clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Brief History Of (Rival) Time

The Big Game is almost upon us! People in the Triangle are so giddy we could
melt the snow with our collective energy. Let's get busy!

Of course the problem with that is that the collective camps would
claim credit and assign blame, and UNC fans would say that they did more to melt
Durham and Brendan Haywood should count double because he's so big, and Duke
fans would counter that Cwell's energy is worth more and the only reason to melt
Chapel Hill is to get drunk and picked up and then there would be a big snowball
fight had we not just melted all the snow with our cumulative energy so things
would degenerate much like this analogy.

State fans would say they could have done more had we not ignored them.

But we digress.

It hasn't always been such a heated rivalry.  In fact at one point when
Duke was going to a Bowl game (this is the old days, kids, when Duke was much
better at football than basketball. Ask your grandparents), UNC students showed
up with signs and banners wishing them good luck.

Things heated up gradually, and when Frank McGuire got to Chapel Hill and
started importing New Yorkers (kind of funny when you consider the traditional
UNC protest about Duke being a Yankee school, but their first title was won with
5 New Yorkers, their second was won by a child of Brooklyn who hit a last second
shot before Fred Brown threw the ball to Worthy (MJ was born in NYC), and their third featured a gritty point guard in
Derrick Phelps and also Brian Reece - we dare say they would have no titles
without the dreaded Yankees), and Everett Case had State pumped up, Duke had to
compete and so they hired Case's assistant Vic Bubas away from State.

McGuire was there for a few more years, leaving just before UNC's greatest
humiliation, when the point shaving scandal hit. He was there long enough to
recruit Art Heyman, who he thought he had, but who went to Duke. Heyman told SI
years later that he could have just as easily gone to Chapel Hill with his New
York buddies had they shown up at the airport to get him.  

This was not lost on UNC, and when they came to visit, we think in his
sophomore year, the benches were still under the baskets.  Heyman went in
for a layup, and fell in front of the bench, and was kicked. A melee broke out,
and the UNC players jumped on Heyman. Someone who was there told us that Heyman
was covered for a second, then more or less just started throwing Tar Heels
aside. This was one of the biggest brawls in ACC history. Later Heyman gleefully
claimed he slugged McGuire in the nuts in the middle of all this (McGuire wasn't
exactly a bystander).

No going back from that! From there the rivalry hit insane levels. Vic Bubas
dominated Dean Smith until 1967, during a time when UNC basketball was both restricted by
the state, after the scandal, and rebuilding. They finally got it going again
after taking Larry Miller away from Bubas in a sort of karmic replay of the
Heyman recruitment, though it didn't go as long as the Heyman deal did. But that
was Dean's breakthrough recruit, and he ended up taking UNC to three Final
Fours, where they ran into Lew Alcindor, and there was no beating John Wooden
with a weapon like that.

In one of the greatest games, near the end of the Bubas years,  in 1968,
career reserve
Fred Lind came off the bench and had a spectacular game against UNC, which went
into triple overtime.  Lind was carried off the court by his fellow
students in a moment of absolute triumph. A (very) rough comparison would be to
maybe Michael Brooker singlehandedly destroying Duke.

Bubas retired in a few years and Bucky Waters took over in a turbulent era,
and following a master is tough at any time but doubly so in a time of social
upheaval and youth rebellion.  He didn't last long, and Neal McGeachy came
in for a year.

There were two memorable games in those years, one when a struggling Duke,
behind Robbie West, who Howard Garfinkel says was one of his two significant
talent overestimates (we forget the other one, but Garf definitely has the eye),
knocked off a  #3 UNC in Durham.  The other came, of course, when Duke
led by 8 with 16 seconds left before UNC managed to tie it on a shot which,
today, would have won it in regulation as a three but then just put it into
overtime, where UNC won.

The early years for Bill Foster were tough, but he found a major sleeper in
Spanarkel, and followed him the next year with Gminski and the next year with
Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard, perhaps our all-time  favorite Duke

Gene Banks had memorable games against UNC, of course. His freshman year,
when Duke won, Banks dribbled out the clock and juked in jubilation.  

