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Dukies Take the High Road

(By Toni L. Sandys - TWP)

So yeah, of course I asked Coach K about yesterday's reports of massive prank callsterism directed in Duke's direction during their hotel stay in greater College Park. He turned it into a song of praise for Maryland fans, Maryland basketball players and, especially, Gary Williams. That's called taking the high road. His full response:

"I think there was something on a fan Web site, but we took care of that," he said. "I mean, look, things happen on the road, not just here. People would be naïve to think that over the years, that people don't try to do things, you know? But we had no problems.

"My relationship with Gary is the best. I admire Gary Williams and what he's done with this program, and I admire the Maryland fans. I mean, here's a team that's 6-6, I think 17 wins, you know, they're fighting and they're out here as hungry as can be. I admire that. I'm not gonna pay attention to if Jon's picture is up. I admire their intensity and I admire Gary's team for what they're doing. I mean, they're fighting like crazy. And that's what he's done here for, I think he's been here 20 years. You know, we're the same age, we came in together and all that. I think a lot of him. I think he's as good a coach as there is."

His players were equally high-road minded. Greg Paulus just laughed when he was asked about the phone calls. Then he waited for a minute, and came up with this.

"They do what they do," he said of Terps fans. "It's a tough environment. They definitely make it as hostile as possible."

So, were there actually calls, or what? Paulus laughed again.

"A couple calls," he said. "But we've been here a few times and we understand what the deal is."

Kyle Singler? "We got a couple, but we had our phones turned off," he said.

Jon Scheyer? "To be honest with you, I didn't get any," he said. "I think other guys did, but I didn't."

Only Gerald Henderson was willing to discuss the specific ways of the pranksters.

"Oh, we got a lot of calls, a LOT of calls," he said. "It's been happening here probably since Coach Dawkins played here. You know, it gets old, but that's what they do."

So what actually happens on such a call

"They ask for you, tell you 'You suck,' tell you 'You're gonna lose tomorrow,' and then you hang up on them," Henderson said.

As for Operation Scheyerface v2.0, more high roadism. Some teams keep their locker rooms closed and only allow you to interview their players on a stage with PR people hovering nearby (ahem, Hoyas), but Duke has enough faith in their players to turn them loose, and they managed themselves quite well, thanks.

"They need to come up with something new, it's getting old," Henderson said of the Scheyer signs. "I mean, you can't help but notice them, but they've been doing that since our freshman year. I think personally they need to come up with something different. You know, they can do something with me, that's fine with me. We're just focusing on the game."

"You see them in the beginning, but when the ball's tipped up, you focus in on the game," Paulus said. "When the game and the action is flowing up and down the way it is, you're thinking about defensive assignments, offensive assignments. You don't really pay much attention to signs and posters and all that other kind of stuff."

"I mean, I have nothing to say about that," Singler said. "I've got no comment."

"To be honest with you, it's not really a big deal," Scheyer said. "I thought they'd be a little more creative. It was the same stuff we had freshman year. It wasn't a big deal at all. We knew this was a big win, not because, I don't care about the crowd. It's because we knew they were coming off the win against Carolina, they're a different type of team, and for us, we wanted to stay in second place. That's what the win was about, it's not about doing anything for their fans. If they want to do stuff, that's good for them."

A reporter from the Diamondback also asked Coach K about the "crap" Maryland students were giving to Scheyer, and whether the guard's big three-pointer at the end of the game was a fitting response. Yeah, that's right, you know which road he took. It wasn't Route 1.

"You know, I have no idea what crap there is," he said. "I don't pay any attention to that. I'm sure he doesn't either. Are they giving him crap? I don't know. They might like him. They probably like him a lot. Maybe he was teasing them, I don't know. Our guys, they don't pay any attention to that.

"You never play the crowd. You know, you play the people who are on the court. If you play the crowd, then you usually don't win. When I'm in a situation, I never even look at the crowd. I mean, what could they say that would hurt me? 'You stink?' Well, I know I don't. I mean, 'Your mother is something?' Well, I know that's not true. I'm sure that's how players feel.

