"Ever since that comment, it's all I think of," Wallace said on the eve of the teams' game last month. "A couple of days ago I didn't want to get out of bed. Then I thought of Feinstein." Wallace's characterization of the ESPN2 report as "just something to amp the Duke-Carolina game" rang true when he made 10 of 11 shots in the Tar Heels' victory.
The hostility that the rivalry produces sometimes seems outsized, even a little trumped up, because Krzyzewski and Smith have much more in common than their fans care to admit. Each was in his early 30's when he took over at his school. Smith was hung in effigy during his third season, while Krzyzewski might as well have been hung at the same juncture of his career. Each coach took six seasons to win his first ACC title, and for years each bore the rap of not being able to win an NCAA crown despite a string of Final Four appearances. While Smith has won 78% of his games. Krzyzewski, at age 48, has a .738 winning percentage, a record virtually identical to Smith's after the same number of seasons. Each coach has wrought a paradox—Krzyzewski, the West Point-trained conservative, believes in a free-form, almost permissive approach to the game; Smith, a liberal Democrat who campaigned for integrated lunch counters and a nuclear freeze, presides over the nation's most corporate program. And each coach has a voice that seems to emanate from deep inside a considerable honker.
"You know what I really like?" Krzyzewski says through his aquiline proboscis. "We know they're doing it right, and they know we're doing it right. They have their style of doing things, and we have ours. But it's all good. Not just good, it's excellent. And in an environment of excellence, we've made each other better."
Smith has never much cottoned to the push-each-other-to-new-heights theory. "That's like saying I'm not going to work hard unless Duke has a good team." he says through his bulbous schnozz.
But Krzyzewski calls his bluff. "Hey, all I heard [during the 1992-93 season, after Duke had won two straight NCAA titles] was them saying they were tired of us. And if I were them, I would have been tired of us too. Actually, I'm tired of them from 1993 [when Carolina won the title]. The good thing is there's mutual respect among players and coaches."
Mostly it's the fans who cultivate the hatred. Encountering a North Carolina fan, a Dookie will engage in one-upmanship as if it were so much badinage about the weather: The Blue Devils' Mark Alarie scored the first basket in the Dean Dome; Tar Heel great Phil Ford was married in Duke Chapel; the chancellor at Chapel Hill, Paul Hardin III, holds two degrees from Duke; the Blue Devils, in 1979, once led Carolina 7-0 after a half in which the Tar Heels' Rich Yonakor threw up two air balls, an achievement that is believed to have spawned the chant that has since spread from Cameron to every arena in the land. Sometimes a simple name is enough to get a Tar Heel's goat: e.g., that of Fred Lind—the Duke backup center who, after having scored 12 points all season, had 16 points and nine rebounds and made two clutch shots to force two overtimes in the Blue Devils' 87-86 triple-OT victory in '68.
Tar Heel fans simply counter with "Bobby Jones." He stole an inbounds pass and tossed in an off-balance layup in the final second to beat Duke in 1974. Then they go on: Duke athletic director Tom Butters, as chairman of the NCAA Basketball Selection Committee, had to present the championship trophy to Smith in 1993; former Duke president Terry Sanford has two degrees from Carolina; the '74 Tar Heels came back from—remember these numbers, now—eight points down with 17 seconds left in regulation to beat Duke in OT
The two schools have never met in an NCAA championship game, although it's bound to happen one of these days. Smith is on record as saying he wouldn't mind such a matchup. But Krzyzewski—could he possibly do anything else?—disagrees. He recounts how once, after a North Carolina victory over Duke, a gang of students followed his eldest daughter, Debbie, through the halls of her junior high school in Durham, bumping and taunting her to tears. Even teachers joined in, writing "Go Heels!" in the margins of papers before returning them to her. "I can live with losing to any school," Krzyzewski says. "But what would happen in this area peoplewise if one of us beat the other in the championship game I wouldn't wish on anybody, it would be so horrible."
Each coach insists that there's much more to his job than preparing his team to "beat thy neighbor" several times a year. "It's not like the old Michigan-Ohio State and Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalries in football, where nobody else in our conference can beat us," says Smith. Adds Krzyzewski, "I want to see bumper stickers and T-shirts that say DUKE: ACC CHAMPS, not 81-77." But the coaches' protestations are wasted on the clerks who pack semiconductors down at Research Triangle Park and the farmers who cure leaves in the region's tobacco barns and the members of what are known as "divided families."
Angie and Bennett-Roberts live in one such pitiable household. They pay Durham taxes and have a Chapel Hill zip code. She comes from a long conga line of Duke people; he looks at the powder-blue sky and takes it as a sign that the raiments of God himself, like Tar Heel uniforms, are trimmed in Alexander Julian argyle. When Angie was expecting their first child, it was settled: If it was a girl, Mom would tell her bedtime stories about how, when Smith was coaching the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, Mama's family was rooting for the Russians; if it was a boy, Dad would set him on a knee and tell him that they're not called Devils for nothing.