Duke Dismantles Its Own Destiny 

South Carolina Coach

This just in: Duke is done and Villanova is gone. And UVA, Florida State and and Louisville are all gone too. Oregon and North Carolina came back and held on and eeked out tough wins as they survived to sustain their stay at the Big Dance. And Michigan has now survived an aborted airplane takeoff and two fierce opponents as they continue to survive in March; they won, again, and now they’re on their way to the Sweet 16.

Wisconsin beat Villanova, and South Carolina dumped Duke, and they both won because they played one way: hard. Yes you need to play smart, but you still need to play hard. Duke’s  topsy, turvy, up and down, in and out season came to an abrubt halt and a premature end when every thing they’ve done and been through finally caught up with them.

Carolina wasn’t soft or spongy or squishy or squashy. They were firm and fierce and dogged and determined. Likewise, in life we should play and live with heart and smarts and grit and mettle.  And if your opponent plays hard, you just play harder.

That goes for players and coaches alike. While the players need to play hard, coaches need to work just as hard, and that’s what Frank Martin, coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, did. He cried tears of joy after they defeated Duke, not because he’s soft, but because his players played hard, and I loved every tear.

So be strong. Be stout. Be sturdy. Play and live life one way: hard-nosed and thick skinned. The Urban Dictionary says that hard-nosed is “a tough, straightforward, take-no-prisoners way of carrying oneself. Hard-nosed people may not be sensitive or tactful, but they are gritty and tackle problems head-on.” Amen to that.

And when you’re thick skinned you’re not easily bothered by things and you don’t let your emotions drive the train. That’s my definition. When you’re down, you don’t get down. And when you’re up, you’re still temperate and tolerant. When you have thick skin, you may be passionate, but you’re not really all that emotionally moved or overly sensitive when things don’t go your way.

So don’t take things personally, i.e., “from a personal standpoint or according to your own particular nature or in a subjective rather than an objective way” (Urban Dictionary). Look at the big picture and have eternity in view, because in the end we know we win.

So let’s learn to live every day and every play with the end in mind. Because only the strong know how to play hard and play smart and survive and advance in the Big Dance of life.

Duke vs. North Carolina, Again: We Don’t Mind Much More March Madness

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It’s March, and that means it’s time for madness. Tonight in Chapel Hill, it’s Duke vs. North Carolina one more time. And we don’t mind it at all, as these two teams always live up to the hype. 

Duke and North Carolina are archrivals, sworn enemies, and fierce foes. In other words, they just don’t like each other.  The competition between then is always bitter and brutal and intense and full of suspense. But it’s the tension and the friction and the pulmonary pressure and coronary and cardiovascular cavitation between them that makes them better together . . . err, that is, they play better when they play each other. Not to mention that the schools have two of the best college coaches in the  game prowling the sidelines in Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski. 

Duke has won four NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championships—second most of any ACC team, and second only to the University of North Carolina, which has won five. Duke has been in 16 Final Fours; UNC 19.  A few years ago, the count was that seventy-one players have been drafted into the NBA from Duke, and eighty-three NBA (and ABA) players attended North Carolina.  That’s 154 professional basketball players between these two schools. Not too shabby. And the comparisons and contrasts between the two can go on and on.

The Blue Devils and the Tar Heels have history. They have basketball pedigree and it shows. It’s a heated and spirited, feisty and fiery contest of teams that almost always leaves you on the edge of your seat, if you’re not standing on it screaming at the top your lungs. Both teams have more spunk and more spritz, more guts and more gumbo, more zest and more zeal when they play each other. That’s just the way it is when your adversary shows up and calls you out.

This age-old tangle of basketball titans teaches us a valuable lesson: we need our enemies. That’s right — you NEED your enemies; that’s your fiends and you foes, your slanderers and your saboteurs, your betrayers and your backstabbers; you need them all almost as much as you need your friends.

And, if that’s not enough, get this: God can’t serve you “a six-course dinner” unless your enemies are present. Psalm 23 says that God prepares “a table” for us in the presence of our enemies. So, you say that you don’t want any enemies or adversaries around? Then you can kiss your blessings and you’re benedictions goodbye.

 So take it from me. Your enemies bring out your best. And how about this — they bring out the best in us and in our God. God shows Himself strong on our behalf when there is a need for strength. And His strength is made perfect, or made even STRONGER (if that is even possible) in our weakness.

