Oh, How My Heart Bleeds for Duke, State, and Wake Fans

Unless you reside on another planet or something, I suppose you’ve heard by now that the University of North Carolina Tar Heels won the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. 

I’ve been a Carolina basketball fan for nearly forty years, and I’ve never seen a Tar Heel team this dominant in the NCAAs.  None of their games in the tournament were even remotely close; they simply ran over everyone they played. 

Coach Roy Williams has now got two championships (2005 and 2009) under his belt in just six years at Chapel Hill, and if things keep going like this I think he may well win several more before he retires. 

But, you know, all this Tar Heel success got me to thinking about how sad the rest of the “Big Four” fans — those who root for Duke, North Carolina State and Wake Forest — must be feeling now.

Duke, for instance.  Alas, poor Duke.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils were once on top of the world — back-to-back championships in 1991-92 and another in 2001 — but they haven’t even been back to the Final Four since 2004.  Coach K. is a great coach, but, gosh darn, it’s beginning to look like his best days are behind him; Roy Williams is recruiting better talent, and the truth is all that floor-slapping Duke defense just isn’t what it used to be.  But we’ll see.  Krzyzewski might yet have a surprise or two up his sleeve.

A far more pitiful case is, of course, North Carolina State.  All that wonderful tradition, Everett Case, Norm Sloan, Jimmy V., David Thompson, but not a single championship since 1983 — 26 years ago!  I can hardly imagine how difficult this must be, and yet I admire the courage of these State fans in the face of this ceaseless adversity. 

For instance, I have a friend and co-worker here at the library who is a State fan.  Nearly every day he loyally dons his little red, Wolfpack sweater; I can see his smiling face now, always cheerful and upbeat in the face of defeat after defeat, disappointment after disappointment, year after year.  Nothing but misty memories of past glories remain for him, and yet he somehow clings on to hope.  Sad, how very sad.  But touching too.

And, finally, there’s Wake Forest.  They’ve fielded some fine teams over the years, but the Deacs just have never quite been able to win the big one.  Like the Steely Dan song, I guess that’s why they call them “Deacon Blues.”   

Anyway, if you’re a fan of one of those other programs and you’re becoming discouraged, I’d like to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to join us up here in “Blue Heaven.”  We’d love to convert you!  (And yes, that holds true even for Duke fans!)  Of course, I understand that it’s a big move, especially if you’ve been loyal to one of those other teams for a real long time.  But I believe it’s never too late! 

One way to smoooooooooth the transition to that “Dean Dome kingdom” is to bulk up on Carolina basketball lore and “the Dean Smith way.”  And that’s where Greensboro Public Library comes in, because we’ve got plenty of books about the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team, it’s storied history, the Dean Smith years, Michael Jordan, etc., etc.  

Try some of these:  The 12 Leadership Principles of Dean Smith by David Chadwick; Blue Blood: Duke-Carolina, Inside the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops by Art Chansky; The Best Game Ever:  How Frank McGuire’s ’57 Tar Heels Beat Wilt and Revolutionized College Basketball by Adam Lucas; Blue Heaven:  A History of UNC Basketball (videorecording); The Carolina Corporation:  Inside Dean Smith and the Tar Heels by Steve Holstrom; A Coach’s Life by Dean Smith with John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins; Dean Smith:  A Biography by Thad Mumau; The Dean Smith Story:  More Than a Coach by Thad Mumau; Dean’s Domain:  The Inside Story of Dean Smith and His C0llege Basketball Empire by Art Chansky; The Dean’s List:  A Celebration of Tar Heel Basketball and Dean Smith (juvenile) by Art Chansky, with a foreword by Michael Jordan; Going Home Again:  Roy Williams, the North Carolina Tar Heels, and a Season to Remember by Adam Lucas; North Carolina, 2005 NCAA Champions by The News & Observer; One to Remember:  The 1982 North Carolina Tar Heels NCAA Championship Team Then and Now by David Daly; The Road to Blue Heaven:  An Insider’s Diary of North Carolina’s 2007 Basketball Season by Wes Miller; Tar Heel:  North Carolina Basketball by Ken Rappoport; Tar Heel Madness:  Great Eras in North Carolina Basketball by Wilton Sharpe; To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever:  A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry by Will Blythe; University of North Carolina Men’s Basketball Games:  A Complete Record, Fall 1953 through Spring 2006 by Michael E. O’Hara; The Winning Tradition:  A Pictorial History of Carolina Basketball; and Three Paths to Glory:  A Season on the Hardwood with Duke, N.C. State, and North Carolina by Barry Jacobs.

And lest you should think of this as some sort of ACC basketball schadenfreude. . . . Well, I suppose you’re on to something there.

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