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Adam Gold

A series built on great coaches

Posted February 16

Maryland head coach Gary Williams shakes hands with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski in Greensboro, NC on March 11, 2011.

The term "rivalry" is often times overused. Army-Navy is a football rivalry built through honor and service and respect and love of country. The Yankees and Red Sox are tethered to each other thanks to more than a century of competition, 2,156 games and one of the truly awful player transactions in the history of sport -- the selling of Babe Ruth by Boston to New York -- which completely turned the fortunes of each franchise upside down. Then, there is, of course, college basketball's Hatfields and McCoys; Duke vs. North Carolina.

These are stand alone games. On those days and nights the records are secondary to the uniforms and arenas. They're contested in historic venues like Charmichael and Michie and Fenway, by legendary figures like Air Jordan and the Splendid Splinter. And, the stories grow more elaborate -- and, at times, more distant from the truth -- the further removed we get. These are the rivalries that will never disappear, for each side lives a little bit for the existence and prominence of the other.

In most cases, however, the word "rivalry" is employed where "series" really belongs. This is where Duke vs Maryland resides, as a "series" that was relatively one sided, but with such a legendary chapter that it feels as though it was more lasting than it actually was. Duke has 115 wins over the Terrapins, more than against any school other than Wake Forest, NC State and Virginia. But Saturday night's 69-67 nail-biter at Cameron Indoor Stadium will be the final regular season meeting -- at least until seismic forces detonate the foundation of college conference affiliation again.

Yet somehow, as the Atlantic Coast Conference entered the age of expansion and made-for-television theater, these two schools became attached at the hip (pun not intended). In truth, the Maryland-Duke "rivalry" is based on just four years, 11 games and two Hall of Fame head coaches who grew to respect each other and eventually became friends.  

Gary Williams became Maryland's head coach prior to the start of the 1989-90 season amid a black cloud of turmoil and coming NCAA sanctions left behind by former coach Bob Wade, who was fired after just three seasons. From then until the end of 1998 Duke was 17-4 against the Terps with two of those losses coming during the Pete Gaudet-era. It was clear that, for whatever the reason, beating Duke was more challenging than any of the other conference schools for Williams and the tension was obvious. However, from 1999 through 2002 the series was enough to warrant it's own ESPN Classic week. Every single meeting saw both teams in the national rankings, five of them when each was in the Associated Press top five. There was the almost unthinkable, final-minute comeback in College Park. The ACC Tournament semi final thriller the following year. And, of course, the historic 2001 National semi final in Minneapolis that saw the Blue Devils rally from a 22-point, first half deficit.

But, there were also back-to-back Maryland wins at Cameron Indoor Stadium, including one on Shane Battier's senior night that was a bitter pill to swallow even in a national championship season. Surprisingly, even over those four years, Duke still easily had the upper hand on the scoreboard, winning eight of the 11 games. But, it was the manner in which those battles were fought, and the characters who waged them, that created this legend. "You had Steve Francis, Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Terrence Morris and Lonny Baxter…all guys who played in the NBA," said Duke's 2000 conference player of the year Chris Carrawell. "There were just so many great players on both teams that it made those games special."

Maybe the most significant of Maryland's players over that span was scoring sensation Juan Dixon. He played in all eleven games, doing as much to elevate the series as anyone else in sneakers. "In my four years at the University of Maryland the rivalry went to another level", Dixon, now a special assistant at Maryland, told me after the Blue Devils narrow win Saturday night. "I have the utmost respect for for Coach K and his program, he's simply one of the best coaches ever."

There was also a unique bond forming between Dixon, one of the greatest players in Maryland history, and Duke. Dixon's story was well-documented, undersized and skinny coming out of high school, the son of drug addicts who both died of AIDS before his 17th birthday, his career was built on hard work and determination. In those consecutive road wins at Cameron, Dixon averaged 29.5 points on nearly 65% shooting from the floor, and left an indelible mark on both the player and the coach who tried to stop him. In fact, Dixon still carries a hand-written note from Krzyzewski congratulating him on a remarkable college career.

The year following Dixon's graduation, Duke hosted an NBA charity All-Star game at Cameron, featuring former Blue Devils against an array of notable NBA players who went to other colleges. As the teams were introduced to a mostly sold out building, Dixon was announced as a member of the "home" team. I'm not sure how you can possibly show more respect to a player who played his heart out against you than to want him on your side, albeit just in an exhibition. But, the crowd at Cameron went one better. Ask anyone in attendance that night, as I was, and they'll tell you that only Grant Hill received a louder, more sustained ovation than Dixon. It was also obvious that this was the orchestration of Krzyzewski, whom Dixon credits for inspiring him to enter the coaching profession. "I admire who he is and how he runs his program. I'm glad I had the opportunity to play for Coach Williams, who belongs in the Hall of Fame, and I'm blessed to have had the opportunity to compete against Coach K."

Unfortunately, this series came to an end Saturday night. Krzyzewski was on the sideline, coaxing enough out of his team on a night in which Duke didn't play their best basketball but had just enough to win. Williams was probably at home in Maryland, watching, and maybe sweating just a little bit, as his alma mater was on the brink of closing this final chapter with a stunning upset. It's really a shame that Gary wasn't in Durham for the finale because Duke vs. Maryland was just another great conference series until Williams and Coach K started throwing figurative hay-makers at each other over those 11 games.