"Whatever is said, you just don't pay any attention to it. In saying that, in spite of all that, it was a huge three. I don't think he hit it because of the crowd. I think he hit it because of the nature of the game. I guess that's the point. If I was being graded for this paper, I'd say, 'Would you get to the point' The point is he hit it."

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 26, 2009; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  College Basketball , Terps  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Operation Scheyerface v2.0
Next: Caps Get Recognized Around Town


Gerald Henderson:

"Oh, we got a lot of calls, a LOT of calls," he said. "It's been happening here probably since Coach Dawkins played here."

Is he talking about prank calls or the refs?

Posted by: GiannicolusJones | February 26, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Duke players appear to be real jerks....

Posted by: inchesfromyourface | February 26, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Duke haters never fail to disappoint. It's always the refs that cause Duke to win. This means there is a vast conspiracy amongst referees, who have all taken a vow of silence, to never rat on each other. Coach K must be some kinda Tony Soprano to arrange something like that. Of course the same refs must allow them to lose some games. Is that also by directive? Does Coach K say, "hey guys you can let us lose to Carolina at home, but we really need to win at College Park"?

Posted by: harbinger79 | February 26, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

LOL- must be the prank calls- the ref calls go way back before Dawkins...

Posted by: dsmith614 | February 26, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I tend to think Shane Battier got it much worse than Scheyer ever did.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | February 26, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

It is pretty cheesy stuff. But if you eliminate the cheesy pranks, what's left of college life?

Posted by: Samson151 | February 26, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

it was funny to see all of those signs/pic's. maryland was SWEPT. who is laughing now?

here we sit 6-7. our annual bubble run.

ncaa used to be an expectation (only question was what seed?), but it has sadly turned into an accomplishment in college park.

nothing on the horizon (ACC's 9th ranked recruiting class) suggests any change is en route.

Posted by: terpcentral1 | February 26, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I was going to make some comments about how classy duke players are, and how much I respect Coach K. Then I remembered how bad my team is, and I just wept for an hour.

Posted by: FlyersSuck | February 26, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

K was appropriate. The high road, he lost that a while back. When. In Durham. All this talk about how he and Gary came up together, yadayadayada; why not ask him how come he played his starters well towards the end of that game in Durham when the score was run up against a Maryland team that was clearly off its game.

That, by no one's measure, was "the high road," and ignoring that in this interview was indefensible, if you are a reporter who intends to right a meaningful story about the Duke (K)/Maryland (Gary) rivalry.

It seems to me that they plain do not like eachother and that K was saying to the world, at least this is what I got from that performance in Durham, that he could care less who knew it. He was going to stomp on Maryland's neck because he could. The high road it wasn't, not by a long shot.

As for the raising that Scheyer got, hey, you ever see how that treat Maryland players, particularly V, when they step foot in Cameron. They invented all this garbage that takes place in college arenas, that's right, Duke invented this garbage, and it ought to stop. But, having invented it and affirmatively pumping up the Crazies to a fever pitch to er, make the visiting team feel welcome in his arena, K was in no position to complain about anything and he knew it.

I think K is a terrific coach (but for this floor slapping stuff and all the injuries his players routinely incur by playing so "tough" as Jay Bilas would describe it), but he chose for whatever reason to go way over the top the last time Maryland visited his school to play a game. K made it into much less than a game to be "played" between two schools, regrettably in my opinion, and has yet been asked to explain why.

Until that matter is cleared up, there is no "high road" to be had, and until the presidents of these universities step up, the opprobrious behaviors that are permitted by students in college arenas will detract significantly from what college athletics was once about.

Posted by: cohenra | February 26, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break. K played 13 guys in that blowout against Maryland. 12 of them played 9 or more minutes. 12 guys! What did you want him to do? Put the subs in for the entire 2nd half? The 3 guys who played the most in the 2nd half of that game for Duke? Elliot Williams, Miles Plumlee and Martynas Pocius! If he wanted to run up the score he could have and it would have been a 60 point blowout.

Posted by: InSpades | February 27, 2009 12:42 AM | Report abuse

K ran up the score. Singler and Scheyer were playing well into the second half when the game was long over.

Please, he couldn't help himself but win by 40. Ridiculous.

Anybody who watched that game saw that K had real strength on the court playing with super aggression well into the second half. Very bad form that will lead to bad blood. The kind of thing that leads to bad things, like guys running into a wall when guarding a guy coming up court.

Maryland's kids got their noses rubbed in it at Cameron unnecessarily and gave Duke all they could handle and more when they came up here. The 40-point win was uncalled for; Gary picks up a few bigs next year, if I'm Duke, I'd watch out.

Posted by: cohenra | February 27, 2009 1:55 AM | Report abuse

Anyone with a clue knows that Maryland played terrible and that's why they got blown out. Honestly, when you shoot 28% from the floor, how do you not expect to lose by 40+? When you give up 28 offensive rebounds! Duke played their bench more in that game than any other game all year. Olek Czyz got 9 minutes! I'm not sure if he's played 9 minutes the rest of the year. If you don't want to get blown out then come to play. No one on Duke played more than 24 minutes, which was Scheyer. Who played 17 minutes in the 1st half. What is K supposed to do? Tell kids like Olek Czyz who doesn't play all year to go play 4 corners? Play Steve Johnson all 2nd half?

Posted by: InSpades | February 27, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Just to show how clueless you really are... exactly 1 Duke starter played after the 12:30 mark of the 2nd half. That was Henderson who played 1 minute from 10:30 to 9:30. Pretty obviously K just wanted him to give the fans a chance to give him a well deserved cheer (after he torched you guys).

The lead was 40 with 15:30 left in the 2nd half. When exactly did Duke run up the score? At the start of the 2nd half? Please go find something else to whine about.

Posted by: InSpades | February 27, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I'm not whinning. When the score got to 30, you pull your starters. K left them in because he's got a jones for Maryland.

By the way, save the snarky or snarly stuff for the board. I am as much a Duke fan as I am a Maryland fan. I happen to admire K very much. Duke fans, on the other hand, not so much.

I have written ad nausium in praise of K. This has not been one of his best years as a coach, not by a long shot. The thing with Maryland is only one among a number of issues. Until recently, Duke's offense was essentially a mess, out of sync is the way the talking heads put it. They never said the reason. I will. K wanted this years team to incorporate a lot of inside-out play, attacking the rim or kicking it out, off of pass penetration to the bigs.

An effective Zoubek for 20 minutes a game gave him his best chance at a championship run and everyone who knows anything about basketball knew it, including hubert davis who said so every week and aw great promise, as did I, in Zoubek's game.

The only problem is that the other players on Duke's team didn't see things the same way, and K was unable to do anything about that. First, Zoubek's style is to catch on the move in an upright position and finish without needing to elongate a lot of angles--hips, knees--and without getting into a muscling contest with a defender. You get it to him early when he asks for it where he asks for it and he will score the ball. The littles were either unable or unwilling to do that.

They hesitated to make sure that Z had his defender sealed (that is, until Z had to strike what is commonly mislabeled as an "athletic position"--bent at the hips, but in the defender's pelvis, torso bent forwar, which happens to be a very difficult position to move out of; it is powerful though) which all but foretold that Z would not be effective. That is not his game.

The littles likewise refused to get Lance the ball on a consistent basis inside even though like Zoubek he was scoring at a very effective rate. One or two miscues by either of those guys and they didn't see it again. They never saw the ball in the last 15 minutes of a reasonably close game. Playing 4 against 5 is not the best strategy and K allowed it. Far from his best performance.

Ultimately, K's solution has been to effectively jettison inside-out play off of pass penetration. He uses Thomas and McClure as screen setters, outlet receivers, and board crashers almost exclusively. Neither plays a meaningful roll in the offense. Tell me another top 10 team that is playing offense 4 on 5? That's what I thought.

