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We Welcome Al Featherston

We asked Al Featherston recently if he would consider contributing to DBR, and we're thrilled that he has agreed to do so. He's one of the pre-eminent ACC sportswriters, and we're incredibly lucky - and proud to have him as a contributor.

DURHAM_ Dean Smith is not often wrong.
But the legendary coach was wrong about the Durham YMCA.
The subject came up a little more than a decade ago, when North Carolina
briefly passed Kentucky as the winningest program in college basketball
history. Smith, asked about the achievement, dismissed it, pointing out that
many of UNC's wins were meaningless because they had come "against teams
like the Durham YMCA."

What Smith had forgotten or didn't realize was that in the early days of the
20th Century the new sport of basketball was nurtured in YMCAs across the
country. The Durham YMCA played high quality basketball before UNC picked up
the sport in 1911. In fact, in 1913, the Durham YMCA swept North Carolina
and Trinity College (still more than a decade away from becoming Duke
University). As late as 1922, the Durham YMCA would knock off a Carolina
team that already boasted three of the starters who would lead the White
Phantoms to a 26-0 record and the Southern Conference championship two years
later _ that perfect record perhaps protected by Coach Norman Shepard's wise
decision not to play the Durham YMCA that season.

Newspaper accounts of the YMCA's 1922 matchup with the college team from
Chapel Hill touted it as the biggest game in the history of Southern
basketball. An overflow crowd of more than 1,500 fans jammed the balcony
surrounding the court at the old YMCA (there were no bleachers at the time)
to see the show. The powerful UNC team, led by the Carmichael brothers _
Billy and Cartwright _ was projected to be a power, but the YMCA boasted the
greatest player seen on Tobacco Road at that point.

Footsie Knight was a burly 6-3 center _ the Elton Brand of his era. And in
that era, when every basket was followed by a jump ball at mid-court, a
dominant center was dominant indeed. Knight abused the smaller Carolina
players that day, leading his YMCA team to a lopsided 41-19 victory. A month
later in Chapel Hill, the Durham Y would pound UNC again, 46-25.

North Carolina would win 15 of its other 19 games, including two victories
over Duke and the Southern Conference Tournament Championship. But the two
lopsided losses to Knight and the Durham YMCA rankled, so when the 1922-23
team opened the season with a 31-28 victory over the Y, it was _ despite
Smith's protestations _ far from a meaningless win.

What, you might ask, does this ancient bit of history have to do with
tonight's Duke-Carolina game?

Well, it all goes back to Knight, who was, I believe, the foundation of
basketball mania on Tobacco Road.

N.C. State coach Everett Case is generally credited with bringing big time
basketball hysteria to North Carolina ... and he deserves every bit of
credit that he gets. But long before Case arrived, Knight had planted
basketball in the Tar Heel soil.

You see, he not only played for the Durham YMCA, but he worked there as an
administrator and a basketball coach. Long after the Durham YMCA stopped
turning out teams capable of matching the Big Four on the court, Footsie
Knight was teaching generations of Durham boys to play _ and love _ the
sport of basketball.

He was the reason that from the late 1920s to the mid-1950s Durham High
School was THE power in North Carolina high school basketball. Knight's
products formed the foundation of the teams that made DHS coach Paul Sykes
famous. One of his first products was Bunn Hackney, the captain of UNC's
1927 team. He was followed by his younger brother Rufus Hackney, the captain
of the 1929 UNC team.

Their youngest brother, Elmore "Honey Boy" Hackney, also played basketball
for Knight at the Durham Y, but he switched to football and played for
Wallace Wade at Duke, winning All-America honors in 1937.
Durham High's greatest basketball achievement was the legendary team that
won 71 straight games between 1939 and 1941, including two national
tournaments and a series of victories over Big Four freshmen teams. They not
only won, but also ignited a surprising amount of public interest in
basketball at a time when football was still king in North Carolina. Part of
that was the colorful personality of gangly big man Horace "Bones" McKinney,
who was a unique mix of Andy Griffth and Meadowlark Lemon.

