We went back and forth on writing a review of Art Chansky's new book, Blue
Blood. Part of the reason, frankly, is his periodic attacks against
Duke. Several years ago, we picked up a magazine at a newstand and were
dismayed to read an article he wrote stating that finally, he felt free to say
he hated Duke. And then there was the bizarre rant after Makhtar Ndiaye
jumped on the table and did the I-stabbed-you-with-a-sword-and-now-you're-dead
gesture in front of the Krzyzewski family, which found Chansky accusing Mike
Krzyzewski of at best not understanding African-American culture, and at worst
being a racist, and going on to, among other things, introduce an enduring
Chansky fascination with Coach K's locks, accusing him of dying his hair.
After enough of that sort of thing, you ask yourself: is there any reason to buy
his book and to support that sort of lunacy? Well, no. And yes.
From a Duke point of view, Chansky's book is a mixed bag. He says in
his acknowledgments that he made "accuracy and balance" his
mantra. It's fair to say that he did get a lot of things
In many ways the most interesting sections of the book, other than Al
Featherston's introduction, (which is rich in history and perspective and which
you can read at a bookstore fairly quickly even if you decide not to enrich
Chansky) are the sections which deal with the earlier years of the
It really kicked off in the late fifties when Frank McGuire was in the saddle
in Chapel Hill, and by the time Art Heyman shocked him by ending up at Duke
instead of UNC, it had hit a dangerous pitch, resulting in the legendary 1961
fight between Duke and UNC. Years later, Heyman gleefully gloated that
"I hit McGuire in the nuts!"
The book is fairly candid about Frank McGuire's abuses, although we have
always been curious about Dean Smith's role in McGuire's system, since he surely
knew everything that went on, even if he was not an active participant.
Years after he was at South Carolina, it was revealed that McGuire had
a very specific pay scale. The Irishman was a union guy at heart: benefits
were the highest for the upperclassmen and lowest for the underclassmen -
seniority, in other words.
The same though could be said for Everett Case's protege, Vic Bubas, who
worked at N.C. State when Case was mastering the fine art of abusing the NCAA
This theme goes unexplored, perhaps because both coaches were held in such
high regard by most people. But it's something someone someday should
And it sheds some light on Duke's fall from power at the end of the Bubas
era, talking about the difficulty of introducing higher standards and
simultaneously integrating, while opposing coaches were telling African-American
prospects that they couldn't succeed at Duke.
Perhaps we missed it, but it overlooked also Dean Smith's lending Tom
McMillen his calling card, something the NCAA made note of, if we recall
The early '70s were an era of absolute UNC dominance, of course, and the
Bucky Waters era didn't work out very well, and the notion of hiring Adolph Rupp
for a while wasn't a smashing success either.
Those things, we thought, were handled fairly.
And unlike many UNC partisans, he handled the 1995 season and Krzyzewski's
back injury and subsequent absence well, although he did make Krzyzewski look
like a grim and merciless figure, both in that passage and throughout the book.
And that really sums up one of our major peeves: quite often, the
terminology he applies to Duke and the language he uses to describe UNC are very
Coach K is often presented with words like..glared...sarcastic...embattled...screamed...frustrated
(the local media)...tight-lipped...and, yes, "still without a hint of gray
in his jet black hair" and "plastered hair."
Duke is described as "an elite university with snob appeal."
When Duke goes out to eat before the 2005 NCAA Tournament games, the
restaurant is described as "the snobby steakhouse...on the tony side of
town." And if UNC had come in, "a few 'Go Heels' would have been
bouncing off the expensive chandeliers."
Tom Izzo is said to "deify" Coach K.
He goes on to discuss "the so-called Duke influence...with so many Duke
grads in high profile positions [in broadcasting]... that a healthy paranoia
exists among coaches, athletic directors and conference commissioners around the
He doesn't point to anyone, not even using an anonymous quote, to back this
Seth Davis, a former Chronicle writer, "went on to work for Sports
Illustrated and [later] CBS, where he has been a Duke apologist ever
Bear in mind that not only does Chansky not offer a scintilla of proof for
this, or even a concurring opinion, but that this is the man who defended the
rather disgraceful Makhtar Ndiaye most vehemently, and, according to John
Feinstein, violated every meaningful journalistic standard when he agreed to
plant a story for Dean Smith before a Duke-UNC game in which he argued that UNC
had no chance, the idea being that Smith would take that into the lockerroom and
use it to inspire his troops, which he did.
When we asked Feinstein about this, he told us that his source for the story
was Dean Smith, who, when someone asked him, didn't say that it didn't happen,
but that he didn't remember it, which is not quite the same thing.
Conversely, he doesn't really go after the truly difficult stuff which has
happened at UNC.
He touches on the gambling scandal which caused such grief in this state in
the 60s, saying only that "Lou Brown wasn't blowing the whistle on any of
Pretty clearly, there was some smoke there, but Chansky doesn't pursue it,
and in fairness, it was a long time ago, though presumably Doug Moe and others
can still shed light on things which might be new and interesting, and maybe he
did call them. But there's no way of knowing and the bottom line is what
he shows us.
If he discussed Phil Ford and his alcoholism, we didn't see it. It's
only important in this sense: after his Michigan arrest, Ford was still allowed
to go on the road recruiting. And we asked, after he was arrested for
drunk driving in the Triangle, if he were driving a car which the athletic
department provided. This to us was a very interesting question, because
if he were, it would suggest a certain amount of culpability by the department,
because they woudl have allowed him to keep driving a state-provided car after
his first DWI. We didn't expect him to touch on it, but it's still an
The Matt Doherty accounting is also incomplete, and much more recent and
therefore not as excusable as the gambling scandal.
