A Duke-Stanford game is, in our judgment, a cause for celebration: two
schools doing it the right way, graduating players who are equipped to go out in
the world and find success and gratification in their professional, personal and
intellectual lives. We wish it would be a yearly thing. We have great
respect for what Stanford has done.
Having said that, we also would like to touch on a couple of other comments.
In one of the articles linked under the Stanford preview (we link all pre-game
articles that way), Jay Bilas says he didn't think it was possible that Stanford
could do what it did, that Duke has more advtantages, and while we take his
point we don't completely accept it.
First of all, Mike Montgomery has certainly done an amazing job and it's
clear that UVa should have pursued him harder than they did when they hired Jeff
Jones. But it's not like it's an automatic accomplishment at Duke. Yes,
Vic Bubas did a huge job in the 60s. But he essentially invented modern-day
recruiting in the process and had a big advantage which was eventually matched
by schools like Maryland and Houston, among others. And yes, Bill Foster
managed to build Duke back up. But between Bubas and Foster, and really
between Bubas and Coach K, the hard fact was that academics and other issues
made it very difficult for Duke to compete for talent and for wins. Foster
had a good run, but when he left, he had run out recruiting magic and had he
stayed things would have not gone well. Krzyzewski came in unknown and to
howls of criticism from fans who wanted a big name. He was nobody then, and
after one reasonable year, with an NIT appearance, Duke bottomed out.
There was no guarantee that Duke would do well again.
Krzyzewski convinced Bilas and the rest of his class to come aboard, which
helped enormously, but their freshman year was rife with embarrassing losses,
and if Tom Butters had had less fortitude, Kryzewski would have been run off.
Relatively few people remember the dark times now, the year when Steve Gray
threw the ball off the rim, or when Duke was helpless against the likes of
Clemson, when they didn't win a road game in the ACC for four years. When Foster
got it going and won the ACC Tourney, SI's lead line was "Duke. Now there's
a proud but forgotten name in college basketball."
We appreciate the fact that Duke has a bigger basketball rep than Stanford,
and we recognize what they have done is incredibly impressive. But for
Duke to crawl their way out of the ACC basement, where they were a permanent
doormat to the point where people seriously wanted to quit the ACC, to where
they are now, that's a phenomenal accomplishment. Yes, the basketball culture in
North Carolina helps. But don't let anyone suggest that Duke is where they
are by some unfair advantage. Duke is where they are because a lot of people
have busted their butts. It's no accident. We hope that all of you will be
aware of how hard it was to get here, and how it's even harder to stay.
Win or lose tonight, our hats are off to Stanford for doing things the right