But a large part of it was the team's fast-paced, breakneck style of play.
The center jump after every basket was eliminated before the 1938 season,
but Durham High was one of the first teams to take advantage of the new
rules and run, run, run. Veterans of that team used to debate who first
realized the potential of the new rules _ some suggested the idea game from
Sykes, others have told me that Knight formulated the revolutionary game

Duke coach Eddie Cameron was naturally anxious to recruit as many players as
he could from the best high school basketball team in the country. Robert
Gantt was easy _ he was also a football star and anxious to play for Wallace
Wade's juggernaut. The Loftis twins (Garland and Cedric) jumped at the
chance to play for Duke. And a year later, Gordon Carver (probably the
second-best player on the Durham High team) became a Blue Devil.
But Cameron missed on the big one _ Bones McKinney elected to sign with N.C.
State. How come?

As Bones used to tell it, his rejection of hometown Duke was due to a campus
policeman. You see, when he was young and unknown, he used to sneak into
Duke's games. When the Durham High team took off, Cameron used to leave
tickets for all of the team's players to get in for free. The trouble was
that Bones was a stubborn cuss and didn't like taking the easy way out. So
he kept sneaking into Durham games.

At least he did until one night when a Duke campus cop caught him trying to
squeeze his lanky 6-6 frame through a narrow window into the men's rest room
on the first floor of the Indoor Stadium (the one just beside the door where
the students now enter).

Instead of merely ejecting or perhaps arresting the young trespasser, the
policeman sat down, pulled the teenager onto his lap and delivered a
spanking in front of a crowd of jeering Duke students.
Bones would later tell me that's when he vowed not to play for Cameron at
Duke. Instead, he went to Raleigh and helped turn a Pack team that had been
8-11 and 6-9 in the two previous seasons into a 15-7 contender that earned a
spot in the Southern Conference championship game.

Unfortunately for Bones, that was against Duke, which featured his former
teammates Gantt and the Loftis brothers. The Blue Devils would win their
second straight Southern Conference title that night, wrapping up a 22-2
season with a 45-34 victory.

Bones would have to wait four years for his revenge. He left N.C. State
after the 1942 season and entered the service. After World War II, he
returned _ not to Raleigh, but to join Ben Carnevale's burgeoning program at
North Carolina.

There he teamed with "Hook" Dillon and Jim Jordan on a team that swept
13 of 14 Southern Conference games and beat NYU and Ohio State to reach the NCAA
championship game. Maybe more importantly, the Tar Heels (as they were
finally known) bounced back from a 51-46 loss to Duke in Woollen Gym to beat
the Blue Devils 54-44 in Duke Indoor Stadium _ finally giving McKinney his
payback for that embarrassing spanking.

It's worth noting that Case only arrived at N.C. State in the spring of 1946
... weeks after UNC's 43-40 loss to Bob Kurland and Oklahoma A&M in the NCAA
title game in Madison Square Garden. So the claim that Case brought big time
basketball to North Carolina is a little hard to justify.
But the Hooiser hotshot did ratchet up interest in the sport, which was
still secondary to football in most parts of the state. He was even a better
salesman than a coach (and he was a hell of a coach) and he made people in
North Carolina care about stars such as Dick Dickey, Sammy Ranzino and Bobby
Speight in the same way they used to care about Ace Parker, Eric Tipton and
Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice.

His success in Raleigh forced North Carolina to hire a slick, pugnacious New
Yorker named Frank McGuire to revitalize its program. And when Duke went
looking for a new coach after Harold Bradley left for Texas after the 1959
season, Cameron stole Case's right-hand man _ young coach Vic Bubas.
Both schools were just trying to keep up with Case's program in Raleigh. But
in an example of sublime serendipity, what they got instead was the greatest
rivalry in the history of sports.

