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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.

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  • 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.

  • vt94hokies Feb 16, 2:52 p.m.

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

  • 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, 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.

  • sheisacoward Feb 17, 12:20 p.m.

    uh oh, someone is in the sauce again.

    sad

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Feb 17, 5:42 p.m.

    uh oh, someone is in the sauce again.

    sad

    — Posted by sheisacoward

    Big time.

  • 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.

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
Final
NCSU 60
BSU 54
 
2nd Intermission
PIT 2
CAR 4
 
Final
CHA 101
GSW 106
 
2nd
UF 39
UNC 51
 
2nd
TULSA 14
ECU 14
 
Final
BOS 102
CHI 109
Final
CHA 101
GSW 106
 
4th
TOR 64
DAL 71
 
4th
DET 80
MIL 96
 
4th
ATL 87
NOP 79
 
3rd
HOU 52
LAC 68
 
3rd
OKC 67
NYK 40
 
3rd
IND 60
ORL 54
 
2nd
SAN 55
SAC 47
 
1st
DEN 30
PHO 17
 
10:00pm Tonight
POR
MEM
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MIN
Final
WMICH 21
NILL 31
Final
SMU 9
HOU 35
Final
IOWA 34
NEB 37
Final
SFLA 0
UCF 16
Final
MARS 66
WKENT 67
Final
KSU 27
AKR 24
Final
BGU 24
BST 41
Final
UMASS 21
BUF 41
Final
EMICH 16
TOL 52
Final
MIZZ 21
ARK 14
Final
SALABAMA 40
NAVY 42
Final
ARZ 42
ARST 35
Final
AFA 27
COLST 24
Final
UCLA 10
STAN 31
2nd
VT 10
UVA 13
 
2nd
TULSA 14
ECU 14
 
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
Final
KU 82
TENN 67
Final
TEXAM 87
NO 65
 
Final
NCAT 57
RAD 65
 
Final
GEOR 58
BUT 64
Final
BRO 81
PVU 71
Final
RIU 66
SCU 44
Final
NARZ 70
SOUTH 63
Final
DART 68
MAST 67
Final
WRST 59
FIU 61
Final
XAV 73
UTEP 77
Final
OSU 73
JMU 56
Final
TXSOU 71
LAM 59
 
Final
TAMCC 75
MVSU 66
 
Final
AKAN 51
MIZST 55
Final
BUCK 80
PSU 88
 
Final
PROV 72
YALE 66
Final
UGA 62
MINN 66
Final
WISC 69
OKLA 56
Final
Terriers 70
NORST 72
 
Final
PEAY 62
STEPH 83
Final
FSU 58
CSOU 47
 
Final
VALPO 66
DRAK 46
Final
CIN 69
MTST 51
Final
SDU 75
PRIN 65
Final
WASU 76
RICE 74
 
Final
CSFU 64
USCU 79
Final
GT 61
RIDE 54
 
Final
TXPA 79
ALAST 91
 
Final
NCSU 60
BSU 54
 
Final
TCU 57
BRAD 49
 
Final
WAKE 65
DELST 72
 
Final
HART 83
EMERSON 50
 
Final
STJ 66
GONZ 73
 
Final
CLEM 62
HIGH 59
 
Final
SYR 72
HC 48
 
Final
MD 61
MON 56
 
Final
JVST 74
SAV 71
 
Final
MIAMI 87
SALA 75
 
Final
RUTG 68
VANDY 65
 
2nd
PETE 59
TENST 56
 
2nd
MARS 47
CLST 49
 
2nd
JST 39
HOF 61
 
2nd
INDST 40
MEM 50
 
2nd
UF 39
UNC 51
 
2nd
LATU 53
SAMF 37
 
2nd
TULA 64
SELA 50
 
2nd
NEB 62
TENNM 53
 
Half
MISS 31
CREI 37
 
2nd
PORT 35
MURST 34
 
1st
MARQ 18
MSU 17
 
1st
ARK 23
UNT 23
 
1st
NCOL 25
STET 16
 
1st
IND 27
UNCG 14
 
1st
SJST 16
WMICH 19
 
1st
MNTST 26
TXARL 13
 
9:30pm Tonight
UVA
LAS
9:30pm Tonight
STLU
MSST
9:30pm Tonight
COLST
PAC
10:00pm Tonight
UTAH
NDAK
10:30pm Tonight
ILL
BAY
10:30pm Tonight
UAB
UCLA
11:30pm Tonight
WASH
LBSU
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
MERC
Final
PHI 0
NYR 3
Final
ANA 1
CHI 4
Final
WAS 5
NYI 2
2nd Intermission
PIT 2
CAR 4
 
3rd
NJD 4
DET 4
 
3rd
BUF 1
MON 1
 
3rd
CLB 0
VAN 5
 
3rd
BOS 1
WIN 1
 
3rd
FLA 2
OTT 2
 
2nd
STL 1
EDM 2
 
2nd
DAL 0
MIN 2