This is the rivalry that spawned the era of big-money college basketball with round-the-clock television coverage, huge appearance fees, and astronomical sneaker contracts. Duke-Carolina is the epitome of hoops rivalry. Their history dates back to 1920 and the intensity of the rivalry, rather than abating, has increased over time. Art Chansky has observed this rivalry since 1968 in various capacities – journalist, sports information director, and fan. In chronological fashion, Chansky traces the history of this storied rivalry offering deep insights, interesting vignettes, and telling portraits of players and coaches.
The rivalry picked up steam when Duke hired the young, unproven Mike Krzyzewski as coach. Krzyzewski went through losing years in the beginning (there were strident calls for his dismissal from Duke fans), but by 1983 he had begun to challenge Dean Smith’s unrivalled reign in the conference. As both coaches skirmished over high school recruits and battled each other constantly in conference and tournament play, the gloves came off and bitterness set in the rivalry. Krzyzewski regarded Dean Smith as manipulative of referees and the media and often expressed his displeasure in public. Chansky details these ubiquitous tussles and intersperses them adroitly between game descriptions.
A wide gamut of icons of college basketball took part in the rivalry. Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill are some of the players who played starring roles in the intense, close games that seem to personify the rivalry. Chansky enlivens the descriptions of these games with a number of telling quotes.
The book’s virtue is the fly-on-the-wall perspective that Chansky brings to the narrative. He was working for the Duke sports department when the then-athletic director pursued the legendary Adolph Rupp to coach the Blue Devils. In narrating this startling episode, Chansky reveals how close the university was to hiring Rupp – a hiring that would likely have changed the very face of college basketball. It is episodes like these – either entirely unknown or probably known only to a select few – that makes this book a must read for the serious basketball fan.