So when your enemy is near and your heart starts to fear, fret not; when our enemy shows up, God will always show out.  When our situations are at their worst, our God is at His best.

Another Reason To Hate Duke: Grayson Allen is “Trippin’”

Jimmy V Classic

Coach “K” got it wrong. The Duke Coach got it all wrong. Coach Mike Krzyzewski suspended junior guard and former captain Grayson Allen “indefinitely” and the indefinitely lasted a whopping one game. Allen was suspended for just one game for tripping an opposing player, not once or twice, but for the third time. And now Grayson Allen is playing again. Unbelievable.

I say again, this marked the third time that Grayson Allen intentionally tripped an opposing player in the past year. Allen intentionally stuck out his leg and tripped an Elon player Wednesday night, December 22nd, an incident he later apologized for. Allen was defending Santa Ana late in the first half of the Blue Devils’ 72-61 victory. Santa Ana drove past him on the baseline, and Allen stuck his right leg out, sending Santa Ana to the floor. Allen was assessed a technical foul. He then became overly emotional on the bench after he found out about the technical.  Talk about a poor sport.

Grayson Allen has now thrice committed the same dirty play. Does that make him a dirty player? You tell me. Allen has now gone from a mild-mannered, Bible verse-tweeting potential All-American to the biggest villain in college basketball. The passionate, palpitant, hard-nosed Allen is arguably the Duke Blue Devils’ best player and is the heart and soul of his team. With him they have a shot at going deep into the NCAA Tournament. Without him, they’re toast. So is that the reason why Coach K and the Duke University brain trust are putting up with his behavior?

There have been many discussions regarding disparity in punishment as pertaining to race. Just think: what would have happened if Grayson Allen was another color, race or creed? He probably would have been kicked off of the team and possibly dispelled from his school. It is disappointing and disparaging to see a Duke player get treated differently than other players would certainly be treated. The  “conspiracy theorists” of the world all believe that there is a double standard, and Duke in general, and now Grayson Allen in particular, got off and got by after doing what is horrible at best and heinous at worst.

Allen has endured a significant amount of scrutiny and criticism, and has been caught up in a viral, social media firestorm; but he did this to himself, purposefully tripping three opponents in the last two seasons. First it was Louisville’s Ray Spalding on Feb. 8, 2016, then Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes on Feb. 25, 2016. The first incident was surprising; the second incomprehensible, a pattern of dirty behavior that no longer could be written off as a “Did he or didn’t he do it intentionally?” debate. No, he did it, with his right foot out, left heel up. It turned Grayson Allen into a trending topic on Twitter, an ignominious YouTube sensation and the topic of conversation around the country.

Then, this past December, Duke suspended Allen after the third incident. Here’s what Coach K had to say after the latest trip: “We have had the opportunity to thoroughly review the incident involving Grayson Allen from last night’s game against Elon. As I stated last night, the incident was unacceptable and inexcusable. . . . As a program, we needed to take further steps regarding his actions that do not meet the standards of Duke Basketball. To that end, we have determined that Grayson will be suspended from competition for an indefinite amount of time.” And Coach K stripped Allen of his captainship.

Former Duke standout Jay Williams had this advice for Grayson Allen:  “Grayson Allen has a choice to make, the same one another former Duke guard had to make a long time ago. Will he learn from being forced to sit and watch? What happens next will define him.” And one ACC coach told ESPN’s Andy Katz that Allen needs help handling his actions. To say the least.

ACC commissioner John Swofford issued a statement supporting the move, calling sportsmanship “one of the core values of our league” and adding that the suspension “demonstrates adherence to this important principle.”

And here’s what Allen had to say for himself: “I made a really bad play. I’m sorry to him, Santa Ana ….. I’m sorry to the officials who had to call that. I’m sorry to my team. It was selfish and taking away from them. I’m not proud of that at all.”

Duke’s season depends on whether Grayson Allen can grow up. Yes, Duke made the right move suspending Grayson Allen, but it’s what happened during his short time away — and WHY he returned so soon — that will define a season for a team many thought would play for the title.

