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A Look Back At K-Day

What an experience, even if the game was disappointing

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Duke
Mar 5, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks to fans during a post-game ceremony at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Tar Heels won 94-81. 
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

So Saturday was interesting.

Most of it was a celebration. There was a great vibe all around Cameron. Honestly we’ve never seen energy before a game quite like that. It was like waves and wave of happiness. It was a celebration of Duke Basketball and everything that Mike Krzyzewski has accomplished in Durham.

And it was a beautiful day too. It would be hard to top the day itself. Krzyzewskiville was packed, the Crazies were everywhere, both the current ones and the returning veterans.

Speaking of returning veterans, the dozens of players who lined the court as Coach K entered for the final time was surprisingly moving. A few stood out, even from a distance. Kenny Dennard had on a bright shirt that made him pop in a sea of white shirts. Carlos Boozer had on a suit as he was working for the ACC Network, which had set up in the plaza outside of Cameron (Game Day was on the other side in K-ville). Jim Suddath was heavier than he was as thin Blue Devil, but his hair is still as thick.

Others we had to squint to recognize. Forty-two years is a long time, and a few came from the Foster and Bubas eras.

Then the game started. The camera showed Coach K tearing up during the National Anthem and that was hard to watch. We’ve never seen that before.

We assumed - we don’t know why anyone else didn't understand this - that the nature of the rivalry would push them to a better performance. And we certainly didn’t expect Armando Bacot to pick up two early fouls.

And then there was the nature of the day for Duke. Mark Williams was so keyed up that he knocked the opening tip out of bounds, a bad omen.

In the end, Duke buckled, perhaps under the emotional weight of the day and the desire to honor the man.

When the game ended, Chris Carrawell walked by Hubert Davis without shaking his hand and Nolan Smith looked away, perhaps pointedly. This all became a bit of an issue on Twitter and other sources of cultural rot but it’s a pretty minor thing. Carrawell texted the News & Observer later and said that it was because Davis had snubbed Duke before the game, declining to shake hands.

As a side note, we don’t recall anyone talking about Caleb Love taunting the students after the game, which is at least as big a violation of etiquette, but to the victors go the spoils.

When Coach K came out to address the crowd, he started by saying “I’m sorry for that.” When the crowd applauded, wanting to tell him it wasn’t important, he snapped “let me speak!” and they did. Because it was important.

Then he said Saturday was “unnaceptable” but that the season had been very acceptable. And, rather pointedly, that it was not over.

Duke brought up several people to honor him and make presentations including a new scholarship program, then he spoke again. He talked of how much his family had grown to love Duke and Durham and that it was home. He talked about the importance of his family and how he cherished them.

And then he walked off the court for the last time.

It was a very moving day in many ways, an acknowledgement of extraordinary achievement and, in the end, whispers of mortality. We’re glad we were there for it.

We have thought about this overnight and we have an idea that we’ll bring up in a day or two for you to consider. So check back.

The last thing to say?

Just thank you to Coach K, his family, and Duke for allowing the last 42 years to happen. It’s been an amazing experience in so many levels. We’ve been incredibly blessed.