Yes, the series is over, but maybe Raleigh native Dez Wells, who nearly carried the Terps across the final finish line, was right when he said, "at the end of the day, the Duke-Maryland rivalry will never end."

Unfortunately, it will continue only in our memory.

7 Comments

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  • scousler Feb 18, 5:20 p.m.

    Maryland belongs in the Big Ten about as much as West Virginia belongs in the Big 12.

    The Terrapins were victimized by a series of short sighted and incompetent AD's chasing the almighty buck, yet never able to cash in and turn a profit on the school and conference they already had. Sad to see them go to the Big Ten - where they will have to build rivalries all over again.

    They weren't always a top shelf team in the ACC, but they certainly were not bottom feeders and they had their moments.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Feb 17, 5:42 p.m.

    uh oh, someone is in the sauce again.

    sad

    — Posted by sheisacoward

    Big time.

  • sheisacoward Feb 17, 12:20 p.m.

    uh oh, someone is in the sauce again.

    sad

  • vt94hokies Feb 16, 6:31 p.m.

    Hey. My school has beaten
    Miami two times.

    A heckeva lot better than Smitty that claims he is a graduate of UNC. Total bull sugar. I did my research. JGunn too.

  • vt94hokies Feb 16, 6:18 p.m.

    Roy couldn't hold a candle light to Coach K. Ol Roy isn't all that smart. I still stand on my past posting about JGunn and Smitty.

  • vt94hokies Feb 16, 2:52 p.m.

    Great win for the greatest Coach in the land. Always happy for Duke.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Feb 16, 10:12 a.m.

    That was a great game last night, and what a way to send Maryland out of the ACC, and most likely Cameron.

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Scoreboard
Local
3rd
CHA 77
ORL 56
 
9:30pm Tonight
DUKE
TEMPL
3rd
CHA 77
ORL 56
 
3rd
PHI 65
PHO 92
 
Half
ATL 50
DET 40
 
2nd
TOR 68
MIL 45
 
2nd
MEM 35
BOS 29
 
2nd
OKC 32
BRK 31
 
2nd
WAS 32
CLE 25
 
2nd
MIN 32
SAN 35
 
1st
DAL 2
LAL 2
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
NOP
10:30pm Tonight
POR
CHI
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
UTA
1:00pm Today
BUF 0
KSU 0
1st
RICE 0
UTEP 0
 
9:30pm Tonight
SDST
AFA
9:30pm Tonight
UTST
SJST
Final
COC 50
TEXAM 59
Final
DREX 70
USC 72
Final
GWEBB 72
CLEM 70
Final
MIAMI 79
AKR 51
Final
UCONN 75
DAY 64
Final
NEV 60
SHU 68
Final
LONG 81
UNCG 79
Final
ARKPB 46
VALPO 59
 
Final
WVU 70
BC 66
 
Final
TOWS 58
CCST 49
 
Final
YALE 70
ILLCH 58
 
Final
IOWA 63
SYR 66
 
Final
HAMP 82
ALCOR 69
 
2nd
ODU 67
LSU 61
 
2nd
KENT 61
BU 50
 
2nd
SCAR 57
CHAR 55
 
2nd
UVA 53
GWU 39
 
Final
WCU 72
HIWASSEE 53
 
2nd
GT 53
MAST 52
 
2nd
RIDE 63
LEH 59
 
2nd
MSU 77
LOYC 41
 
2nd
CMICH 67
MAINE 44
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF 0
MNTST 0
 
2nd
BAY 51
PVU 35
 
2nd
HOF 60
USB 61
 
2nd
OREG 64
TOL 57
 
2nd
UGA 71
TROY 53
 
2nd
STAN 69
UNLV 42
 
2nd
FAIR 36
WOFF 51
 
2nd
EMICH 48
YOUNG 47
 
2nd
MON 44
COOK 29
 
2nd
FIU 44
FLMEM 30
 
2nd
KSU 48
SILL 34
 
2nd
CAL 21
TEX 33
 
Half
GMAS 20
NMU 30
 
1st
ILL 41
PEAY 23
 
1st
ARK 34
DELST 26
 
Half
MCNST 40
JCHR 34
 
1st
NDST 30
KNST 17
 
1st
OKST 37
UWMIL 19
 
1st
LATU 28
MORE 21
 
1st
SDKST 25
NDAK 36
 
1st
XAV 31
STEPH 28
 
1st
UF 19
LAMON 29
 
1st
WAKE 6
IONA 4
 
9:00pm Tonight
GRCN
FAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
COLST
UGST
9:00pm Tonight
WASU
IDST
9:00pm Tonight
WEBER
ILLST
9:00pm Tonight
AUB
LALAF
9:00pm Tonight
LOU
MARS
9:00pm Tonight
ORST
ORU
9:00pm Tonight
CORN
PSU
9:00pm Tonight
SD
SHSU
9:00pm Tonight
UTAH
UCR
9:30pm Tonight
DUKE
TEMPL
10:00pm Tonight
CPSL
DEL
10:00pm Tonight
AMER
PBY
10:00pm Tonight
SEAT
WASH
 
10:30pm Tonight
LBSU
KYST
11:59pm Tonight
HAW
PITT
2nd Intermission
CLB 2
BOS 0
 
2nd Intermission
PIT 3
NYI 4
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF 0
NYR 0
 
9:30pm Tonight
EDM
NJD