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He Does The Devils' Work
Curry Kirkpatrick
February 15, 1988
Danny Ferry leads Duke's Blue Devils by virtue of his towering presence—and tricks he learned from his NBA-seasoned dad
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February 15, 1988

He Does The Devils' Work

Danny Ferry leads Duke's Blue Devils by virtue of his towering presence—and tricks he learned from his NBA-seasoned dad

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Bob Ferry, however, says his son "withheld 30 percent of his ability" that season to fit in with the team, and Krzyzewski maintains that Danny "subordinated himself magnificently." Coach K adds, "I know it was a blow to him not to start. He looked on it as a demotion even though it wasn't. But Danny knew what the team needed."

With his background Ferry would have had to have been a dunce not to know. Here's a kid who grew up watching his 6'4" brother, Bob, play high school ball at DeMatha; watching terrific college teams—like Maryland and Georgetown—that his father scouted as vice-president and general manager of the Washington Bullets; and watching the Bullets practice since he was six years old. "I didn't have babysitters," Danny says. "I went to games." Wes Unseld held Danny upside down over a banister. The sons of Elvin Hayes and Dick Motta were his grade school playmates. He has an antique chest in his room at Duke that was given to him by his godmother, Dottie (the former Mrs. Gene) Shue. The night in 1978 that Washington won the NBA championship, Danny and his older sister, Laura, watching at home on TV, dressed up their brother Bob's dog, Bullets, in a Washington T-shirt. Given all that, Danny says, "Hey, I should be a good player."

Before he even got to high school, he was much taller than most of his classmates and already throwing bullet outlet passes of the sort that had made Unseld famous. "He'd get the ball and just fling it downcourt," says his father. "Sometimes the other kids would even catch up to it."

At the time, the Ferrys lived in Bowie, Md.—they've since moved to Annapolis—so DeMatha, with its legendary coach, Morgan Wootten, was the obvious place for the boys. "I wanted a good Catholic school," says the senior Ferry, "and a place where they would learn how to win." Their mother, Rita, drove the one-hour round-trip sometimes twice a day. "Saint Rita," Danny says. "We genuflect when we see her now."

The brothers played against their dad and one another in a sideyard court, though that competition ended when young Bob, who is four years older than Danny, went off to Harvard instead of N.C. State (where he probably would have been a member of Valvano's 1983 NCAA championship team). Anyway, Danny was growing something fierce and the home-court games had become overly rough. "My dad fouled too much, and my brother fought too much," says Danny, laughing.

Danny was one of the few freshmen ever to play for Wootten. "At 15 he had the basketball mind of a 30-year-old," says Brey—not to mention the know-how to execute picks, screens and body slams.

"Once I was watching a game and Danny set this vicious back pick," says his father. "Some poor kid just bounced off him onto the floor. I told him he simply couldn't do that, and Danny said, 'Why not, Dad? Ricky [Mahorn, then a Bullet bruise brother] gets away with it all the time.' "

By the time Danny was a DeMatha senior, the Stags were crowned national high school champion by USA Today , and he was the object of an intense recruiting battle between Duke and North Carolina. The night in 1985 that Harvard showed up to play a game in Durham, the Duke crowd chanted, "We want your brother!" at Bob. "I was the best-treated visiting player in the history of Cameron," says Bob, who nevertheless pulled a nifty hoax. When the name " Bob Ferry" was announced over the P.A. system during the introduction of the Crimson starting five, Kyle Dodson ran onto the floor in Ferry's stead. Dodson is black. It was the first—and probably last—time that the Duke zoo was dumbstruck, silenced in its own cage.

That prank was typical of the Ferry clan, whose progenitor was a journeyman center for the Hawks, Pistons and Bullets from 1959 to '69 before he moved to Washington's front office. Ferry's considerable executive abilities were for a long time overshadowed by his reputation as a roistering fun lover. And his friends returned his favors in kind: Once when he was celebrating his birthday, for instance, a buddy arranged to have a live lion appear at Ferry's front door.

But a few years ago Ferry suddenly found himself less a drinking buddy than a recruiters' target. Maryland coach Lefty Driesell was a family friend who used to bring the Ferrys fish he caught on excursions to Maryland's Eastern Shore. When Danny was in high school, Driesell even camped out in Rita's real estate office to hook the real whopper. Danny wouldn't bite: He wanted to go away to school.

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