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Watzone on Today's Practice and Bill Brill's Book

The intensity of todays open practice was noticeable in many ways,
especially in Coach K's face. He glared at the court
as Duke held the seventh practice of the young basketball season,
barking orders and often stopping practice to give individual
instructions to players.

I watched in awe as the practice went on with military precision,
where every manager knew their place and each assistant their duties.
No matter the drill K had his troops hustling through and encouraged
them to when they didn't.

Perhaps the reason Coach was so intense is the fact that a
small celebration is in store for him tonight. Why? Well,
it his twenty-fifth anniversary, and I'd say he has quite a few
accomplishments in that time. I will never forget the day he was
introduced as the new Duke coach succeeding Bill Foster, who was
73-24 in his last three seasons. People were saying who is that?
Army? A Polish guy?

In hindsight, Butters sure as heck knew what he was doing with this
hire, but before he would sit atop the college basketball world
as a living legend, K would struggle getting the players to fit
his system, which was an in your face "green fly defense." When
K and company were vacating West Point, I was managing a local
apartment complex in Durham and had just gotten out of the USAF
at 22, which gave me the GI Bill for school. This was when the
Durham Bulls had just moved to Durham as well with players like
Brett Butler, and Manellas and a little hole called the Haufbrau
were popular hang outs, and the Bull City had one shopping mall.
Heck, the Hideaway was just to the right down the stairs if you
had your back to the Chapel. I guess I am saying that things sure
have changed since then, and for the better.

Anyhow, I remember a Firebird pulling up to the complex I ran at
that time and it had Army license plates. A very young guy got out
of the car who was Chuck Swenson, an assistant who was barley
older than me. As I showed him around, he certainly knew I was a
Duke fan as I guess in hindsight I almost grilled him with questions
about the program and recruiting, where if my memory serves me had
only a Texas off guard in Doug McNeely coming in. So, Chuck if
you are out there, I am sorry I ran you to another complex, lol.

Duke had another assistant named Bobby Dwyer, who had played at
Wake Forest. I remembered him from attending the Campbell College
Basketball Clinic where he was a counselor a few years before.
To give you a timeline of those days, and that clinic, another great
coach ran it, John Wooden. Heck, I walked into a gym one
night and Pistol Pete Maravich was there alone shooting around
and of course I conversed with him and got my ball autographed.
Unfortunately, when I got back home I used the ball in my back yard court.

Anyway, back to Coach K.

It is odd that many fans consider it a birthright to win with ease
now, but let me tell you that hard work and many growing pains
went into rebuilding a once proud program where Vic Bubas actually set
the tone for national recruiting, and where Bill Foster revived the program after a slump in our history.

During his first few seasons Krzyzewski inherited a squad that
included a Duke legend in Gene Banks and an all time favorite in
Kenny Dennard. He went 17-13 with that team, and I will always
remember the games in Cameron versus Alabama, NC A & T and the rest.
Duke eventually lost to Purdue in the NIT, and the Foster era was over with
the departure of Banks and Dennard.

Foster had not recruited particularly well though, leaving Vince
Taylor in the fold with Tom Emma, Mike Tissaw and a current shooting
instructor and part time pro coach in Chip Engelland. His first
class was only Doug McNeely and off guard that had to play power
foward at Duke in some instances.

The next class wasn't much better with Greg Wendt, who later transferred to Detroit and a crowd favorite from Canada named Danny Meagher. K went on to find out how hard it was in recruiting, barely missing on Chris
Mullin and Bill Wennington who went to St. Johns, Uwe Blab and a host of others over a short time, but then came a breakthrough class which consisted of Mark Alarie, Jay Bilas, Johnny Dawkins, David Henderson, Bill Jackman and Welden Williams.

Bill Jackman would later transfer to Nebraska, and oddly many
compared him to Larry Bird, showing what recruiting types knew in
that day. Welden Williams took on the role player label, but the
other three may just be the cornerstone of today's success.

Jay Bilas was from Rolling Hills, California and who would have
ever thought that he'd lead a 37-3 team at center or that he'd go
on to become one of the best analyst in the game at ESPN (Heck,
he even made a splash in Hollywood as an Alien in the classic)
"I come in Peace."

Mark Alarie was a sweet shooting, smooth 6-8 forward who earned
more of a name outplaying an Arizona seven footer whose name I
can't seem to recall (Brad Lohaus! -ed).

David Henderson was a late but valuable addition from a little
town in Eastern North Carolina. Many of us will remember his
thunderous dunks from the baseline and a knack for picking off in
bounds passes.