The question was asked, “how long should Grayson Allen sit?” The answer?  He sat one game. A whopping one game. Wow. He should have sat for much longer.  In hockey, if a player is tripped on a breakaway (with no opponents to pass other than the goaltender), a tripping call may result in a penalty shot for the tripped player. Nuff said.

Yes I believe in grace and mercy and redemption, but I also believe in judgement, and in this case, the punishment did not fit the crime.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand its dirty players. Right is right and wrong is wrong.  And Grayson Allen was wrong, three times over, and he got away with what amounts to a slap on the wrist.

What’s wrong with that picture?

A.B.D. — Anybody But Duke?

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I went to the University of Maryland so I have to hate Duke. I mean, I HAVE to. Even though Maryland abandoned the ACC for the Big Ten Conference, I still have to hate Duke. Right?

But Why? Why do I have to hate a team that is so great? Why do I deem to dislike and despise and deride and disparage a team that is good ALL of the time, and seems to be great most of a great deal of the time? Just because my team isn’t as good, or can’t beat them, or got beat down by them? Sounds good to me.

Nope. That can’t be right. Seriously, sometimes we don’t even know why we do certain deeds or think certain ways or say certain words.

So why DO people hate certain teams? Why do people yell at the Yankees and the cuss at the Cowboys and loathe the LA Lakers, and detest “le team du jour” . . . DUKE! I mean, they just won another — their fifth — national Men’s Basketball Championship. They came back from nine points down late in the game, and won going away. They have Coach K, the all-time winningest coach coaching today. They have Tyus Jones and they attract the best talent from near and far, and, of course, they’re Duke.

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Why do people hate certain winners and love other losers? Why do we root for the ugly team and rile on the pretty team? And why do we hate Duke? So much?

We must be wired wrong, because Duke just did it again. Duke just beat the team that beat undefeated Kentucky. Duke just showed that you can win with four freshmen in the lineup. Duke just proved that all kids today aren’t all that bad. Duke just did it.

And here’s the tie in:

Why do people doubt and question and suspect and disbelieve God? Because He seems unreachable and unapproachable and unfathomable and undiscernible? Because we don’t like the way things are and somebody’s got to take the blame? Because we don’t have what we want and somebody else finds what we fancy and we are jealous and envious and desirous of what the Dukes of the world have that we don’t? Like hating Duke, these are no reasons to hate and hold out on God.

Duke just proved that you can succeed when you have haters and doubters and cynics and skeptics and everything else in between. So have hope. Don’t sweat it. Don’t hate. Don’t be jealous. Be thankful for what you have and grateful for what you don’t have; and that’s the burdens and the bundles and the baggage that so many other’s do have.

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Duke did it. And nobody I know picked Duke. And there might not be anybody that’s picking you. But don’t let that stop you. Duke did it. And you can too.

Save The Best For Last

Bobby Knight and indiana_

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes ’round the moon
Just when I thought a chance had passed
You go and save the best for last.

Impossibilities, yes, but then again, we believe in miracles.

And sometimes teams go unbeaten and sometimes winning streaks go unbroken as the best team of the season goes into the final weekend looking for lore and longing for more. The last time a college team went undefeated was 1976. Bobby Knight took his Indiana Hoosiers to the title and a perfect season.

“Save The Best for Last.” The song sung by Vanessa Williams is considered her signature.  And if the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament story pans out the way wishful and wistful fans furtively feign, the best basketball of the season will indeed have been saved for last.

But first things first. This is a Final Four; emphasis on FOUR. And so the favorite son’s not home yet.  Kentucky will need to be more than lucky to defeat Wisconsin, and if Duke can dash Michigan State, we’ll have the final folks are hankering and hunkering for.

Saving the best for last is more than proverbial; it’s theological. When I was young and my mother cooked all the meals, my younger sister Anne would eat everything on her plate and save what she didn’t like for last. Her strategy was to hopefully not have to eat that vegetable because if she saved it for last, it would be cold and tasteless. This was long before microwaves, and sometimes, but not all of the time, Anne managed to manipulate my mother out of eating those blessed Brussel sprouts or bleeding beets.

On the other hand, my method was to look over my plate and pick out the one thing I liked best. Once I had determined that, I proceeded to eat, but I saved the best for last. And that’s what God does. And that’s what we should do in life. The following is borrowed from Eamonn Brennan, Sports reporter for ESPN:

“The final weekend of the 2015 NCAA tournament appears to have been ordained by the basketball gods. And they said, let there be dream matchups, and there were dream matchups. And they saw that it was good.

