We knew that at some point, we were going to have to write a column like this. Not that it was anything to look forward to.
Duke fans - well, some Duke fans - need a talking to. Basically, some of you guys need to calm down. You’re acting like spoiled children who think that success is an entitlement. And of course it’s not.
Look, Duke is not playing as well as we’d all like. Granted. However, there’s a lot to take into account. For the first time in 42 years, a new guy is in charge. And not to be presumptuous, but he’s doing better in his first year than Mike Krzyzewski did in his.
Speaking of Coach K, there are a couple of other things that need to be said. For all the talk of The Transition, we’re still in it. Jon Scheyer is well-liked by Duke fans, we think, but he’s in his first year and he’s following a legend. He has a lot to learn. People piling on on social media - thankfully, Scheyer said the other day he stays off of Twitter - that’s not helping. That’s more like what we see out of Kentucky or Carolina fans. We’d like to think Duke fans are better than that, but lately, it’s hard to tell the difference.
Years ago, after Duke had gotten to the Final Four in 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991, some idiot suggested firing Krzyzewski and getting someone who could “take Duke to the next level,”which made you think. well, WTF first, but then: who exactly could do better? What’s the next level from that? No one was getting anywhere close.
Expectations are unreal, especially when fans are spoiled. And let’s be honest, a lot of Duke fans are really spoiled.
Winning doesn't happen automatically. It takes a lot of hard work, planning and execution. To expect Scheyer’s team, in his first year, to succeed exactly as a Krzyzewski team did, is just...well, it’s asking a lot. Not least of all considering the injuries Duke has had to deal with and the youth. It took Coach K a while to build his program too and if you’ll remember, some Duke fans turned on him early.
What we’re saying, to some of you but certainly not all of you, is simple: grow up. Show some patience. Look at how much this team has grown already. Look at how highly the players speak of coach Scheyer. Give them room to grow without piling more pressure on their shoulders. How is that supposed to help? Even is Scheyer isn’t on Twitter, a lot of the players probably are. Have a little decency. The guys who you want to succeed are mostly teenagers. Give them a chance to grow.
For a bit of perspective, look at Georgetown. The Hoyas are closing in on 30 straight Big East losses under Patrick Ewing. Thirty!
That’s unfathomable for such a legendary program. And it must be painful for Georgetown fans to know that, whether he admits it yet or not, that it’s over for Ewing. He’s the greatest icon in program history. Yet this can't go on.
Duke isn’t in anywhere near that sort of situation. The team still has promise. They play hard. They’re highly competitive. They’re just young and have some challenges.
But we’ll tell you this about Georgetown too. After every loss, there are a core group of fans who stay to encourage the players. They're not necessarily big donors. They just like the team and want to support them. They pat them on the back and tell them that they are appreciated. They tell coach Ewing to keep trying.
Those are the kind of fans that every team has at its core. That’s how Duke fans should be. Winning is great. Winning is best. But it doesn’t happen automatically. You have to build. And Scheyer is working hard to build his program and we believe that he’ll succeed - in many ways, he already has.
But we’ll tell you this as well. Those people who lost patience with Krzyzewski early in his career? The “concerned Iron Dukes?” He may have put it behind him. Do you think he ever forgot it though?
Of course not.
And when Scheyer hits his stride, a lot of people are going to wish they had not lashed out. Because that guy is going to be damned good.