- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

COMMENTARY:

Everyone hates Duke. Everyone hates J.J. Redick. And everyone hates Mike Krzyzewski and his overwrought American Express commercials.

These facts are significant for two reasons:

1. They give everyone a chance to consolidate their hate in one place.

2. Krzyzewski has become identifiable in an almost inseparable way with his signature players.

The first was Johnny Dawkins, Krzyzewski’s first major recruit. Together, they turned the program around, suffering through the last of Krzyzewski’s losing seasons and reaching the Final Four in 1986. Now Duke’s associate head coach, Dawkins is Krzyzewski’s right-hand man.

The next was Danny Ferry, the first to embody all that is Duke basketball: courage, confidence, leadership and excellence, complete and utterly hate-worthy excellence.

But by 1990, Krzyzewski had gone to four Final Fours and came up empty. He burned to win one, and in Christian Laettner, he found a talented punk just as determined to close the deal.

Buoyed by their infamous cursing matches, Krzyzewski and Laettner pushed and prodded each other and stomped on the opposition’s chest until they won back-to-back NCAA championships, the first team to do so since UCLA in 1973.

As a reward, the volatile pair paid their USA Basketball dues in the summer of 1992 — Laettner as a member of the Olympic Dream Team and Krzyzewski as an assistant coach.

Yes, Duke — Coach K, Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill — they were admired around the world. And they were hated around the world.

In 1994-95, Krzyzewski left the program to have back surgery. The season was expunged from his coaching record. It never happened.

But he returned a kinder, gentler Krzyzewski. He probably lost the 1999 national title game because of this new approach; Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun seized the opportunity like a young Krzyzewski.

Krzyzewski was channeling John Wooden now, and the conduit for his new self was Shane Battier, the consummate student-athlete, everybody’s All-American, the anti-Laettner.

Battier drew offensive fouls and spoke articulately. Krzyzewski and Dick Vitale told everyone how special this was, and they won a national title in 2001. Krzyzewski wrote books on leadership.

It was enough to make everyone sick. A national Duke love-in nearly ensued. But hotter heads prevailed, and hate ruled the day.

Krzyzewski never found the same simpatico with Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy or Carlos Boozer.

Then along came Redick, this 6-foot-4 shooter from Roanoke with an undying love for all things Duke. He’s all heart and guts and clutch shots. He’s like Chris Collins, only with talent.

Redick gets better every season and not solely out of physical maturation. He works at this game. He plays like he is out to prove something, that he is a complete player, that he is an NBA prospect, that Duke can win it all again.

He sounds a lot like Krzyzewski.

When Duke lost to Michigan State in last season’s NCAA tournament, Redick left his jersey on as long as possible, just to have Duke across his chest.

The previous season, Krzyzewski’s flirtation with the Los Angeles Lakers was about the same thing — his love of Duke. He was never leaving. He was using the NBA as leverage just as Duke had hired a new president.

Krzyzewski would never leave Duke like Williams, Dunleavy and Boozer. His jersey will have to be ripped from him, too. He loves Duke as much as Redick.

Laettner. Battier. Redick.

Yes, Duke will win another national championship this season. Let the hate begin.

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