The lone surprise, the one lightweight — Michigan State — qualifies only in relative terms. Because Michigan State has saved it’s best basketball for last. Oh, sure, you remember Selection Sunday. Oh, how you mocked the careless analysts. They would talk about all of the reasons why this Michigan State team wasn’t very good, or they’d skip over those entirely, but they’d always end with a hoary old cliche: ‘Then again, never count out Tom Izzo in the NCAA tournament.’

If ever there was a year to do exactly that, it was this one. The Spartans may have pushed Wisconsin to overtime in the Big Ten tournament title game; they may have even deserved to win. But they’d also been merely OK for most of the three months preceding it, matching each step forward with at least a half-step backward. These undermanned, talent-drained Spartans lost to Texas Southern at home in December, and sure, they got better. But they still finished sixth in a soft Big Ten in points allowed per possession, and fourth on the offensive end.

Naturally, in three straight March games, Michigan State dropped a onetime national title co-favorite (Virginia), the Big 12’s best defensive team sporting its conference player of the year (Oklahoma; Buddy Hield) and, on Sunday, in a heart-pounding overtime thriller, a surging, talented team brilliantly coached by one of the game’s grandmasters (Lousiville, Rick Pitino). Last season, when the Spartans were loaded, with seniors who were the only class in Tom Izzo’s career to never get to a Final Four — that was supposed to be the run. And now look. You’ll never mock the cliche again.

Once you accept that Izzo somehow just pulled off his greatest tourney trick ever, the temptation to pencil Duke in to Monday night’s national title game wanes — though only slightly. Michigan State came together at the right time. It seems, though, with the Spartans that happens nearly every March.

Now, Duke could go toe-to-toe with Kentucky. But before we find out, the Blue Devils have the small matter of an insanely hot Michigan State. And, by the way, the Wildcats have to get past the mother of all Final Four draws: Fellow No. 1-seed Wisconsin.

Two stars, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, have the Wisconsin Badgers back in another Final Four. Why did Dekker and Kaminsky eschew the NBA? To spend another year with friends, sure, but also because of the pain. A year ago, they had Kentucky beat, if only barely, when Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison sank that deep and downright spooky three pointer. Every day since, Wisconsin has been single-mindedly focused on returning to the Final Four — and, if need be, repaying the Wildcats once there.

Now they have their chance.

Of course, these are not last year’s Wildcats. Last year’s Wildcats muddled through a mess of a campaign before flipping some transcendent switch in March. This year’s Wildcats have never flipped that switch off. They’re undefeated, and maybe you’ve heard something about that. But of course you have, because from the moment the Harrisons and Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson (and more) all said they were coming back for another season, Calipari has stood above college basketball like a conquering general: surveying, deploying, dominating. His players, as he keeps saying, are his reinforcements: tanks coming down over the hill. It is, in case you hadn’t heard, 38-0 — two away from 40, two steps from immortality.

There has been only one question worth asking about the 2014-15 season: Who could possibly stop the Wildcats? The answers have always been halting and hedging. But they’ve always been consistent, too.

Wisconsin. And Duke. And just maybe, just maybe, Michigan State. Two of these teams stand in the way of the perfect season for Kentucky. If the Wildcats want those last two wins — and they very much do — they’re going to have to earn them. How epic is that?” http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/tournament/2015/story/_/id/12584844/an-epic-end-ncaa-tournament-awaits-final-four 

So save the best for last. Don’t eat up and woof down the desert before you earn the right to. That is how it was in John Chapter 2 when Jesus performed His first miracle. When Christ changed the water into wine at the wedding banquet, he taught us a valuable lesson. The master questioned why the bridegroom chose to save the best of the wine to serve last. We know that Jesus changed the water into wine, and this teaches us to do and save and be our best both early on and late in the game. Because the best is always better when saved for last.

Your Enemy Brings Out Your Best: Duke-UNC

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Duke defeated UNC last night 92-90 IN OT in yet another instant classic between the two ACC basketball powers.  Some say that they play better when they play each other. Some call it “The Blue Blood Rivalry.” And the tried truth taken from this tale is that your enemy brings out the best in you. In fact, that’s your enemy’s job.