Doherty's hiring is discussed, with one former player telling Dean Smith it
was a "big mistake, big mistake," which is essentially foreshadowing a
very brief story.
In his first meeting with the players, he told them that "they didn't
work hard enough and didn't know how to win," according to Chansky, which
annoyed the Final Four vets.
Supposedly word got back to Smith and Guthridge, who decided to monitor
things a bit, but there is no indication of how they reacted to the visits to
practice. Again: missed opportunity.
The famous "Duke cheerleaders are still ugly" crack was handled
this way: "The episode typified Doherty's star-crossed career, marked by as
much bad luck as bad behavior." Well, maybe. But a lot of his
bad luck, like this, was self-inflicted.
Later, Chansky ventures this: "At UNC, Doherty had gone from a fiery
young coach to a hothead that had run off office personnel, offended co-workers,
and alienated players..."
All of which was apparently true, but it's worth asking just how he managed
all of that in such a short period of time. Nothing is cited, no
incidents, no sources, no quotes.
The shoving match between Doherty, Chris Collins, and Andre Buckner is also
discussed, and we learn here that John Swofford asked Doherty if he had any idea
how close he came to getting fired.
Chansky has no problem alluding to rumors involving things like Laettner's
sexuality (note to Chansky: your second use of the word "fag" would
have been better put in quotation marks), but there were a number of rumors
about Doherty which he might have either confirmed or retired, and he opted not
to do that, which is too bad. The Doherty interregnum (it can't really be
called an era) is really one of the more controversial points in the epic of the
Carolina family, and it's barely dealt with.
The infamous racist accusation Ndiaye laid on a Utah player is touched on,
but nothing new is learned, other than the fact that Bill Guthridge contemplated
quitting after it happened.
And while we have no interest in Dean Smith's personal life, Chansky mentions
his divorce obscurely, saying that "[h]e wasn't perfect, and that was part
of his charm."
Perhaps not to everyone, though.
That's kind of a loaded phrase, and suggests there are things Chansky feels
obliged to acknowledge, but that he then glosses over.
Rashad McCants, one of the more perplexing and enigmatic figures at UNC, is
described as "mercurial," which is true, but sort of glosses over his
puzzling personality and odd behavior.
Krzyzewski's language is touched on, and criticized, and is implicitly
compared to UNC's more or less traditional stance against profanity (profanity
was a major black mark against Frank McGuire, something we should have guessed
at, given his era, but which escaped us).
Dean Smith is said to never curse, but then is said to call Kentucky's Rick
Robey a "son of a bitch," which kind of undercuts the image a bit.
Roy Williams apparently was told by UNC to tone down his use of "frickin',"
which is a polite way of saying burlapping, if you want to be obscure about it,
or the F word if you'd rather be more direct.
He also is quoted cursing at his team, although quite mildly, and most
infamously told America and CBS's Bonnie Bernstein that he "didn't give a
shit" about UNC when she asked him about the job immediately after Kansas
lost in the tournament.
And Matt Doherty was from all accounts quite the pottymouth himself.
One of the stories Chansky could have dealt with was the one where he supposedly
called Sean May a "fat f---". That's one we may never know
for sure is true, but there's no question he cursed, and the suggestions of UNC
moral superiority in this regard went out the window when he was hired.
Yet after all the discussion of language, and how profanity is a bad thing,
Chansky himself curses not infrequently in his book, which certainly makes it
harder to rip Krzyzewski for his frickin' (we couldn't resist) language.
UNC fans will look at our objections and say, well, so what about your side?
And that's a natural part of the rivalry, and we accept that.
They would say that even the slightest discussion of Smith's personal life is
a big deal (we would have preferred none, frankly), that the McGuire era brought
up shameful memories, that the increasingly dysfunctional teams after 1994 were
dealt with fairly, and probably a lot of points that, being Duke fans, we didn't
notice as much as they would, among them, the contention that Duke has passed
UNC, which is not a point many in the Carolina camp have ever conceded, and
Chansky has made the argument more than once. We're sure he's heard about
On a much smaller level, while authors are not entirely responsible for
errors in the language and grammatical misfires, some should have been
reconsidered. At one point, Chansky calls SÃ¸ren Kierkegaard Dean Smith's
"reading buddy," which is a good trick for a guy who died in
1855. At another point, he calls Duke professors who were pushing for much
higher academic standards in the 1960s "eccentric." Well, if you
And quite ridiculously, on the back of the dust jacket, Bubas is misspelled
It's understandable to miss an article here or there, but blurbs should be
the easiest thing to proofread.
This is in many ways a book which desperately wants to be a part of the
history of the ACC and of this entanglement which Duke and UNC have. We
don't think it has the strength to be a factual answer to everything - with
lines like "[Duke's] phalanx of assistant coaches and managers, all dressed
in dark suits and acting out like smug adolescents...", it can't be taken
as objectively as Chansky would like.
But if Duke fans can overlook the pejorative language which creeps in from
time to time, there's a lot of interesting history here, and some stuff which
you might really like to know.
We truly believe Chansky tried to live up to his mantra. We know from
our own experience how hard it is to be objective about something which is, at
heart, deeply personal, and odds are we couldn't have done it any better than he
It's a great idea for a book, but maybe the book should have had two writers,
one a Duke backer and the other a Heel. That book, particularly if they
comment on each other's efforts, could have been hundreds of pages long and
people around here would argue about it forever.
Still, we're glad we read it. We learned things we never knew, like that Vic
Bubas, like Coach K, was the son of immigrants from Eastern Europe. And
the stuff on the early days of ACC broadcasting could be a movie.
So while we think the book, despite Chansky's best efforts, has a discernible
bias, it is still worth a read.