Duke and North Carolina clashed for the 239th time Wednesday, with the Blue Devils pulling out a 92-90 overtime victory behind the play of freshman Tyus Jones.
But before the Tobacco Road rivalry got underway and the programs clashed in what was an instant classic, the two teams set the rivalry aside for 60 seconds to celebrate and honor the life of the late legendary Tar Heel head coach Dean Smith at halfcourt.
With a picture of Smith accompanied by the words, “Thank you, Coach Smith,” showing on Cameron Indoor Stadium's video board, the two teams intermingled and wrapped their arms around one another—Blue Devils and Tar Heels alike—to pay their respects to one of the greatest coaches in sports history.
"It shows the class that this rivalry really has," North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said. "I want to beat their butts so much I can taste it, but there's a great deal of respect between the two programs."
The idea to have the teams come together and mix together came from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who coached against Smith for 17 years and became good friends with the North Carolina legend. Krzyzewski has been open with the media since Smith's passing about the effect the Tar Heel coach had on the game and the country.
But the praise does not end with the press for Krzyzewski. Prior to Wednesday's game, Krzyzewski said he sat down with his team to talk about the man they would be honoring in front of a national audience.
"[Tuesday], last night when we met, I talked to my team about Coach Smith. About who he was, what he did," Krzyzewski said. "And at that moment, it wasn't just, 'We're going to give a moment of silence.' It means a lot. I loved the way that went. [Smith's] looking down, he may not have liked the result of the game but I'm sure he liked the way both teams played."
The 68-year old head coach has been sure to make his players—the majority of whom were not even in kindergarten when Smith retired in 1997—aware of what it was that made Smith a titan in the basketball and coaching communities.
“It was amazing. I was recruited by Carolina and Coach Williams—[Coach Dean Smith] was his idol," senior captain Quinn Cook said. "Just growing up, you hear about what tremendous leadership Coach Smith had, and Coach K was one of his closest friends as well. I know the loss of Coach Smith hurt those two coaches. It was just a tremendous, humbling experience.”
Although the ceremony may be overshadowed due to the instant classic that followed, the scene shared by Krzyzewski's Blue Devils and Williams' Tar Heels at half court was the most memorable moment in a night filled with moments to remember.
"Dean's passing really affected all of us. I think the way we did it was the best," Krzyzewski said. "Roy and I are great friends. And we both understand that we're the lucky guys that get to coach these two teams. I just asked him, I said, 'Look, I'd rather have both teams on a knee, center court—mingled'.... It was really touching. I don't know if you could see the kids, but they were moved by it, which is what we wanted."
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