MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

It’s going to take quite some time for the national buzz for that one to die down, as North Carolina’s 81-77 victory over Duke in Saturday’s national semifinals was everything you’d expect a Carolina-Duke game to be and much, much more. But then, that’s pretty much how all of those games have been through the years and will continue to be in the coming years.

I have never made any secret of my dislike for either program – not either school, because they are both amongst the finest schools in the world (now that Carolina ditched its fake class for athletes); not really the players or coaches on either team (although that hasn’t always been the case); not the success either program has earned and enjoyed over the years either; but rather all that has come with both programs through the years.

Yet, as it said here last week, I never miss a Carolina-Duke game (or a Yankees-Red Sox game) because every game they play against each other is better than the last one, and the most recent installment was absolutely phenomenal. So well done by both teams. It just makes you wonder how tonight’s championship game between Kansas and North Carolina will be able to approach it.

Saturday’s semifinal, as we all know, was the final game in the Hall of Fame coaching career of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who, unless he goes full Tom Brady (he won’t), is now retired, and because of this, there were a lot of raw emotions sailing around out there on social media through the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The guy is most likely the best and greatest college basketball coach of all time. He doesn’t need anybody to make that qualification on his behalf; his work and his record speak for themselves. Nor does he need the apologists who have come out of the woodwork over the past day or so whining about all of the basketball fans who have complained through the years that Duke has received the great benefit of the doubt from the sport’s officials on all fronts.

The officiating on Saturday night was terribly inconsistent (as it has been throughout this entire NCAA Tournament) and it did appear that, in fact, it was North Carolina who received the benefit of the doubt. But, as Duke fans (many of whom have no idea Duke has teams in other sports) always like to say, calls even out.

Except that’s not what they’re saying this time around.

This sentiment seems to be coming chiefly from the younger Duke basketball fans, who weren’t around to see all that’s gone down over the course of about 20-some years, for an undeniable history of it clearly exists.

In the beginning, it was the great Dean Smith and North Carolina who seemed to get the benefit of most of the close calls, particularly in the ACC. Smith worked the officials perfectly and seemingly received every call that mattered, and those of us who were there to see it remember how it completely exasperated the young coach just nine miles down the road from Chapel Hill.

That is until that young coach, Mike Krzyzewski, and his Duke team began to build their own special success and he began to operate on the officials, as well as the ACC and the NCAA, in his own way until most things, real and imagined, began to go his way. Perception is, after all, reality.

After leaving the Duke team 12 games into the 1994-95 season due to back surgery and exhaustion, Krzyzewski tabbed his friend Pete Gaudet to be interim head coach, and the Blue Devils proceeded to go 4-15 the rest of the way.

Though originally attributed to Krzyzewski’s record, he succeeded in petitioning the NCAA to credit the losses to Gaudet, then dismissed Gaudet from the coaching staff after the season.

The 2001 NCAA Final Four remains legendary for the officiating favoring Duke, between the Blue Devils’ flopping, thuggish play in the paint and infamous no-calls.

As Arizona head coach Lute Olson was heard to have asked Gary Williams after Maryland lost its semifinal to Duke, “Is it always that way?” To which Williams was heard to reply, “You’ll find out Monday.”

And Arizona surely found out on Monday in the NCAA final.

Krzyzewski successfully used his influence to keep Maryland out of Duke’s bracket in the NCAA Tournament after Maryland had left the ACC for the Big Ten. He refused to allow a Duke-Maryland matchup to be scheduled in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, still miffed Maryland would leave “our great rivalry” in the ACC after insisting for years that Maryland had never been Duke’s rival.

There are reasons for his having been referred to as Koach Kry, not only within the ACC, but in every conference in the country.

Mike Krzyzewski fashioned one of the greatest legacies in basketball history, and he did it his way. He doesn’t need the apologists to fail to see that he did do it his way.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT