They were friends in med school. Duke vs. North Carolina reunited them

Members of the Duke School of Medicine class of '96 gather outside the Devil's Krafthouse before Duke takes on Clemson.
Members of the Duke School of Medicine class of '96 gather outside the Devil's Krafthouse before Duke takes on Clemson.

It was an iconic lob to Erik Meek that earned Bobby Hurley the record for assists in the NCAA. Meek jumped up, caught the pass in the paint and put in a layup. Hurley didn’t smile, but the crowd inside Cameron Indoor Stadium went wild.

One-thousand-thirty-nine. The most assists in NCAA history from a single player — a record written in 1993 and kept to this day. Hands in the graduate student section held up the four digits — 1, 0, 3 and 9 — written in black on white paper rectangles, so that everybody in Cameron Indoor, and everyone watching the broadcast, would know the number that marked a milestone moment for Hurley and for Duke men’s basketball.

Thirty-one years down the line, the Blue Devils’ win at home against Maryland, when Hurley set that record, is still one of Mark Weinberg’s favorite memories from his years in medical school. He thinks it’s pretty cool that a clip of him and his friends, who held the numbers in the grad student section, ended up on SportsCenter.

Wrapped in Duke gear from head to toe, beer in hand, Weinberg remembered Hurley’s big day as he looked around his circle of friends gathered on patio furniture outside the bottom level of the Brodhead Center. It had been nearly three decades since he called Duke’s campus home, but basketball had finally brought him and his friends back together. The group was built of 11 medical school grads — all class of 1996 — a wife and a visiting son. Some of the now-doctors had been undergraduates at Duke, and some had done their residencies in Durham, too. Together, they had some sort of presence on campus at every point from 1987 to 2000. In 2024, they all had tickets to Duke’s home game against Clemson.


Mark Weinberg and his friends count Bobby Hurley's all-time assists at Duke's home game against Maryland in 1993.
Mark Weinberg and his friends count Bobby Hurley's all-time assists at Duke's home game against Maryland in 1993.

It was all thanks to Duke’s run to the 2022 Final Four.

On his trip to New Orleans to watch the Blue Devils face off against the Tar Heels with a berth in the NCAA title game on the line, Weinberg ran into old friends in a moment of complete serendipity. He decided to plan a campus reunion, and it finally materialized over a year later.

The ‘96 crew, when not traveling for basketball, is pretty busy, spending most of its time in various medical fields across the country. 

“We probably cover everything from primary care to subspecialty to pharma to academia,” Weinberg told The Chronicle.

But, he added, basketball “keeps us close.”

Weinberg is the president of a consulting firm for biomedical research and development in Northbrook, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. His kids go to Glenbrook North  — where current Duke head coach Jon Scheyer went to high school. Chris Gamard practices internal medicine in Mobile, Ala., and holds two degrees from Duke, one from medical school and another for his time as an undergrad. He met his wife, Laura, during freshman orientation week. Chris and Laura’s daughter Caroline graduated from Duke in 1995, and her younger sister Cat is a current junior.

“We love coming back to the Carolinas,” Gamard said. “It’s just been like home.”

Steven Crowley teaches at the medical school. Duke is simultaneously his alma mater, workplace and where he can find his daughter, Anastasia, who is a sophomore.

“The opportunity to see your daughter in college … it’s the greatest thing in the world,” Crowley said.

It’s not bad catching up with old friends, either. 

“This is the nicest group of people you’ll ever get to go to medical school with,” he added. “They’re just super, super people.”

Still, it takes something special to keep this “super” group together after so many years. Naturally, that special thing is Duke basketball.

Between 1992 and 1996, even when Weinberg and his friends were busy studying for exams, basketball came first. As first-years, they all camped out in Krzyzewskiville over a September weekend to get their season tickets — a tradition that’s still around now. While law and business school students hung around K-Ville “partying it up,” future doctors crowded in their tent with flashlights and textbooks, gearing up for their first set of midterms.

Camping out for those tickets proved worth it for Weinberg. Before last Saturday’s Clemson game — just a week before the first Tobacco Road clash of this season — he reflected on the most memorable rivalry showdown in his time in Durham: North Carolina at Cameron Indoor, double overtime, Jeff Capel, 1995.

The Cameron Crazies, including Weinberg and his friends, watched as Capel, with two seconds left in overtime, lobbed the ball with just one hand, leaping into the air at the halfcourt line, landing somewhere between there and the arc. It was a complete Hail Mary, the kind of shot you throw with your eyes closed and your fingers crossed as you hand it all over to fate. 

Fate, for Capel, was merciful, and that shot went in.

The Blue Devils ultimately lost the game amid a losing season that had Krzyzewski out with a back injury. But they played through double overtime, extending that irreplaceable thrill of watching Duke play basketball against North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium — a memory this group still holds dear.

“It keeps friendships different than other places,” Weinberg said. “I went to Yale as an undergrad. I've got friends from there and talk to them. But it's not the same, just because of the camaraderie and closeness that it brings.”

He will watch Saturday’s rivalry game from Northbrook, where he might call up an old classmate to talk through the last minutes of whatever this game will hold. Weinberg describes himself as an “eternal optimist” when it comes to Duke basketball.

In March, he’ll be back in his old stomping grounds, watching the real thing in Cameron Indoor.


Sophie Levenson | Sports features editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

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