SI Vault
 
DUKE'S RED-HOT AND BLUE DEVIL
Ray Cave
February 27, 1961
Basketball player Art Heyman, nicknamed The Pest, has stirred up a civil war in the Atlantic Coast Conference while transforming his school into a national power
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 27, 1961

Duke's Red-hot And Blue Devil

Basketball player Art Heyman, nicknamed The Pest, has stirred up a civil war in the Atlantic Coast Conference while transforming his school into a national power

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

Duke and North Carolina, two testy and contentious southern neighbors whose basketball teams rank among the top seven in the country, are separated by only eight miles of gently rolling tobacco land. From the bitterness of the battle now raging between their partisans, eight light-years would be a more appropriate distance.

Triggered by an intense, strong and strikingly able young basketball player nicknamed The Pest, the trouble has already included a riot during a game, the suspension of three players, the impugning of the integrity of a conference commissioner, an Alice in Wonderland court trial and an uneaten birthday cake.

The Pest is Arthur Heyman. Off the basketball court he is an intelligent, peaceable 19-year-old Duke sophomore from Rockville Centre on Long Island. He has been brought up to say "sir" to his elders, and he wants to be a basketball player, not a cause c�l�bre.

On the court he is the 6-foot-5-inch, 205-pound offensive leader of the Duke Blue Devils, averaging 24.4 points a game. He is also the team's defensive leader, with 11 rebounds a game. His best play is a power-packed rush for the basket which carries him at, on and over anyone who is foolish enough to get in his way. It is a style calculated to make points, not friends. He plays the game as he learned it on the concrete schoolyards of Long Island, fiercely and joyously, combining the fervor of a Christian wrestling a lion with the confidence of a lion wrestling a Christian. He is very likely the finest sophomore of the year.

In the spring of 1959 Heyman sifted through 75 offers, decided to follow the underground railroad (SI, Feb. 4, 1957) which North Carolina Coach Frank McGuire had used for seven years to siphon talent from his native New York to the land of the drawl and the longleaf pine. Such Yankee imports had won one national championship and kept North Carolina consistently in the top 10, much to the dismay of the other three big basketball schools—Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina State—which are clustered in the small area some coaches call Tobacco Road. McGuire, delighted at apparently getting Heyman, made a public announcement of his success.

Then, on May 6, 1959 Vic Bubas, a personable and persuasive 32-year-old, became head coach at Duke. The very next morning, May 7, he sat in the Playbill Restaurant of New York's Manhattan Hotel and convinced Art Heyman that he should not follow the rest of his New York friends to the University of North Carolina. Heyman's father, an engineer, agreed with Bubas, and Art went to Duke.

A man who knows baseball has called Heyman a " Billy Martin with talent," and any ballplayer who has ever itched to bust Martin one on the chin could have predicted what would happen. Heyman was soon scoring 30 points a game for the Duke freshmen, driving his team to victory and his opposition into a frenzy. In the game against the North Carolina freshmen he was at his exuberant best—until knocked cold by a roundhouse right to the jaw thrown by a furious and frustrated opponent. Five stitches were needed to repair Heyman.

This season Heyman was quite unawed at joining a Duke starting team made up exclusively of serious seniors. In the first 10 seconds of his first game he took a rebound and dribled the length of the floor, evading four LSU players and driving right over the fifth for a basket. He dubbed his teammates with unflattering nicknames—Howard Hurt, the quiet, restrained Duke captain, became Zipper Nose—but they gave him one, in turn, The Pest, and welcomed their forceful young newcomer.

"We worked hard to help Art control his temper and himself," says Vic Bubas, "and he has improved 100%."

Relations with North Carolina have not. Frank McGuire refused to use Heyman's name on his basketball television show. Bubas, in turn, claimed his three daughters refused to eat a birthday cake when the icing turned out to be light (Carolina) blue instead of dark ( Duke) blue.

Continue Story
1 2 3