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Cards have Owned Coach K

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The abrupt missive got right to the point.

No words were minced.

It came from the umbrella hoops writer’s association, to which I hope to keep my membership. BABBLE (Basketball America Back Benchers for Literary Excellence).

It was personally signed by organization prexy, Naismith Chamberlain, the only man known to be descended from both the inventor of the game and Wilt the Stilt.

Serious credentials, those. Not to mention, his mentor was Dick “Hoops” Weiss.

Dear Mr. Kaplan:

It comes to our attention that it has been 127 hours since the first reports that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will retire after the 21-22 season.

You have yet to write an article about the situation. This is a serious breach of organizational protocol.

Should you fail to do so before the end of the next business day, your membership in BABBLE shall be suspended, pending permanent dismissal.

(S) Naismith Chamberlain

Well then, I’d best get to it.

(Fortunately, I learned years ago how to spell the coach’s name, without having to look it up.)

This is not an onerous task, frankly, since my beloved University of Louisville Cardinals hold a unique position in the collegiate hoops universe.

Standing 9-7 against the Blue Devils since the commencement of the Krzyzewski Era in Durham, U of L is the only school which has played at least nine games against the GOAT with a winning record against him.

For full transparency, here’s the full list of the four other schools with more Ws than Ls. Arizona (5-3), Tennessee (2-1), Arkansas (2-1), and, ahem, Stephen F Austin (1-0). K stands 50-45 against the Tar Heels, and 6-2 versus Kentucky.

As disappointing as the last COVID campaign was for Louisville, Chris Mack’s Cards still captured 2 of 3 against the Golden Arches-laden Blue Devil squad.

So, yeah, in the context of diehard fandom, the Cards have owned Coach K. Including the fact, they won the two encounters of consequence.

March 31, 1986. Reunion Arena. Dallas, Texas. Louisville 72, Duke 69.

The Jeff Hall to Pervis Ellison pass for the putback to win U of L’s second national title.

Other than the victory and title, my favorite memory of that one in retrospect came when Jay Bilas was in town for a press conference, early in Pitino’s stay. I asked him about the game.

“If you recall,” he responded, “our team was being talked about as one of the best ever.”

My rejoinder was something like Denny Crum’s to Bobby Knight, when the IU coach proclaimed “Duke is the better team.”

“They weren’t that night.”

March 31, 2013. Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis, Indiana. Louisville 85, Duke 63.

It was for the Midwest Regional crown, on the way to U of L’s third national title.

It is also known as the Kevin Ware game.

My favorite stat of that ‘13 W is 14-12. That’s the score from the moment of Ware’s injury to the end of the first half. Totally distraught, the Cards dug deep and outscored Duke for the rest of the stanza.

Russ Smith, spotted sitting on the court crying during Ware’s triage on the court, finished the game with 23. U of L dominated the second half, 50-31.

Boom!

My work is done.

I shall look forward to my BABBLE membership renewal forthwith.

— c d kaplan