The Re-ignition of Duke Hate

I was looking for something to watch while I was working out and I found an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “I Hate Christian Laettner.”  Funny, I thought that someone was flashing a giant neon sign, “Watch me!”  I had heard about the documentary in relation to Jalen Rose and I knew from watching the 30 for 30 about the “Fab Five” that Rose couldn’t stand him.  He had no problem expressing his hatred for Laettner, bravo to Rose!

The documentary takes a look at five of the MANY (as far as I’m concerned) reasons why someone could hate Laettner and those are: Privilege, White, Bully, Greatness and Looks.  It goes back and takes a look at some of the bigger moments in his college career and how much of a big “villain” as Bobby Hurley called him he could be.

We need someone to hate?  At least that is something that we are told.  The documentary also suggested we hated the caricature, the person we thought he was and not really who he is.

In many of the interviews the only people associated with Duke basketball that stand up for his many types of behavior are Brian Davis and occasionally in a very politically correct way Grant Hill.

He makes no excuses for who he is and says he only wants the respect and admiration of “my siblings, my parents, my coaches.”  Well bravo son because you get nothing else from me.

He embodies a program.  He does have to be one of the best college basketball players ever.

It’s amazing looking back on it now, I remember how much of a basketball fan that I was then.  The funny thing is though, no one will ever be like him.  No one who is ever good stays I school for four years now.

You can look at it from two different sides.  I’m big on trying to see two different sides of the story, and trust me I saw something way different after watching this than anything I ever saw before.  I never knew Laettner was such an ass to Bobby Hurley before.  Considering Hurley grew up in Jersey, I would have thought he would have given it back to Laettner, but he didn’t seem to.  Laettner seemed to think in his conversation all these years later that he was doing what was best for the team and that if he didn’t push Hurley they wouldn’t have gone far.  He wanted to win so he had to push his buttons.

We are shown that Laettner had his buttons pushed by his brother, who beat him around in sports and made him such a megalomaniac on the court.  Yes I know he was great but before he was great he was just another in a line of Duke players that people hated.  After the many instances on the court from stomping to elbow throwing to “look at me in front of the camera” Laettner made himself the target of whatever negative attention he could find.  That’s not to say all of it was good.  Fans aren’t always good about their hate.  However, what I can say is that Laettner may be the last true college basketball player who spends four years at a program and truly becomes a symbol of that program and is hated for it.  If nothing else Coach K and Laettner made each other, and that deserves nothing less than bitterness in its own way.

I certainly think he’s a good basketball player, in fact I think he was great basketball player I will certainly give you that.  I’m not sure how many hearts he broke with last minute shots and he wasn’t afraid to be a huge douche by talking smack on the court.  At a time when the Fab Five was taking heat for wearing baggy jerseys and shorts, no one was saying anything to him about how he played the game.  He still seems to have disrespect for Jalen Rose and the rest of the Fab Five which is great as far as I’m concerned.  You’ve gotten all the applause from me you’ll get.

It’s possible that the documentary stopped short of one big thing.  Had he been ejected for stomping on Aminu Timberlake ‘s chest in the 1992 NCAA Tournament game (I still remember that shot at the buzzer like it was yesterday), would Duke and Coach K go on to be who they are today?  If it wasn’t Rick Pitino on the other sideline would they have tossed Laettner (we all know the NCAA isn’t always kind to the trendsetters in basketball).  Jalen Rose said if it was one of the Fab Five who did the stepping they would still be on probation in 2015 and while maybe not this long I still think he has a point.  College basketball seemed to miss all of Laettner’s antics because he could hit shots, because of his supporting cast, because of his coach, because of his school and because of that perception of him.  That All-American, it must have been a mistake,  nope he won’t get tossed.

Sorry I know they tried to sell me on Duke hate but it turned into Duke Love.  No thanks, I’ll pass but Laettner surely won’t, more self promotion!

Refs, Complaining and What It’s All About

It’s a few days after the National Championship game of college basketball and the story of the contest was what was said afterward by the losing coach and possibly the missed calls by the refs.  Whatever happened from the time the ball was tipped off and the whistle was blown to start the game until the buzzer sounded to end the game seems to have been condensed into a post game press conference and some referee complaints.

Don’t get me wrong, and trust me, I’ve got some things to say here, but I always think there’s more to a game than one thing.  While I do believe that Kentucky did get screwed at times in their game against Wisconsin, they also did it to themselves and you have to battle back against adversity.  In the heat of the moment, you have to take a step back and push back the emotion and look at it from a different perspective.  The perspective is that there is always going to be adversity, whether you are battling the other team, battling yourself or seeming to battle the refs, there’s going to be a battle in every game.  The coach has to step up and take the players to the side during a timeout and say “Hey, we’ve got to keep our heads, play our game and trust in ourselves.  Keep it together.”  You can’t always play the “us against them” card, sometimes you have to realize you have to pick your guys up and hold the team together as a coach.  Looking at the Kentucky game, they couldn’t score baskets when they needed it, they got frustrated because of a call that was missed and the coach didn’t keep that youthful mentality in check.  These are things have to be looked at.

When it comes to the National Championship game, honestly, I can’t stand Duke, so yes I wanted Wisconsin to win.  Did I watch it?  No.  The reason I didn’t watch it is I had a feeling Duke would win.  Just a feeling.  It’s one of those things.  I know they play in the same league as Virginia Tech who I like and there are Hokie fans who are saying how great it is that an ACC team won the National Championship, but not me.  I can’t understand that.  As a Tech fan, if Tech doesn’t win, I don’t care if it’s an ACC team or an SEC team, I want my team to win.  Why should it be the ACC?  To show that it’s a good conference?  What is this nonsense about conference.  This crap started in college football too.  It’s getting really old.  I’ve had enough.

As a coach or a fan you have to accept that refs are going to miss a call or two.  In fact they are probably going to blow a call or two.  There’s this whole thing that can be played back in your head, if you take a certain point where you think about a call that “might” have been missed, what do you think would have happened?  Would it seriously have changed the outcome?  We will never know.  There’s a reason.  The reason is that things happen and the best teams can roll with the punches and accept whatever happens and make the outcome for themselves.  I’m not saying the best team always wins, just the team that’s better on that day in that game.  This is how sports works.  This is how it has always worked.  Everyone now is pushing for replays and challenges and “getting the call” right.  Unfortunately the more we throw all these things into sports the more we slow down the game and take away momentum and turn the games into boring replay fests.  Are we going to get to the point that we challenge every call?  Who determines what play is challenge-able?  When you think about it, weren’t you happy playing the game in your backyard with your friends?  Did you really have to argue about the calls?

You know, Bo Ryan complained about all the calls that Duke got and how that made all the difference for them.  I saw a stat somewhere that I haven’t verified which stated that Duke had more fouls called for them than Wisconsin in the second half.  Again as a coach you have to break yourself away from the emotion as tough as it is and learn from it, make the best of it and be the leader of your team.  To be completely fair, it’s easy to sit here and second guess but I haven’t been coaching my whole life.  I would think if you’ve been coaching your whole life you would understand you have to accept defeat not necessarily embrace it.

I don’t know, maybe it’s not as simple as these questions.  Maybe there’s more to it than that.  As fans we’re kind of spoiled because we’re not on the front lines and we’re not dealing with the press.  But sometimes I ask myself, “what if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about?”