Duke and North Carolina are arch rivals, sworn enemies, and fierce foes. In other words, they just don’t like each other.  But it’s the tension and the friction between them that makes them better when they play each other.

 Duke has won four NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championships—second most of any ACC team, and second only to the University of North Carolina, which has won five. Duke has been in 15 Final Fours; UNC 18. Seventy-one players have been drafted into the NBA from Duke, and eighty-three NBA (and ABA) players attended North Carolina.  That’s 154 professional basketball players between these two schools. Not too shabby. And the comparisons and contrasts between the two can go on and on.

 The Blue Devils and the Tar Heels have history. They have basketball pedigree and it shows. It’s a heated and spirited, feisty and fiery contest of teams that almost always leaves you on the edge of your seat, if you’re not standing on it screaming at the top your lungs. Both teams have more spunk and more spritz, more guts and more gumbo, more zest and more zeal when they play each other. That’s just the way it is when your adversary shows up and calls you out.

 This age-old tangle of basketball titans teaches us a valuable lesson: we need our enemies. That’s right — you NEED your enemies; that’s your fiends and you foes, your slanderers and your saboteurs, your betrayers and your backstabbers; you need them almost as much as you need your friends.

And, if that’s not enough, get this: God can’t serve you “a six-course dinner” unless your enemies are present. Psalm 23 says that God prepares “a table” for us in the presence of our enemies. So, you say that you don’t want any enemies or adversaries around? Then you can kiss your blessings you’re your benedictions goodbye.

 So take it from me. Your enemies bring out your best. And how about this — they bring out the best in us and in our God. God shows Himself strong on our behalf when there is a need for strength. And His strength is made perfect, or made even STRONGER (if that is even possible) in our weakness.

So when your enemy is near and your heart starts to fear, fret not; when our enemy shows up, God will always show out.  When our situations are at their worst, our God is at His best.

Get Yourself A Good Coach

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A coach can’t play or win for you, but a good coach is good start to having a good game and a good season. A good coach is a good way to win without wallowing in defeat and wondering if you will be victorious more than just every other now and then. The rest is up to you.  

Coach K is a good coach. In fact, some would say he is a great coach.  And if he’s not the greatest college coach in college basketball, he’s at least the winningest coach in college basketball history. Some don’t like Duke for whatever reason, but the fact remains that under Coach K, year in and year out, the “Dukies” are a force to be reckoned with. And that only comes from having a good coach.

Coach Michael William “Mike” Krzyzewski (/ʃəˈʃɛfski/ shə-shef-ski; nicknamed “Coach K” has served as the head men’s basketball coach at Duke University since 1980.  Krzyzewski has led the Blue Devils to four NCAA Championships, 11 Final Fours, 12 ACC regular season titles, and 13 ACC Tournament championships. Krzyzewski is also the coach of the United States men’s national basketball team, whom he led to two gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics and 2012 Summer Olympics.

Krzyzewski has amassed a record 82 wins in NCAA tournament games, while averaging 25 wins per season.  Not too shabby. And Krzyzewski’s 903rd victory set a new record, breaking that held by his former coach, Bob Knight.

And Coach Mike Krzyzewski is on the verge of yet another coaching milestone. The Duke Coach will become the first men’s coach in Division I history with 1,000 wins on Sunday, January 25, 2015, if his fifth-ranked Blue Devils beat St. John’s. That milestone could come in the same arena where three seasons ago he became the winningest men’s coach in college basketball’s top tier.

A win at Madison Square Garden would bring his record to 1,000-308 during a career that spans four decades. He says the wins that matter most are the ones that bring titles, not milestones, and he calls the forthcoming accomplishment “a heck of a thing … but it’s not a championship.”

And that’s the sign of a true champion, and a true championship coach. He doesn’t just want to win games, he wants to win championships. Too many coaches and players and people grapple just to win games, and battle just to believe they can be more than mediocre and mundane. But not Coach K.

And so the lesson is this: be picky when picking a coach.  Not every teacher and mentor and instructor wants to push you to greatness. But a good coach does. So, I believe that getting a good coach is a guarantee that you will at least be taught and tutored and trained properly. The rest is up to you.