K ran up the score against Maryland that first game to throw down some kind of gauntlet. If Gary gets all the guys he's after this year, like I said, watch out.

Posted by: cohenra | February 27, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

So K should pull his starters 2 minutes into the 2nd half? Why would any coach do that? If he wanted to run up the score, don't you think he would have played his starters past 12:50 of the 2nd half?

Do you know why no one asked K about "running up the score"? It's because you're the only one who thinks it happened. When you play as bad as Maryland played that 1st game you are gonna lose by a lot. You say "Singler and Scheyer were playing well into the second half when the game was long over" when they sat out the last 12:50 of the game.

I think I'll trust K over you and Hubert Davis on how Duke should best run it's offense. I like Zoubs and wish he would earn more playing time but frankly he just hasn't done it.

Posted by: InSpades | February 27, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

K wanted to use Zoubek this year as an essential part of his offense but his players could not make that happen. You and other Dukies bashed Zoubek for it, but it was not his doing. It was the outside players of Duke who refused to allow a big 7 footer to call the play rather than them. Period.

Once the ACC season started, the outside players were more reluctant still to defer to Zoubek and Lance but rather insisted on dictating to them when and how they would get their chances. If they treated eachother that way, their outside games would deteriorate too.

Duke has had no inside game since the landlord left for precisely this reason--that is, the outside players are either unable or unwilling to get it inside on terms that make sense from the inside guy's perspective. This is a huge hole in Duke's game and explains at least to me Duke's shallow showing in post-season play.

I think that K made a logical choice late in the season to basically give up trying to play with the bigs as integral to the offense and Duke is much better for it than it was during what I have called its long period of ambivalence. However, in so doing, Duke is not nearly as dangerous as it might have been had K managed to get his littles to play coequally with the bigs. That he could not, in my view, gives them a much weaker shot to get what Duke fans want. They, of course, will blame it on Zoubek and Lance, saying they just weren't good enough to get it done. And before that it was McRobert's fault, and the guy who transferred.

By the way, any coach that wins by 40 who ain't in the pros has done something wrong, in my opinion. Very, very wrong. It happens a lot now, and I think it is unseemly. Most of the time, it is by coaches who want to make a statement to the committee, you know, so they can get on the good side of the bubble. To me, it's a turn off.

If Maryland was shooting so poorly, then why the incessant pressure (famous Duke overplay) throughout even after Maryland was down 30 and their guys had lost their traction. "Quicksand," aka The Replacements. Why?

You only think that this thing is over. K should be a leader among his colleagues and almost always is. Not that night in Cameron, he wasn't; that night he was driven by something one can only guess at. Let's hope that, whatever it was, he finds no room for it again.

Posted by: cohenra | February 27, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

So now it's not that he left his starters in (cause he didn't) it's that he had his subs play hard? How are the subs going to get better if you tell them to go in the game and not play the style they've learned in practice all year? Even playing this way, they didn't extend the lead over the last 15 minutes. In the opening 5 minutes of the 2nd half they scored 23 points, in the last 15 of the 2nd half they scored 22 more. If they were trying to run up the score they did a really bad job of it. The lead went from 40 to 41 in that time.

As for McRoberts... he was the most offensively challenged athletic 6'11" guy I have ever seen. If it wasn't a dunk it probably wasn't going in. Zoubek is a far better shooter but he's still not anything I'd want to build an offense around. It may come back to bite Duke and K but I guess that's why they play the games...

Posted by: InSpades | February 27, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Typical Dukie response, snarly and snipey. He left his starters in too long and he pressed the defense way too long to bury Maryland, which to say the least was poor form. The bench whoever you are referring to getting better is a bunch of bs. Duke has multiple levels of pressure they employ in their defensive sets, sometimes looking to turn teams over and other times not, and different ways of trapping and shooting passing lanes or not off of traps, if they are being set.

