Hall's air ball late in the game, the shot that clinched Louisville's win, the joy of watching basketball with Terry and Roger and the thrill of college basketball in the 1980s all came back to me and made me very happy.

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