Make no mistake about it. For the first 60 games of the 20th Century,
Duke-Carolina basketball was a sideshow. Oh, people in the Triangle were
interested _ thanks in large part to Footsie Knight's groundwork _ but
football was at the heart of the rivalry. People might get excited when Dick
Groat scored 48 points in his final home game against North Carolina or when
a scorekeeper's error helped UNC's 1957 unbeaten national champs avoid an
upset at the hands of Duke in Woollen Gym. But none of that compared to the
passion and national significance of the football matchups, such as when
Duke knocked UNC out of the Rose Bowl or when in front of the largest crowd
to ever (at that time) seen a football game in the state of North Carolina,
more than 50,000 people watched Art Weiner block Mike Souchak's game-winning
field goal that would have upset the greatest team in UNC football history.
All that changed on the night of Feb. 4, 1961, when McGuire and Bubas
clashed for the sixth time in barely a year and a half. McGuire and the Tar
Heels had routed Bubas' first Duke team three times during the 1959-60
season, but in the ACC Tournament semifinals in Raleigh, Doug Kistler,
Carroll Youngkin and Horward Hurt teamed to hand McGuire's potential
national champs a stunning loss. One night later, Duke upset Wake Forest,
led by a great young center named Len Chappell and a prematurely balding
guard named Billy Packer, and gave Bubas a championship in his first season.
But that merely set the stage for what happened a year later.

North Carolina, ranked No. 5 nationally and riding a 12-game winning streak,
bussed to Durham for a Saturday night game with No. 4 Duke _ the first time
the rivalry would match two top 5 teams. An ice storm had shut down the
state, but rare Saturday night television broadcast allowed hundreds of
thousands of potential fans to watch one of the most tumultuous games in ACC

It's impossible to recapture the hostility in the air that February night.
Much of it was rooted in the recruitment of Art Heyman, a Long Island prep
star who had first committed to McGuire at North Carolina (where he was
slated to room with his New York friend, Larry Brown). But after a
controversial incident where Heyman's stepfather allegedly got into a
fist-fight with McGuire, Bubas ended up stealing him for Duke.
Heyman was at the flashpoint for a lot of the rivalry for the next four
years. During a Duke-UNC freshman game played in Siler City, he was taunted
with racial slurs by the Tar Babies and when he didn't respond, he was
cold-cocked by UNC freshman Dieter Krause.

The powerful 6-5 Heyman was a monster on the court, averaging almost 25
points a game to start his first varsity season (1960-61). He only missed
the 20-point mark once _ scoring 11 points in Duke's loss to North Carolina
in the finals of the Dixie Classic. In that game, UNC veteran Doug Moe shut
down the brash Duke sophomore with a physical defensive display that left
Heyman frustrated and fuming.

He was anxious for the rematch. But before the Duke and North Carolina
varsity could play, there was a freshman game to sit through. The Blue Imps,
behind freshman star Jeff Mullins and big man Jay Buckley _ crushed the Tar
Babies in a game that would be a prelude to what was to follow ... it was so
rough that UNC ended the game with just three eligible players on the floor
after five players fouled out and three more were ejected for fighting.
The varsity game almost turned into a brawl just before halftime, when
Heyman and Moe squared off. Heyman later claimed that Moe was spitting on
him. While the two powerful forwards were in each other's face, Krause _ the
Siler City slugger _ started to intervene, only to be intercepted by
Kistler. Those two players appeared ready to slug it out when Duke's trainer
jumped off the bench and pushed Krause away. That set off McGuire, who didn'
t know that Duke's trainer happened to be a high school classmate of Krause'

The officials managed to calm things down for the moment, but as the two
teams left the court at halftime (with UNC holding a narrow lead), there was
another incident. A North Carolina male cheerleader was slapping the butts
of the UNC players as they left the court via the same narrow passage that
the Duke players used. Somehow, the cheerleader slapped Heyman's butt and
the volatile Blue Devil player turned and shoved the UNC kid to the floor.
Sitting in the stands that night was a Durham lawyer and a UNC grad who saw
the incident and the next Monday morning filed assault charges against

Nothing ever came of it _ the cheerleader refused to testify and the case
was thrown out of court in less than 10 minutes.
But what happened next was far more serious. Heyman thoroughly outplayed Moe
this time, finishing with 36 points on 11 of 13 shooting. Duke rallied in
the final minutes and appeared to have a narrow victory wrapped up when with
Duke up five and nine seconds remaining, Brown took a long pass and drove
for the basket. Heyman, not willing to give up the easy layup, essentially
tackled Brown.

