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The dances that never happened

Coach K and I both missed our fair share of dances in the last couple of years.

With a new disease sideswiping the NCAA tournament entirely in 2020 and a weird fluke of a year in 2021, Duke men’s basketball missed out on the Big Dance twice in former head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last four years. Unfortunately, I’m also a bit of an expert when it comes to dances that never happened.

I was voted king of a dance back in high school to my surprise. Yet, I never received the crown because wintry conditions brought festivities to a halt before they had begun. Who knew December in Missouri could get so slushy? For a while, I wondered why fate had played this cruel but funny prank on me. I later realized the cancellation had saved all my friends and mortal enemies from witnessing my dancing skills, or lack thereof. For reference, imagine one of those inflatable tube men outside car dealerships wiggling uncontrollably in the wind.

But it was a blessing in disguise for another reason—those missed dances made me savor the ones that did happen even more.

The same goes for my time covering Duke sports for The Chronicle. I have reported on some incredible “dances” and the people who performed them. I wrote about a field hockey player who was pictured on the cover of Vogue and retweeted by Martin Luther King III. I got to report on how Duke women’s basketball somehow recruited four players named Jaida, Jayda, Jade and Jade to the same team in the same year. The coach’s Invisalign did not help the situation, and she was fired less than a year later. Yikes.

I must admit my favorite dances to attend were always the Duke men’s basketball games while writing for The Chronicle. It is truly an experience like no other to sit center court in Cameron Indoor seats you literally cannot pay for. The music is deafening, but the show is darn good. 

Writing three years of Duke basketball for the Chronicle allowed me to etch my name in the history of Duke, however small. I asked Jon Scheyer about his test run as head coach in the Blue Devils’ Jan. 6, 2021 game. Yes, Scheyer took over peacefully as head coach on the same day as the Capitol riots. You can’t write this stuff, although I certainly tried. 

It was a pleasure to write about student athletes finally getting the money they deserved through NIL deals, though seeing my classmates getting bilked out of free chicken fingers was disturbing. Later, I witnessed and reported on my first in-person Duke-North Carolina game. The Blue Devils dominated the whole way, and I marveled as the Dean E. Smith Center began emptying with six minutes left.

The dancing shoe was on the other foot for Krzyzewski’s final matchup with North Carolina at home in Durham. What was meant as a triumphant conclusion to the Coach K era of the rivalry ended in humiliation in front of scores of former players. The dagger came later when the Tar Heels buried the Blue Devils in their first ever meeting on a national stage.

It hurt much more that my former St. Louis teammate Caleb Love delivered the final blow.

There were of course dances that I missed. The 2020-21 season was fully remote at Duke, and the most any Chronicle reporter could achieve was getting roasted by Coach K via Zoom (and subsequently changing his major). I couldn’t cover the Blue Devils’ trip to the Final Four—that’s what procrastinating on your honors thesis will do—but I still got to experience the excitement on campus during Duke’s deepest NCAA tournament run since 2014-15. That is something I won’t forget anytime soon. Nor will I forget scrambling to think of punny headlines with my friends during the closing moments of a tense game. We weren’t very good, but I was rather proud of this one

I’ll be graduating from Duke with Coach K in a few weeks. Our dances are done and there are no more encores. Show’s over, time to take a bow, even though it’s impossible to know how I did. I don’t exactly have the kind of fanbase that Duke basketball has developed. My dancing skills certainly haven’t improved.

But however ungracefully I moved through my four years at Duke and The Chronicle, I like to think the stories I told and the great people I met indicate I took some steps in the right direction—with both my left feet.

Glen Morgenstern is a Trinity senior. He served as a Duke men’s basketball beat writer for three years and was the deputy digital strategy director of The Chronicle’s 116th volume. He wants to thank Michael Model and Derek Saul for their patience and support while teaching the subtle art of sports journalism. He would also like to thank Evan Kolin, Shane Smith and Jake Piazza for enduring through late nights editing important print editions—and Shane specifically for his prowess eating Bojangles biscuits while driving. Finally, he would like to thank Bre Bradham and Nathan Luzum for always encouraging exploration in writing. Glen hopes the tradition of punny headlines lives on forever at The Chronicle.


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