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Terps, ACC should thank Coach K for staying

July 13, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

The weather patterns have been interesting on the sports front this summer.

Just in the past two weeks, there has been a constant high-pressure system over Los Angeles, mostly after Phil Jackson quit and Shaquille O'Neal plotted his exit from the Lakers.

That all caused a potential storm to brew over North Carolina as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski pondered whether he should follow the jet stream to a new climate in L.A. and the NBA.

Now all is sunny again after Coach K decided to stay put. And that storm? It probably blew into the ocean, thanks to a collective sigh of relief being released along the Atlantic Coast (Conference).

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Lou Scally's bobblehead must have spun off its Doppler when Coach K's name came up from under the radar as the next logical Laker lackey. Cooler heads prevailed and Los Angeles got another guy with a name that would dominate a game of Scrabble - Rudy Tomjanovich.

And in all this, you have to believe that the University of Maryland was doing its best to huff and puff away the threat of K's departure and keep everything sunny in Durham.

In fact, the wind current probably kicked up from Maryland to Georgia, in hopes K didn't make like a hurricane and blow town.

Like him or not, Maryland basketball's financial wagon is tied to Krzyzewski. This isn't to say he's the only reason the Terrapins bask in the NCAA's televised limelight, but Duke's coach helps to make sure it will remain bright.

The best national matchups the ACC has to offer now are the two Maryland-Duke games every year. The conference - and Maryland - believed this so much that the newly expanded ACC made sure the Terps and Blue Devils were each designated as one of the two teams that were guaranteed to play each other twice under the new scheduling format.

The other teams were strictly chosen by geographic rivalry - Maryland vs. Virginia and Duke vs. North Carolina.

If Coach K had decided to leave, there is a good possibility that the ACC's diamond matchup would turn into cubic zirconia. Past history seems to prove that most dynasty programs fall off dramatically after coach's the caliber of Krzyzewski leave the scene.

Need a roll call? John Wooden and UCLA, Bobby Knight and Indiana, Nolan Richardson and Arkansas, Digger Phelps and Notre Dame and John Thompson and Georgetown. And here's one that hits even a little closer to home - Dean Smith and North Carolina.

Some of these programs have enjoyed success since these coaches left, but not to the glory and national draw of yesteryear.

Even Maryland struggled before they latched on to Gary Williams after Lefty Driesell took the right turn off campus.

Over the course of the last decade, the ACC has lost many of the signature coaches who added color and drew attention around the nation. Along with Smith, Bobby Cremins, Rick Barnes and Dave Odom - all who had the ability to make every game an opportuninty to reshuffle the Top 25 - have left the league. Georgia Tech shined under Paul Hewitt last season, but it wasn't a case of dominance as it was a great run in the playoffs.

The new ACC will need to find an identity, especially since it watered itself down with the additions of Virginia Tech and Miami, which are better know for playing with the ball with pointy ends instead of the roundball.

None of this is to take anything away from Williams and Maryland. They are part of the elite in college basketball.

But every successful program needs to have a rival to make it that much better. In boxing, it was Ali and Frazier. In oldtime baseball, it was the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. And in local football, little surpassed a Dallas-Washington game.

If Coach K would have decided on a Hollywood folly, the ACC would not have only lost one of its most visible coaching personalities, it probably would have lost a program that carried the must-see mystique. Maryland has it, but not to the same degree as Duke.

Like it or not, the ACC - and Maryland - came very close to finding out that basketball with out Mike Krzyzewski is like a day without sunshine.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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