Brown responded by punching Heyman. Heyman, more surprised than hurt by the
blow, flailed at Brown as he staggered backwards. The fight might have ended
quickly, except that future NBA executive Donnie Walsh raced off the UNC
bench, slugged Heyman from behind and ran away. Heyman, knocked to the floor
by the blow, got up and raced after Walsh, raining blows on him. At that
point, it became a melee as the rest of the Carolina team and hundreds of
Duke students joined the brawl. Surprisingly, no Duke player came to Heyman'
s defense.

It took several long minutes to restore order. The brawlers even ignored the
National Anthem when the pep band played it in an attempt to squelch the
fighting. The court was finally cleared. Heyman was ejected, but Brown was
allowed to stay in the game and shoot his two free throws. Duke wrapped up
the final seconds of its 81-77 victory, but the repercussions of that fight
would echo through the rest of the season.

Amazingly, almost every reporter at the game wrote that Heyman threw the
first blow. Veteran referee Charlie Eckman also blamed Heyman for starting
the fight in his report to the ACC director of officials ... who just
happened to be a former Durham YMCA exec named Footsie Knight, who was
sitting in the stands at Cameron that night.

Bubas was so angry about how the fight was reported that three days later at
a meeting of the Durham Sports Club, he set up a projector and used his game
film to demonstrate the true sequence of events. One humorous sidelight: in
his report, Eckman claimed that he tried valiantly to break up the fight ...
but the film shows ref Joe Mills in the middle of the mess, Eckman was
hiding behind a basket support as the brawl goes on around him.

Weaver, who saw the film, conceded Duke's version of events, but he ended up
suspending Heyman along with Brown and Walsh for the remainder of the ACC
regular season. Bubas was furious that Heyman would be suspended for
defending himself, but Weaver claimed that unlike his swing at Brown, which
was instinctive, his pursuit of Walsh was a premeditated act and thus
contributed to the severity of the brawl.

The ruling hada huge impact on the conference race. Duke, 16-1 after beating
UNC, lost three of its next four games and fell to third place in the
standings. UNC, which still had its big guns Moe and York Larese, suffered
just one more loss the rest of the way and edged Wake Forest for the ACC
regular season title.

More importantly, that ugly night ignited the Duke-North Carolina rivalry as
a basketball rivalry. From that moment, every hardwood matchup became the
biggest sporting event of the year ... until the next matchup. To this day,
even the players are dazzled by the importance of the game.
"It's crazy how much some people get into it," UNC's Sean May said. "This
is some people's national championship, right here."

That's probably taking it too far, but even Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is a bit
in awe of how big Duke-Carolina has become.

"I really believe [this is the best rivalry in sports]," Coach K said
earlier this week. "It's because it's college, so it's not like who the
super star of a pro team is. You see the Lakers vs. the Celtics and that was
always about Magic against Bird. This transcends coaches and players. All of
us, both schools are both programs, we're lucky to be a part of it.
"They no longer talk about the Lakers-Celtics, but Duke-Carolina will be
here forever."

Earlier this week, I took a close look at the series and sent the DBR a few
numbers that justify the magnitude of the series _ 132 straight games with
an least one ranked participant; 56 games when both were ranked; 36 when
both were ranked in the top 10 ... and on and on and on ...
But most of you knew all that anyway. You'd have to be as myopic as Gary
Williams to be a college basketball fan and not understand the importance of
the Duke-Carolina rivalry.

I just wanted to give you some historical perspective and maybe explain
about some of the people and events who helped make the rivalry what it is
today _ from Footsie Knight to Bones McKinney to Everett Case to Art Heyman
... and that remarkable, ugly, incredible night in 1961 when Duke-Carolina
basketball first became what it is today.