You actually don't know that, do you; now there's a surprise. K had no justification for going at Maryland's kids the way he did after it was clear the game was over, none that satisfies an unbiased observer. Not his best moment. Tell me the last time he let his team beat another team by forty. If you can name any, perhaps I'll have to rethink my assessment of K. For now, I'm willing to let it go as a misstake. We all make them.

As for McRoberts, you have got to be kidding me. He carried that team; no McRoberts, that team wouldn't have won 10 games. His principal job was to play defense, to double anyone who penetrated with the ball and not allow them to finish in the lane, at the same time being able to get back to his man or anyone else who dished.

On offense, he did fine considering the effort he had to expend playing defense and getting the important/difficult rebounds on that end. He would have done much better on offense if Duke's outside players did not hold the ball after catching it and actually gave some thought to creating passing lanes and exploiting them as a first option. Their inability to do that was palpable; heck, they had even V commenting the entire season about how making entry passes was a lost art.

Nice going, InSpades, throw a guy who carried Duke to a very credible season under the bus; seems to be a specialty of Dukie fans who oh so love their statistics. Statistics are things that guys with clip boards care about. They can be made to support anything, but change nothing. No McRob, Duke would have been a laughing stock.

As it was, Duke owed its entire season to him and the fans who started all this Crazy nonsense do nothing but bash him. With fans like you, I wonder how come Monroe and Patterson took a pass.

Posted by: cohenra | February 27, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

All I said about McRoberts is he was offensively challenged. Are you going to dispute that? He was a good defensive player and a good passer, he couldn't shoot to save his life. He was also a bad teammate which is why Duke fans don't like him so much. He constantly showed up his teammates on the court.

As for 40 point wins... Duke has them every year (so does Carolina). They beat Loyola and Georgia Southern by 40+ this year. Last year they beat NC Central by 65. In 2002 he beat Army by 48. Was he running up the score against his alma mater? There I go throwing stats out there again, I forgot, those are meaningless. Duke never beats anyone by more than 40 (cause you say so). They also played their starters late into that Maryland game (again, because you say so).

That beating Maryland took was the best thing that could have happened to them. Obviously they've learned a lot since then. They should send K a thank you note or something. He might have kept them from going to the NIT again.

Posted by: InSpades | February 27, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

McRoberts wore himself out playing the anchor/stopper on defense and his shot was hampered by his back--lest we forget, he had back surgery that summer. How does McGrady shoot when his back is bothering him.

As for this "bad teammate" stuff, if there was such an issue, I am sure K would have handled it. On the otherhand, if McRob, like Z, was outspoken to his teammates when they failed to get him the ball when and where he called for it and not moments later after the defense had arrived, I should think that that was a good thing. Catching it in rhythm in a spot from which you feel you have the edge is the name of the game for effective inside play. Just ask Dickie V.

Posted by: cohenra | February 28, 2009 2:16 AM | Report abuse

And, oh, it is one thing for Duke to run up the score on cream puffs whom it schedules with the understanding that that is what is going to happen. It is quite another for a team to run it up on a competitor when the competitor's kids lose their footing. That, where I come from, is not sportsmanship, but rather its opposite.

Posted by: cohenra | February 28, 2009 2:20 AM | Report abuse

You obviously didn't even watch Duke if you don't know how McRoberts acted on the court. And since when is Dick Vitale an expert on basketball strategy? Bobby Knight seemed to like the new look of Duke's offense and I think he has a bit more basketball IQ than Vitale.

You keep changing your argument when faced with facts that dispute your ridiculous claims. If you don't want to get blown out like a cream puff then don't play like a cream puff. It's that simple. In my mind it's far worse to blow out UNC Central. Those kids don't stand a chance against the top D1 schools. Personally I could really care less what the final score is. when you are up by 40 w/ 15 minutes left and win by 41 then that is not running up the score. When your starters sit the last 12 minutes of the game that is not running up the score. The only embarassing thing about that game was how Maryland played.

Posted by: InSpades | February 28, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

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