Why do the haters love Duke? Here are the 12 biggest reasons the Blue Devils are college basketball's public enemy No. 1.
12. The officials love them. Cameron Indoor Stadium has a mystical quality that turns charges into blocks, hacks into acceptable contact and stops the space-time continuum on three- and five-second calls -- but only for the guys wearing white. The power can transfer to other locales, too, such as the 2001 Final Four when Maryland's Terrence Morris got his fourth foul 14 seconds into the second half and Jason Williams wasn't called for his fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth foul two nights later in the NCAA championship game.
11. Floor slapping. Part pump-up, part glory boy show-off, all lame and contrived. Taking a cue from how they officiate the game, refs probably see Duke players slap the floor and don't believe there's any contact.
10. Coach K says so. After a contentious game against Dean Smith and North Carolina in 1984, Krzyzewski told reporters the refs had a double standard when working UNC games. Nine years later, Krzyzewski and Smith faced off in a 1993 game inside the Dean Dome. After an argument with the longtime UNC coach, Coach K stormed back to the bench and, according to John Feinstein's A March to Madness, made the following request to his assistants. "If I even for one minute start to act like [Smith], don't ask a single question. Just get a gun and shoot me."
Let's hope they didn't read this 2010 piece by Mike Lopresti detailing the similarities between Coach K and his biggest rival. They're basically the same person, aside from Krzyzewski's penchant for cursing and Smith's fondness for scotch.
Hyperbole aside, the big takeaway is that Coach K once gave a tacit endorsement of hating any coach for being the whiny architect of a title-winning team on Tobacco Road.
9. Dick Vitale. No duchess has ever loved a duke as much as Dick Vitale. The team's biggest fan didn't earn the moniker "Dukie V" by accident. He treats each visit to Durham like it's a pilgrimage, professing his love for the fans, the stadium, the coach and the atmosphere, baby. When he's calling their games, Vitale overpraises Duke when they're doing well, makes excuses when they're playing poorly and reveres Coach K so much that he probably has a timeshare in Krzyzewskiville. And he has plenty of chances to do so, because Duke is on TV more than Law & Order. The only way Dickie V could love Duke basketball any more is if the team somehow merged with Notre Dame football to create a super-team filled with high-school All-Americans that will inevitably fail in the pros. Greg Paulus could be a dual force of mediocrity for both teams.
8. The fraud. The shot of Christian Laettner hitting the game-winning buzzer beater against Kentucky in the 1992 regional finals is a clip you see two dozens times each March.
What's rarely seen is another Laettner play from earlier that game.
It's as if Michael Jordan had sucker-punched Craig Ehlo before hitting The Shot.
7. The lost season. Back surgery forced Krzyzewski to miss most of the 1994-95 season. In his place, assistant Pete Gaudet took over the head coaching duties and finished the year 4-15. Those losses aren't credited to Krzyzewski's career record. Among other things, this allows him to maintain the impressive feat of 30 straight years of never finishing below .500. (Coach K's 9-3 record from the first 12 games of the season is all that shows up in the record books.)
This isn't egregious. I don't think wins and losses that coaches didn't coach should be counted. One person who disagrees with that position is Mike Krzyzewski. "I think I should have been credited with all the losses," he said in 2007.
Yeah, because he doesn't have the pull to make that happen.
6. They're not as clean as you'd think. There are well-documented stories about Corey Maggette accepting money from a summer league coach and Chris Duhon's mother getting a job with a Duke booster. None of these stories implicate Krzyzewski or Duke in any malfeasance (nor should they), but imagine if they were linked to John Calipari or Ohio State football? None of the unavoidable grime ever attaches itself to Coach K. He's like the SUV in a commercial that drives through the mud and comes out inexplicably clean at the end.
5. Flopping. European soccer players think Duke players flop too much. The directors of Waterworld andJohn Carter watch Duke games and think, "man, that flop was embarrassing." If Splash contestant and diving newbie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stood on a diving board with Ryan Kelly, you'd have a hard time choosing the bigger flopper.
4. Taking charges. On the other hand, when Duke isn't spontaneously falling to the ground like an empty trash can in a stiff breeze, the team stands in the lane and takes the toughest charges in college basketball. Watch a Duke player keep his ground when an opponent is on a break. Their feet never move, and their bodies stay still. Then watch a different game and notice how other players bail out or shuffle their bodies or try to absorb the blow by leaning into the ball handler. The Dukies stand firm. It's fundamentally sound. It's also infuriating.
3. The Cameron Crazies. People often criticize the Cameron Crazies for using cheer sheet to coordinate their wackiness. That's unfair. Do you think you could spend all day dressing up like a fool and learn the hackneyed chants you're going to shout en masse? Those blue bodies don't paint themselves, people.
2. Christian Laettner. Danny Ferry was the first Dukie to gain widespread infamy, but it wasn't until Christian Laettner began winning national titles that a Blue Devil player earned the scorn of the nation. He begat Wojo who begat J.J. Redick who begat Jon Scheyer who begat Ryan Kelly. Laettner's the godfather of troll.
But there was another reason people disliked Laettner. It's falls in line with our No. 1 reason people love to hate Duke.
1. They're the best. If Christian Laettner wasn't any good, no one would have cared that he acted like a jerk. (Greg Newton was an even bigger one than Laettner but no one cares about him because he's a nobody.) But he was the best player in college basketball, so there was a reason to despise him other than his cockiness and swagger.
Similarly, if Duke just had a obnoxious coach, it would be West Virginia. If Duke simply had crazy fans, it would be Maryland. If the team only flopped, it would be Real Madrid.
But Duke piles up the haters because, in addition to all those things, it's the best program in college basketball. Four national championships in the last 21 years. Eleven Final Four appearances since 1986. Eight title game appearances over the same span. No other school can match those credentials.
The masses dislike Duke for the same reason they dislike the Yankees or the Cowboys or the Steelers: They're worthy.