The Brotherhood runs strong through Duke men’s basketball, and nowhere is that more clear than in its coaching staff. Every man behind the Blue Devil bench was also once a Blue Devil himself. Now, as Duke approaches its first matchup against archrival North Carolina, let’s take a look at each of their extensive histories with Duke's foes down Tobacco Road.
Associate head coach Jon Scheyer
After head coach Mike Krzyzewski revealed his forthcoming retirement last summer, it was announced that associate head coach Jon Scheyer would take the reins after him. Scheyer bleeds Duke blue through and through, playing four years from 2006-2010, then joining the coaching staff as a special assistant in April 2013, ultimately being promoted to assistant head coach in 2014 after Steve Wojciechowski’s departure. In his senior year, Scheyer won a national championship as a team captain, coming in clutch with five of Duke’s last 10 points in its final 61-59 win against Butler. After that season he was named an All-American by multiple outlets and was a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, Wooden Award, Oscar Robertson Trophy and Naismith Trophy.
Despite holding a 3-5 record against North Carolina as a player, Scheyer individually performed very well on Duke’s brightest stage, averaging 19.4 points, 3.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds in his eight games against the Tar Heels, including a game in his junior season in which he scored 24 points on a blistering 100% from both the field and the 3-point arc. His highest scoring game in the rivalry was also his very first, with 26 points as the Blue Devils fell 79-73 in Scheyer’s best game of his freshman season.
However, his biggest moment against North Carolina was the first game of his senior season. After only having won one Tobacco Road rivalry game in his career and riding a three-game losing streak, Scheyer led the Blue Devils with 24 points en route to a 64-54 win against the defending national champions at the Dean Dome. Krzyzewski said after that night, "I thought it was a gritty performance…the ball was not going in,” and that was even true for Scheyer, who went just 35% from the field.
Scheyer said after, though, “You just need big plays, especially on the road…Coach said the whole game, 'Don't worry about missing shots. Just keep shooting,'” and that’s what he did, scoring 11 points in the last seven minutes to help the Blue Devils pull away in the close game and flip the rivalry’s narrative. North Carolina had won six of the last seven in the series and had won two national championships since Duke’s last Final Four appearance, but that win flipped the script, and the Blue Devils got the last laugh, winning their next meeting in Cameron and that year’s championship.
Associate head coach Chris Carrawell
Like Scheyer, associate head coach Chris Carrawell also played all four of his college years at Duke, though from 1996-2000, building up to an exemplary senior season. After falling in the 1999 National Championship to Connecticut, Carrawell and the Blue Devils came back for a successful 2000 season, winning the ACC championship for the second time in a row. Carrawell was named an All-American and the ACC Player of the Year with 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game that season.
Carrawell holds the second-best record against North Carolina of all the coaches, going 7-3, even beating them once in the ACC championship in 1999. However, what stands out the most for Carrawell from his playing days against the Tar Heels was not one particular performance, but the atmosphere.
"You see how crazy our fans were going…. It was a different level and I'll never forget that…," Carrawell said in a recent media availability. "Each game you’ve got to play it like it's a championship game."
That struck him for the first time when he was lining up for the tipoff in the Dean Dome his freshman year.
“I remember my first game, which was a career maker for me,” he recalled humorously. “My freshman year, we had lost to them seven times in a row…And so I jumped at center, and I was jumping against Serge Zwikker, who was 7-foot-3. I was 6-foot-7, looked a wet 185, no facial hair—well, I had a wide mustache, the wide 'stache—and he didn't even jump, you know, he didn't even jump and got the tip-ball.”
Now, while nothing compares to playing the game, he says, the anticipation is still unlike anything else, even from the bench.
Assistant head coach Nolan Smith
Assistant head coach Nolan Smith spent much of his Duke career alongside Scheyer, playing from 2007-11 and being a significant piece of the 2010 national championship-winning team. Like Scheyer, Smith also ended his senior season with a bevy of accolades, including finalist finishes in the Naismith Trophy, Wooden Award, Oscar Robertson Trophy and Bob Cousy Award races. These came after Smith led his team to a third-consecutive ACC championship, defeating the Tar Heels in the conference final while averaging 24.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game across the season.
Smith generally stepped up to the plate during the rivalry, but no more so than in his senior season. In Duke’s three games against the Tar Heels in 2011, Smith averaged a dominant 28 points and 5.3 assists. He even posted a career-high 34 points in the season’s first meeting as the Blue Devils toppled North Carolina for the third time in a row. In that game, Duke trailed by as many as 16 points but rallied to grab a 79-73 win. After entering the half down 14, the Blue Devils outscored their opponent 50-30 in the final frame, marking the biggest second-half comeback in program history since 1959.
After the game and his own career-best game, Smith said, “This comeback win, how tough we were, how together we were and how great it feels now, I don't think anything can be better than this.”
Smith scored 22 points in the second half, leading the charge in the statement win. Not only did he assist on the Ryan Kelly 3-pointer that finally gave Duke a two-point lead and then immediately make his own layup to put the Blue Devils up four, but he slammed in the dunk with 18 seconds left in the game that put the exclamation mark at the end of the historic game.
Director of player development Amile Jefferson
Amile Jefferson played five seasons for the Blue Devils from 2012-17, building a successful collegiate career and winning a national championship in 2015, before joining the coaching staff this season. Read more in this edition’s feature on Jefferson and his career here.
Going 7-2 against North Carolina in games he played in, Jefferson was a key player in some big wins, none bigger than the 2014-15 season’s home win. Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook led the Blue Devils to a fierce overtime win with 22 points each, but Jefferson was crucial to the Blue Devils pulling out the win. After Jefferson opened scoring, the Blue Devils pulled away, but in the second half the Tar Heels came back with a vengeance, eventually taking a lead with just over 15 minutes left. However, a pair of made free throws then a layup from Jefferson put Duke back within striking distance. Dotting the “I” on his performance, Jefferson collected his only assist of the game on the Jahlil Okafor triple that finally put Duke back on top. While the teams traded leads back and forth after that, that Jefferson stretch in the middle helped the Blue Devils push to overtime and eventually win such a huge game.
Editor's note: This article is one of many in The Chronicle and The Daily Tar Heel's annual rivalry edition. Find the rest here.
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.