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Former Duke Coach Neill McGeachy Dies

Had been in declining health after a 2015 stroke

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Sunset Photo by Amer Alshami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

We were really sorry to see former Duke coach Neill McGeachy passed away this week.

McGeachy never really stood a chance as Duke’s head coach. He was given the job in 1973 after Bucky Waters stepped down abruptly shortly before the season began.

The Waters era was turbulent with lots of high-end talent coming to Durham but not staying for long. Waters was, fairly or not, associated with the establishment during a period of great upheaval. There were calls from the students to fire him and he became deeply unpopular by the end of his time as head coach.

McGeachy stepped into an impossible situation. He took over in the fall, much like Louisville’s David Padgett,only with minimal talent. The ACC at that time had players like David Thompson, John Lucas, Tree Rollins, Len Elmore, Tom McMillen, Mitch Kupchak, Stan Rome, Walter Davis and Tom Burleson, to name a few.

Duke had no way to compete against that level of talent and A.D. Carl James was determined to make a change.

James tried to hire Adolph Rupp and Rupp was ready to take the job until an employee on his horse farm died.

James ended up hiring Bill Foster and the program stabilized but at McGeachy’s expense. He was widely seen as a good man in a bad situation.

He went on to become the A.D. at his alma mater, Lenoir-Rhyne, and had a long and solid career there, retiring in 2016.

Here’s his obituary. The last line is a wonderfully sly nod to his coaching career.

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