That brings me to Johnny Dawkins. He was K's number one target,
a slender water-bug (swift) type guard that would go on to become
the Blue Devils all-time leading scorer, and leave us with memories
like the behind-the-head dunk versus Navy, which was the play of
the day on ESPN, and my favorite, oddly a defensive play for the
the scoring machine -- his block of David Rivers to secure a last
second win versus Notre Dame. Johnny will always
hold a special place in this fan's heart, who met him for the first
time at that oh-so cold water fountain where the locker room use
to be, which is across from the Hall of Fame Room now. I simply
wished the young freshman luck, and hey, it worked!

That group of guys will always be close to my heart and I guarantee
you I hurt as much as they did when Louisville ended one of the
greatest seasons in our illustrious history and I was indeed there
to greet them on a beautiful sunny day, just as I have been each
and everytime a team has come back since.

Interestingly, K continued to recruit a Durham product named Curtis
Hunter, who was often compared to Michael Jordan. He ended up at
UNC, of course. Yep, Duke was 10-17 the year before and before
this class would start its mark on Duke Basketball. They lost
to Wagner the next season in Cameron and were throttled by a UVA
team led by Ralph Sampson, which set a tone and desire that has
made us what we are today, after even more memorable events like
a young Duke team taking UNC, which featured Michael
Jordan, James Worthy, Sam Pekins and the luckiest Steve Hale ever, to the limit. This is the same game where Deano was banging on the scoreboard in Cameron, knocking it silly and continuing to get calls and oddly, no technical. That
sparked the now famous "double standard" line, and was a move that
eventually evened the court in the ACC. That was in my opinion, the start
of K's now immense sideline stature, where Duke earned respect and sent a message of what was to come.

This class enabled K to recruit better players, like Danny Ferry
and others. His recruiting has only gotten better,
and he has not only served as an ambassador for college hoops,
but has rolled with each and every change that has faced him.

Yep, he was somewhat accessible when he first came to Durham as I
remember rushing to what was then Durham Sporting Goods to get an
autograph in an Adidas promotion, and he took an interest not only
in the shoe I purchased, but me as person. Now, he is pulled at
from every direction, having little privacy and signed with Nike
as one of their better liked clients... how things have changed
since those early days.

Be all that you can be! Thats the Army motto, and K has personified
that from the time he set foot in a once sleepy tobacco town that is now known as the City of Medicine. I am amazed at his growth as a person and the success he has accomplished and find myself today literally tongue-tied when I see him, as he is a living legend whether he considers himself that or not.

So I had to gush a bit before I got to my report today, and while
some is personal, I wanted to share a view from my eyes, since
I have been here his entire career. There is much more I
could mention, but I will get on with it, though I would like to wish
him a happy twenty-fifth year anniversary and say thanks.

One more thing: I attended his practice when he was just starting,
and although he did not have the horses to play his system, I could
tell it would work if he did and never doubted him once like many
did. I am so glad that he stuck to his man to man and didn't pay
attention to the peanut gallery who almost ran him off and insisted
he play zone. The man stuck by his guns and the rest is history and
more in the making.

Okay, back to today's practice which started with several drills.
One was three players that would go down court led by the middle
man dribbling and shooting a lay-up, on the return, the two
outside players played defense on that same player. Another was
the traditional weave and then they broke into groups of the bigs
with Wojo and Collins with the perimeter, and JD overseeing it all.
My favorite was an intense two-on-one drill.

During the drills, coaches nodded at each other with approval during
great defensive efforts, and would applaud everytime a player hit
the floor with hustle. Coaches could be seen participating and
talking with individual players on positioning, spacing and many
other aspects of the game.

There was a lot of teaching going on today, much more so than
yesterday, and there was a sense of urgency, and K took every
opportunity to create desire and consistency.

K once stopped practice, showing players how to work through picks,
saying "Don't let guys stop you!" He talked of the importance
of how to fight through and then put emphasis on help defense and
switching, as some of the younger guys were not picking up on the
fact that Duke plays help defense and that they needed to understand the benefits of knowing when to switch off. He also spoke of the importance of the official
who looks at the play, and how he would perceive the movement as
a foul if not executed properly.

He once stopped action to tell David McClure not to get too low a
position on defense, demonstrating how to place his feet and extend
his arms and stay higher yet mobile, which creates more havoc for
the opposition. He went on to speak of how the corner positions
on the court opens up the middle and how this played into Duke
motion offense.

