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Banquet Notes and the Meaning of a Tree

During a hectic Reunion Weekend filled with oodles of activities across Duke's campuses, the annual Basketball Banquet was held Saturday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium. As usual, dinner was served on the floor of Cameron, with the event open to the general public to watch the ceremonies upstairs. The stage was set on the side across from the team benches, and three large video screens were suspended over the court.

In addition to the awards mentioned in our earlier article, much of the evening centered on honoring Duke's lone senior, Chris Carrawell. Nan Keohane presented Chris with the unprecedented honor of Duke's Board of Trustees issuing an proclamation noting his accomplishments and exemplifying "excellence, tolerance, and respectfullness." As is a tradition for Duke seniors, Mickie Krzyzewski produced Chris' senior video, which was set to "Stand By Me." It ended with stars in the sky falling down to spell out "Well Done," then "C-Well Done."

In his remarks, Chris, wearing a tuxedo as he stood in front of the crowd, spoke touchingly of his grandmother who passed away last week and would not be able to see him graduate nor would he be able to celebrate Mother's Day with her again. He also honored his mother as the most important person in his life. As is C-well, he also added humor to his speech. In talking about players he learned to love, he said, "And of course, Trajan Langdon, and uh... uh... those guys who left."

Coach K was also honored with a special video of his 20 years at Duke. In his closing speech, he said the prior season was "as happy a year as I've had in 25 years of coaching. I hope I will be able to have another one." He then spoke directly to his players, saying, "You are damned old-fashioned. You understood love, care, friendship, collective responsibility, trust, all those things. It was great to walk into practice each day and see Jason's eyes, Casey's smile, Carlos coming back from an injury, the walk-ons working hard, Matt walking with his bum knees, Nick Horvath expressing himself, the veterans accepting themselves and their roles with confidence.... You should ask others who have been working what it would be like to go through an entire year when there was not one bit of jealousy, no one was selfish, people told the truth, people became as one. You were a very good basketball team that played great."

To the audience, Coach K said, "After how last year ended, our opponents were licking their chops to get Duke. They didn't. And you know what? They won't next year."

A video capturing the highlights of the season was shown. The biggest cheers were for Nick's bank shot against DePaul and Mike Dunleavy's twisting move against Georgia Tech. But the best moment was how the video ended with the image that Duke fans, with a passion that both befuddles and reveals the pettiness of some opponents, truly have come to cherish and love - Chris Carrawell leaving the court against Florida and tearfully embracing Coach K.

The banquet ended with the team, all in tuxedos, standing on the stage and receiving a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd. Minutes after people left Cameron, a University-wide fireworks display illuminated the sky, and we all left with a sense of pride, happiness, and gratitude.

* * * * *

Prior to the banquet, we were fortunate to attend the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Schwartz-Butters Building adjacent to Cameron. The Schwartz-Butters Building will house Duke's Hall of Fame, an academic area for student-athletes, and the men's and women's basketball offices. At the ceremony, Nan Keohane, Joe Alleva, Mike Krzyzewski, Gail Goestenkors, Tom Butters, and benefactor Alan Schwartz (a Bear Stearns senior exec) all spoke. After the ribbon was cut, we toured the building and went up to the sixth floor to look at Coach K's new office. He was standing behind his new desk, having his picture taken with some people and signing his new book for others. It's a magnificent office, two stories high with exquisite paneling and massive floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Krzyzewskiville. Whoever succeeds Coach K will probably think on his first day in the job, "What the hell did I ever do to earn this???"

We saw Coach K, somewhat miraculously, separate himself from the people touring his office and, alone, go over to the window that overlooks what has become a truly beautiful plaza framed by various athletic facilities like Cameron, Card Gym, the Wilson Rec Center, and the Sheffield Tennis Center. From his vantage point, Coach K looked down on a single large tree that stands in front of the Schwartz-Butters Building. The tree was planted by him and his family and is known as The Emily Krzyzewski Memorial Tree, in honor of his mother, the loyalest Duke fan ever who passed away a couple of years ago. We can only imagine what was going through Coach K's mind at the time, but we're sure he was thinking of how far he's come from his youthful days on the streets of Chicago and how his mom always knew he would be standing where he was.