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You Tube Gold: Coach K’s First Regional Championship

David Robinson made Navy a significant obstacle

Navy v Duke
The Navy’s David Robinson #50 walks on the court during a NCAA basketball game against Duke in the 1986 Eastern Regional Finals
Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

A lot has change since 1986. That was the year of the very first computer virus, Brain. Voyager II was at Uranus (it’s been going for 43 years now and is 11 billion miles from Earth). Pixar was founded that year. Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the world to the concept of Glasnost. And Mike Krzyzewski made his first trip to the Final Four.

To get there, the Blue Devils would have to get past Navy. The Middies were a major surprise but they had a rare talent in David Robinson.

Robinson literally came out of nowhere. Former Navy coach Paul Evans recruited him when he was a 6-7 nobody and the Naval Academy let him in, assuming that he wasn’t going to get much taller (height is an issue on ships and submarines).

But Evans gambled on his shoe size: he learned at Navy to look at feet because of the height restriction. Navy had a height limit but they weren’t kicking people out if they grew.

And Robinson really did. By 1986, he was 6-11 (he would top out at 7-1) and had emerged as a supremely athletic big man and an All-American sort of kid in both senses.

So when Navy got to the 1986 Eastern Regional Finals, he was a real challenge for Duke. The Blue Devils had their hands full but won 71-50.

Decades later, Robinson’s son Justin would become a much-loved Blue Devil. He graduated last spring. During his time here his dad became a regular presence behind the Duke bench.