Although The Chronicle did not make a big deal of a 1961 melee against North Carolina, star forward ...

This week in Duke history: Tensions boil over in 1961 brawl between Duke and North Carolina


It’s the marquee rivalry of college sports. It’s also been that way for many years now, dating back perhaps to a 1961 brawl at Cameron Indoor Stadium that required 10 police officers to breaks things up and resulted in three historically-long suspensions for the time.

On Feb. 4, 1961, the Blue Devils were on their way to a win against the Tar Heels, and North Carolina’s Larry Brown drove down the court to the hoop with 15 seconds left trailing by five.

That’s when things got ugly.

Earlier in the game, there had been scuffles between both sides. That escalated when Duke’s Art Heyman—whose No. 25 is retired in the rafters and who boasts the school's best all-time career scoring average—committed a hard foul on Brown. Brown, who went on to coach for 27 seasons in the NBA and 11 in college basketball, winning a title at both levels, punched Heyman.

See, Heyman and Brown went a little ways back. They grew up playing against each other at the high school level in Long Island, N.Y., and Heyman originally committed to play for the Tar Heels. But he rescinded his decision and chose Duke, which perhaps led to some of the tensions.

Heyman fought back before he was slugged from behind with a cheap shot by Donnie Walsh, a future NBA executive. In the end, Heyman, Brown and Walsh were suspended for the rest of the ACC regular season, which would serve as a major blow to Duke’s national championship aspirations. The Blue Devils failed to win the ACC tournament and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament.

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