Once after schooling Dock on taking the ball too low with no out,
Sean took it to heart , focused in, and came down court on the next
possession to hit a three pointer showing his elation. and emotion,
a key ingredient. He was also encouraged at the FT line shortly
before that by K, where he hit both during a controlled scrimmage.

He got on the guys once for posting too low, again explaining that
opponents looked at spacing to see weakness or openings in the D.
The D was much more active today, and the talking was much
more consistent throughout than yesterday, but K would address that
later as he would also address hustle and the importance of playing all out,
all the time, which builds game habits and made a player understand
the speed of the game. This will be very important as the younger
guys witness the ACC for the first team.

Before I get into K's specifics at the end of practice, I'd
like to share some player thoughts starting with Shavlik Randolph.
Shav hurt his knee today on a collision when he was taking a charge.
It seemed as if he'd already had a minor problem with it and this
tweaked it further. Thankfully, he seemed okay, in that he did
not leave the court, but the trainer worked with him and you could
see many glancing over often with concern for the big guy. He did
not return to action and indeed grimaced, and I am sure the Blue
Devil Nation wished him well as he is a vital part of this team.
Before he went out, he showed hustle and the ability to position,
post up, and more. I am not sure if he will play in tomorrow's
B/W game.

Shelden collided once with Reggie Love, hurting his hip, but seemed
okay late, returning to action. This gives one an idea of the effort
that was out there today. Shelden showed good finishes and a nice
little one hander or hook for us semi old school guys and gals.

JJ and Daniel played well and consistently throughout, later
garnering praise from both teammates and K, which I will explain
shortly. Melch continued to show a sweet touch from the outside,
and Dockery learns everytime he steps on the court, with his
confidence growing daily. Patrick Johnson and Reggie Love are
playing well, too, with Reggie showing some strong moves to the basket
and a bit of mid-range touch. David McClure shows how valuable
he will become, possibly being able to guard different types of
players, especially if he continues to listen to Coach.

Finally, DeMarcus Nelson looked really good today. In one drill,
he muscled it over a similarly muscular Reggie Love and showed an
outside touch, as well as a few steals, and moving about well.
The kid will get his minutes and has a chance to become a great
player at Duke.

Finally, I will close with K's lesson of the day and message to
his team. As I said JJ and Daniel earned praise, and here is why.
Coach asked the team (one at a time) who they thought
played the hardest during the practice. More often than not,
JJ and Daniel were mentioned and K seemed to agree, making an
excellent example out of the situation.

He went onto to discuss the importance of always playing hard,
citing their consistency at all times regardless of the drill.
He made it clear that he wasn't talking about effort, but tried
to stress the positives of work habits and practice/game speed,
saying that you have to play at the same speed all the time or
you'll find yourself with bad habits during game time.

He wasn't just talking about during the flow of the game, but even
during dead ball situations where he stressed walk and move with
confidence and upright at all times, expressing how body language
plays a part of the game too and referring to the habits of the
captains. He went on to talk about grabbing loose balls instead of
trying to continue your motion which often results in turnovers
or contact. "At no time do I want you playing half-speed," he
commanded with a straight and intense face.

He then went on to talk of Shane Battier and his work habits, and how important it was to build good character through hard work ethics. So the clear message was that at Duke we don't think half-speed or play half speed.

After the attentive players nodded with recognition of a lesson
learned, it was clear that K is turning things up a notch, asking them
to treat tomorrow as a game day, sending the guys off to their team
meal, asking them to be dressed and ready in the locker room and
ready to go at 5:30 Saturday. He went on to say that the rosters
for the game would be posted for them to see at that time. The crowd
applauded the efforts as the players left, with the exception of
a few more scattered workouts and FT's, and of course stretching.
The attendees seemed pleased and I know I was and I want to thank
K for sticking with us and making this fan one happy camper.

See you tomorrow at the Blue-White game and Go Devils!

Side Notes- No new speakers. People seemed to enjoy the picture
additions, as I saw several reliving the past. Former Coach Bucky
Waters was in the house. It was really cool that some folks from a
rest home attended as well as some old timers. Please remember to
welcome Duke prospect Martynas Pocius with a hearty Cameron welcome.
This young man is a great shooter originally from Lithuania, and
now in New Hampshire. Don't forget Bill Brill's book signing --
I can't wait to see it tomorrow. Again, happy 25th Coach K and
Happy 100th to Duke Basketball! Vote!