The Worm Is Turning

It may be my imagination, but I think the worm is finally turning as far as Coach K is concerned. Reports from message boards and newspapers around the country appear to be ready to place the same standards of conduct on Coach K that are used for other coaches. The NCAA playoffs gives the nation an opportunity to see the Duke mentor in action. Keep in mind these people don't get a regular diet of ACC basketball, so some of them are getting their first look at what ACC fans have come to accept as routine. When you give the matter of Coach K a little thought, however, it isn't Coach K that I blame. Most of us understand that whether it is in parent-child relationship, sports or business, it is human nature to take things as far as you can without exceeding the rules that apply. If you agree with this, it is easy to see that the real culprits are the ACC and Duke University. Both of these institutions are damaged by game officials allowing K to spew his venom at the officials if he is not pleased with the way things are going on the floor.

I must admit it would have been nice to have an all ACC final game, but try as I did, I just couldn't bring myself to root for Duke. I love the institution and I have met many fine Duke graduates, but Coach K's antics have caused me to forsake conference loyalties when Duke is involved. I noticed that the TV camera caught a good shot of Mickey K in the stands and, as far as I'm concerned, she is a principal reason I feel the way I do towards Duke basketball. I will never forget her blatantly cheering for Kansas against UNC in '91 in full view of the TV camera. I didn't expect her to root for Carolina in that game, but she could have been a little less enthusiastic in her support for our opponent. Another factor that prevents me from rooting to other ACC teams when they play out of conference games is the Virginia incident in '84 when the Virginia fans were openly cheering for Indiana to beat UNC. These two incidents are sufficient for me to say that supporters of these schools have shown me what they think of UNC, so I will show them what I think of them.

The ending of the game with U Conn. was eerily like the last time the two schools met, then for the national championship. Then, as Saturday night in the waning seconds of the game, Duke sent one of their least effective ball handlers to the basket with hopes that a foul would be called and, in both situations, the officials didn't cooperate. You would think that officials from other conferences would be less inclined to give Duke a break on the officiating, particularly when the game is on the line, and that's exactly what they did. Coach K is reported to have said to the officials, "You killed us."

The game was called extremely close and I'm sure some people were displeased because it was. I didn't mind it at all. If more games were called close, the players would adjust and the game would return to what it was intended to be. The biggest problem I have with the officiating is that a team never knows what to expect. Some will say that adjusting to the officiating is part of what makes a good coach, and I can't disagree with that. It seems, however, that there could be a better job of officiating at the same level. Many other endeavors in life have multiple persons making judgments such as basketball officials do and the disparity between situations doesn't seem to be as large as in basketball. Maybe it's time for full time officials, at least with the big programs.

Again, I was irritated to no end by teams calling time out when a player gets into trouble. The rules people could stop this by reducing the number of time outs, but they won't.

Did you see the lady at courtside where officials sit at the end of the Oklahoma State-Georgia Tech game with her hands to her mouth in disbelief, ostensibly at the outcome of the game. I don't know if she was a reporter or an event official, but it captured the moment.

Packer hammered at strength of the players all game long, but this time I believe he was right. There is no question that strength was a factor in Will Bynam's drive to the basket that won the game for Georgia Tech. Which leads me to contemplate how UNC would fare in competition with other ACC teams in terms of strength. Other than McCants, I would think that we would not fare too well. We seem to and always have recruited players who aren't very muscular or large boned and it's bound to be part of our problem this year. Of well, I'll let Coach Williams worry about that, and also the possibility that both of our top recruits may make themselves available to the pro draft if several reports are to be believed.

One last item. I have heard from a reliable source that we have seen the last of Luol Deng in a Duke uniform. He is reported to have informed Coach K of his decision before the Final Four, but he will not announce it until after the final game Monday night. We'll see if these reports are accurate, and depending on the outcome, I will be able to better evaluate information from this source in the future.