Whether you’re a Duke fan or not, there’s a lot to be thankful for today. In reality, there are things much more important than a basketball team that we should be thankful for. I hope you have the opportunity to take time today to reflect on some of those things.
In a less serious tone, as Duke fans, we have plenty to be thankful about with the program we root for.
At heart, I’m a Duke fan. I’m a fan who happens to have a passion for writing, but I try to take my fan glasses off when I cover Duke basketball. It’s an attempt to maintain objective and offer criticism of the program, and there are times when I feel like I keep myself from getting too excited about a given play or performance because I want to remain objective.
With this piece, I’m throwing that out the window. Because this isn’t about analysis. This isn’t about addressing problems or concerns. This is about me being a fan. And these are some of the things this Duke fan is thankful for.
We have one of the best coaches in the history of sports. He’s taken Duke from being irrelevant to becoming the preeminent program in college basketball. Coach K has turned down numerous opportunities to move on to the NBA and he’s shown his incredible loyalty to Duke over his 33-year tenure in Durham. He’s also an incredible ambassador and representative for Duke University. At some point Coach K will eventually step down as the head coach of the Blue Devils, but it means we should appreciate him for as long as we’ve got him.
Although Mike Krzyzewski gets most of the credit for all the success of the Duke program, I think Mickie Krzyzewski might be just as important to its success. Coach K often talks about the family culture that exists at Duke, which is something Mickie has been heavily involved in creating. She’s helped the coach maintain balance in his life over his 34 seasons with the Blue Devils, and many of the former players have said she was a huge part in helping them adjust to life at Duke.
Considering all the success Duke has had over the past three decades, it’d be no surprise if there was a revolving door among the coaching staff in Durham. With all the attention and wins, you’d expect assistants to jump at opportunities to lead their own programs. That hasn’t been the case. Duke’s assistant coaches have been incredibly committed to the Blue Devils and don’t leave for just any opportunity. Their loyalty has been vital to the Duke’s success.
The Cameron Crazies are a critical part of the Duke program. They’ve forced opponents into making costly mistakes. They’ve inspired amazing performances from Duke players. And they’ve helped encourage recruits to become Blue Devils. Without the Crazies, Cameron Indoor Stadium doesn’t become the incredible basketball cathedral it’s become. They’re some of the most passionate, innovative fans in sports and I’m glad they are part of the team.
Championships are great. Whether it’s a conference championship or national championship, it’s an awesome feeling to watch the team celebrate after reaching a goal. However, as a fan, I’ve learned to appreciate the ride to the top. It’s about savoring the plays that make a difference in winning a title. Cutting down the nets are memorable, but we should also be thankful for all the memories and moments that led to each team being able to cut down the nets.
Regardless of what they accomplished on the court, there are so many former Duke players we can be proud of because of their tremendous character. This is a program that helps develop men and prepares them to become responsible, accomplished individuals later in life. It’s not about simply being a basketball factory that tries to get players to the NBA as fast as possible. Some fans can’t say that about their team. I’m thankful I can.
Rivalries are a special part of any sport. As Duke fans, we get the opportunity to be part of the greatest rivalry in college basketball. The Duke-UNC rivalry is one of hatred, but it’s also one of respect. But, it’s not just about the rivalry with North Carolina. It’s the special atmosphere that comes with playing on the road against any team in the ACC because their fans are so passionate about beating Duke.
I’m a relatively young Duke fan, but I still have too many wonderful memories of Duke basketball to count. This is what being a fan is all about. For me, it’s about Chris Carrawell becoming one of the best players in the country as a senior. It’s Patrick Davidson setting the tone against Chris Paul and Wake Forest. It’s Shane Battier coming up with the incredible block against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It’s J.J. Redick putting the team on his back in the ACC Championship game, multiple times. It’s Andre Dawkins knocking down big shots against Baylor in the Elite Eight. It’s Jason Williams silencing the crowd during the Miracle Minute at Maryland. And I’m excited to see what future moments become part of those memories.
As a Duke fan, what are some of the things you are most thankful for? Share your thoughts in the comments section.