But with the equally accomplished Williams riding into town to face Krzyzewski, the balance has been restored—witness the first meeting between the two this year, on Feb. 5, an 83-81 Duke overtime victory in Chapel Hill, one of the best games of the season. Williams is still chasing his first national title, having reached the Final Four four times without winning it all, and is pursuing it this year with a volatile team that has frustrated him more than any other he has coached. Krzyzewski, though, stands a good chance of snaring a fourth title this very season, a prospect that gives Carolina fans the dry heaves. Something's got to give.
And among the somethings most likely to give will be the sanity and equanimity of Duke and Carolina partisans. At week's end Duke was 24-3 and ranked No. 3, Carolina 17-8 and No. 14, and both are gearing up for the NCAA tournament. Their second game this season—on Saturday in Durham—will, like the first, lead to considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth locally, at least for the losing team and its fans. The winners will preen, strut and ridicule their neighbors and office mates, even their spouses. It will be heaven or it will be hell.
The minister who had presided over my father's funeral just moments earlier came up behind me and whispered in my ear. " UCLA by 10," he said. "But it's early." How he knew that I would want to hear a score update on that afternoon, my father's body barely lowered into the frozen winter ground, I don't know. I was standing in the receiving line in the church's fellowship hall with my mother and my brothers and my sister, greeting mourners, accepting their condolences, leaning forward to hear their memories of my father. His sudden death at 72 on Dec. 21, 2000—he had seemed too ornery, too ribald, too full of plans to die—was so surreal that all I wanted was to watch the Carolina- UCLA game. You can say it was my way of proclaiming, "Death be not proud." But my father would have called my bluff on that fine sentiment. "Acting that way about a basketball game at your age," he used to routinely upbraid me as I screamed and whined, "I thought you'd gotten over that."
"Me? What about Mama?" I would say, knowing this would irritate him even more.
"She's married to the television set," he'd say, exasperated.
"Please, let's not do this now," my mother would plead, not wishing to be distracted from the game on TV.
"You're all crazy," my father would say, settling down on the couch with the rest of us, defeated by the persistence of childhood passion in the grown men and women who mystifyingly happened to be his own wife and children. Gradually, however, he would get drawn into the game, and as his own anxieties about the outcome mounted, he would deflect them onto us. "Y'all stop that fussing," he'd respond when we yelled at referees and coaches. He often taunted us as we questioned a substitute or a defensive alignment, "Don't you think Dean Smith knows a little more about basketball than you and your mother?"
"Not about defending the three-pointer," we would yell. There were more than a few times when my mother and father ended up watching games on different televisions in different parts of the house.
At the church I excused myself from the receiving line for a moment and found the minister, a kind and educated man who had been a great comfort to my family. Bob Dunham dealt with death as if it were an old and expected acquaintance who always showed up sooner or later. While my father lay in a coma, Bob would sit in the hospital with us, talking about politics and eccentric church members and, yes, the weather. Bob prayed, too, but quietly, without show, as if prayer was a sort of desperate, inadequate communication that would have to do, given God's notorious silence.
"What is it now?" I asked.