This is the sixth in a series of Duke’s All-Decade teams, as named by various Chronicle writers, past and present. At the end of the series, you will be able to vote for your own All-Decade team, and your votes will determine The Sports Blog’s final choice. Stay tuned over the next two weeks for more All-Decade choices.
5. The Hire, Part Two
After the departure of Steve Spurrier, Duke Football went from toiling in mediocrity to becoming a national joke. A 23-game losing streak from 1999-2001 (excluded from this list because part of it occurred outside of the Aughts) cemented Duke's status as the worst team in Division I football. Joe Alleva's hiring of Ted Roof did nothing to help.
Then came the savior from the southeast, a straight-talking coach straight out of a Matt Christopher novel, who claimed that Duke Football would be playing in bowl games before long. His name was David Cutcliffe. He had coached both the Manning brothers. He represented, along with number nine on the list, a total shift in the culture of Duke athletics.
"I've always thought that any respectable college should have a good football team," Cutcliffe told me earlier this year. So far, he's made sure that Duke University could be known as that "respectable college," leading the Blue Devils to four wins in 2008 and five in 2009. Without the loss to Richmond and a couple of missed breaks in 2009, Duke, the national joke, would have been playing in a bowl.
So far, it looks like Cutcliffe's hiring is a story in progress-- subject to moving up several spots on the list in a few years if the Blue Devils keep improving. Of course, this story would never be possible without number six on the list.
4. The Redeem Team
USA Basketball was embarrassed at the 2004 Olympics, coming home without the gold for the first time since pros weren't allowed to play. To top it off, the 2004 team was widely perceived as selfish and uncaring. It was not totally true, but that's certainly how people thought.
Coach K to totally changed the culture of the Olympic team, transforming a group of exceedingly well-paid alpha males into a cohesive group of unselfish team-oriented players. (It didn't hurt that he had Kobe, Lebron, and Dwyane to play for him.) The image of K with the gold medals draped around his neck will always be available for Duke recruiting, as well the numerous testimonies from the super-duper all stars K coached.
Now, he gets set to coach again in 2012. Time will tell if it's as well-received as last year.
3. The Powerhouse
The women's golf team quietly enjoyed the best decade of any Duke sports team during the Aughts. Led by Amanda Blumenherst (three-time national player of the year) and Anna Grzebien (2005 NCAA individual winner), Blue Devil women's golf won an unprecedented three straight national titles from 2005-07. The team won four total for the decade, tallying the 2002 title behind the play of Virada Nirapathpongporn. Men's basketball will always get the most attention from the national eye on Duke, but hopefully the incredible accomplishments of the women's golf team won't be forgotten as we go into the next decade.
2. The Win
(Full disclosure: I'm completely slipping from journalistic mode here).
I grew up a Duke fan, which, in a rural town in eastern North Carolina, was no small feat. I was outnumbered, and knew no other Duke fans my own age. I was viciously picked on by North Carolina fans in elementary school; once, I was even heckled by a 20-something UNC fan after the 1998 ACC Championship game (I was not quite nine at the time).
I quickly grew to not only have an irrational hatred of all things Carolina, but a giant chip on my shoulder. I felt the world was out to get me because I pulled for the wrong shade of blue. My love for Duke eclipsed my feelings for most other parts of my life at the time. (In hindsight, it was a screwed up way for a kid to live.)
That's why the 2001 National Championship win will always mean so much for me. That team-- Battier, Duhon, Jay Will, Nate the Great, Boozer, Dunleavy, hell, even Casey Sanders-- were my friends who cared for the same thing I did. Stupid, I know, but that's how I felt.
I picked a good team to fall in love with. It boasted the best pure basketball player in the country (Williams), the athletic and talented leader that you need on every great team (Battier) and the underdog freshman just beginning to show flashes of brilliance (Duhon). We're about to get into a dark part of Duke history after this, but for now, Blue Devil fans, try to remember how amazing it felt to hear One Shining Moment being played as Battier cried over Duke's third gold-plated trophy.
1. The Case
Ah yes, the 2006 Duke lacrosse case. Could there be any other pick for number one? It was a story that had it all—money, class, sex, privilege, race. A sad saga from the very beginning, the case brought to the national eye the miserable town-gown relations of Duke and Durham, and it forever altered the way Duke was seen by the rest of the world. Reports on its proceedings could be seen nightly on CNN, on five segments of 60 Minutes, and (infamously) on Nancy Grace; they were read on the front pages of the New York Times and USA Today, as well as the excellent Durham-in-Wonderland blog; and they were discussed ad nauseam in the back rooms of the Murray Building, the dorm rooms of East and West Campus, and the offices of the Allen Building. It cemented to many the legacy of President Broadhead, gave us the term "Group of 88" (a list that I'm sure will be posted on the comments section of this post soon), was responsible for the 2006 season being canceled and Mike Pressler-- the reigning USILA National Coach of the Year-- losing his job, and, finally, allowed state attorney general Roy Cooper the defining moment of his political career: his speech on the “tragic rush to accuse,” and the “many points in [the] case where caution would have served justice better than bravado.”
Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans are long gone from Durham, but their legacy remains here. Effects of the case on Duke's campus culture, relations with Durham and North Carolina Central, and student-faculty relations are still easily seen. These effects go beyond a mere sporting match. That's why the lacrosse case is the story of the decade.