In 1979, in Jim Spanarkel's last home game, Dean Smith reasoned that he
couldn't compete with Duke for the entire game, so UNC was going to stall for
the entire first half and hope to keep up in the second.  It would have
worked, except that Chick Yonaker shot an airball, and Duke ended up with 7
quick points and went into halftime 7-0.  Duke won 47-40, so Dean's point
was sound.

A piece of trivia: That's the first game where the now familiar
air-ball chant started. While no one can be certain, there's
enough anecdotal evidence to indicate it was started by our
own Alpha Geek, James Armstrong.

In 1981, Gene's senior year, in an overtime thriller and Coach K's first
year, K drew up an out of bounds play which got Banks the ball at the top of the
key, where he just barely got a shot off over Sam Perkins to put the game in

This after throwing roses to the fans before the game.

Krzyzewski took his first team to the NIT, but an injury to Banks short-circuited
that.  The next two years were rough, both at 10-17 if we remember correctly
(we didn't; it was 11-17), and there was a lot of pressure on Coach K.  Frank Dascenzo of
the Durham paper took him to task for refusing to play zone and predicted
doom.  This was the backdrop for the UNC game in Cameron in K's third year,
where the classy and dignified Dean Smith pounded on the scorer's table so hard
he changed the score, and wasn't given a technical. 

In the press conference, K went ballistic, talking of a double standard for
ACC coaches and Smith.  Within a few days, braving huge criticism, AD Tom
Butters tore up his contract and extended it. 

The next year marked the renaissance of Duke as a power, as Duke returned to the
NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980.

You can't talk about stuff like this
without mentioning 1984 and Herman Veal. Why a Maryland player? Well, after Duke played
Maryland, and taunted Herman Veal for alleged sexual assault (we can't remember
the outcome), throwing condoms and panties and the like, the basketball world
went ballistic. Ken Denlinger blistered Duke in the Post.  Terry Sanford
wrote an open letter to the student body calling for a different approach to
games and asking for cleverness rather than meanness. 

The next game was UNC.

The Crazies showed up with tin foil halos, and chanted "we beg to
differ!" when the refs made a bad call. They welcomed "our esteemed
guests from Chapel Hill." All in all a great day in Cameron. 

Dean Smith didn't think so. Asked afterwards, he groused that one day of good
behavior didn't make up for years of bad.  This from the guy who pounded on
the scoreboard, who called another player "Mr Choke," and who was
thrown out of the Final Four and who recruited Makhtar Ndiaye and Jeff McInnis.

In 1986, Duke had one of its finest teams, behind hardened veterans Johnny
Dawkins, David Henderson, Jay Bilas, Mark Alarie, and Tommy Amaker. UNC had a
new gym to open, the Dean Dome, and it was behind schedule, and rather than a relatively easy
game, Duke came to town for the first contest.  It was a nip and tuck battle, but in the end, UNC
pulled away and won 95-92.  Duke won in Durham, though, and then went to the championship
game and set a record for total wins at 37.

In 1988, the rivalry hit a very high level of intensity. Duke won all three
games, and the tournament championship was just brutal.  It was a
tremendous game.

In 1991, UNC beat Duke by 22 in the ACC Finals, 96-74. Duke went on the win the
championship. In 1992, Duke beat UNC by an almost identical score. Duke went on to win the
national championship again.

In 1993, UNC, sick of Duke, won the national championship.

In 1995, when Coach K went down, UNC came to Cameron and threatened to run
away with the game, symbolized by Jerry Stackhouse's brilliant reverse windmill dunk over
both Cherokee Parks and Erik Meek. The most spectacular play, though, was Jeff
Capel's running three to tie the game at the buzzer.  UNC went on  to

In 1998, UNC was winning by 17 at Cameron when Duke turned on the
afterburners and caught up with a thin UNC team, pulling the game out.

Last year, Duke beat UNC three times, and dominated the Heels in Chapel
Hill.  There was no way UNC could compete athletically with Duke last

This season is a different case, of course, and the teams each have
significant weaknesses the other can exploit.  This game should be a fun
one too. Better put your seatbelts on!