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Jeff Gravley

Memories of Duke's 4th title

Posted April 6, 2010

When Gerald Henderson announced he was going pro and Elliot Williams decided to transfer, the gloom and doomers declared Duke was not a national threat. No depth in the back court and nobody athletic enough to drive and create shots.

Don’t put a period at the end of a sentence before it is finished.

Monday night in Indianapolis, Gerald Henderson was among a group of former Blue Devil players sitting behind the Duke bench.

You wonder if Henderson wished he would have returned for his senior season. He would have been in the group of seniors covered in confetti after winning the national championship.

There were a lot of Mike Krzyzewski’s former players in attendance. From his first Final 4 team, Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, Danny Ferry and Billy King sat together. They were part of the foundation that has become Duke basketball under Coach K.

But they lost to Louisville in the 1986 national championship game. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas was the center on the ‘86 team. “We didn’t finish,” an emotional Bilas told me in 2006, trying to fight back the tears.

Duke assistant Chris Carrawell played in the 1999 national title game for the powerful Blue Devils. They fell short against Connecticut. Carrawell’s advice to the current team, “Finish the job,” he said on Sunday.

J.J. Redick and Shane Battier were in Indianapolis to witness Duke’s fourth national title. Redick is the school’s all-time leading scorer. Battier has a national championship from 2001.

Doug Collins is the best NBA analyst on television. He played in the 1972 Olympics, was an NBA star and coached Michael Jordan in Chicago. His son, Chris is one of Krzyzewski’s top assistant coaches.

Doug was a nervous wreck the entire title game on Monday.

Wearing a Duke pullover, he swayed back and forth trying to calm the nerves. When Butler twice cut the lead to one, Doug could only put his head in his hands trying to rub away the tension.

After Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot hit glass and rim, I immediately turned to catch Mike Krzyzewski’s reaction. Both hands shot straight into the air before he was engulfed by his assistant coaches.

After scanning the court to see faces of elation, I searched the Duke crowd to find Coach K’s family. His wife Mickie was frozen, eyes fixed on the court of celebration. Daughters cried, son-in-laws hugged and the grandkids just screamed.

Just a few seats away from Mickie was Mike’s brother, Bill. His eyes were beet red. You know his heart was filled with pride for his brother.

Then just behind Bill Krzyzewski was Doug Collins, still swaying, trying to catch his breath as tears welled up in the eyes that have seen so many moments in basketball.

The outcome was decided.

Duke prevailed 61-59 for the school’s fourth national championship. All orchestrated by the captain, Mike Krzyzewski.

A group of players – questioned before the season began – produced an unlikely national championship. The coach, who some said was too distracted to coach at Duke, has to be in the mix as one of the greatest coaches in any era, in any sport.

With a collective effort, Duke finished the job.

Back in victory lane in Indianapolis.

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  • dft444 Apr 15, 10:06 a.m.

    Great writing, Jeff. You really captured the emotion of the moment well. I'm sure that it was particularly satisfying to Coach K's family considering all the vilification of their husband/father/grandfather they have had to observe and endure. Congratulations, Krzyzewskis!

  • paulmichaelowens Apr 12, 9:11 p.m.

    Note of Gerald Henderson in the NBA, 2.3 PPG, 1.3RBG, from NBA.com... Gerald you should've stayed one more year.

    Kyle.. take the lesson, increase your value... ONE MORE YEAR!

    DUKE BLUE DEVILS - 2010 NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!!

  • barry333 Apr 10, 9:30 p.m.

    tar heel fan here! one thing i can say about the players for duke that i didn't see in all the other teams. they all knew what they were suppose to do and they all played harder than the teams they were competing against. some times you have to take heart and guts over skill and bravado! congrats on the championship dukies, your team deserved it!!

  • jrj6950 Apr 8, 3:07 p.m.

    duke blue devils 2010 national champs!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Living Sacrifice Apr 7, 10:45 a.m.

    Great story.

  • 4tarheels Apr 6, 8:39 p.m.

    The biggest memory I will take from this tourney, besides Duke winning a very competitive championship game, is how all the other top seeds seemed to melt away before ever facing Duke. Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, Villanova, Kansas State, etc. Duke deserved to win because they were the last team standing but Coach K could not have written a better script for Duke.

  • Hokies94 Apr 6, 5:36 p.m.

    Great writing Jeff. I don't think that Duke had as much talent as some teams they played this year, but they had more heart, desire, hustle, and coaches that never let them give in to the pressures during the season. Coach K is a wizard.

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