Looks like we have got ourselves a good old-fashioned catfight down in North Carolina. Except this catfight is between highly respected, well paid, men who coach at two of the finer institutions in the entire nation. Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams have had a few things to see at each through the media.
When talking to the press after Duke’s loss to Wake Forest, Coach K made a comment saying, “Unlike other schools, we don’t release our injuries.” Coach Williams deciphered that comment as being a shot at his North Carolina squad that has struggled with injuries to their star point guard, Ty Lawson. Williams responded during a radio interview by saying to no particular person that they should “coach their own damn team, I’ll coach my team.”
Doesn’t a good battle of media reported comments just add more fire to college basketball’s greatest rivalry? Here you have two of the most highly regarded coaches in men’s basketball going at it like a brother and sister over the last piece of chocolate cake. And yet it did not stop there.
Williams followed his previous comments with, “It’s not like I’m getting a dadgum plane and flying it around to say, ‘Roy fell against a wall and banged his nose‘ or anything… We have to do those things [discuss injuries] and everybody’s hurt. But there’s different stages of being hurt… If you’re hurt and missing games, that’s not exactly like having a hangnail. And so we do have some people that are getting hurt and missing games. I don’t think that somebody should say we’re putting it in front of the public.”
And Williams is essentially right. When Ty Lawson could not play in this year’s first edition of the Duke-NC rivalry game, it is not as if he exactly had control over whether or not Lawson’s injury would become a part of the sports media cycle. Lawson is a projected first round pick in the NBA draft, and if he is hurt and cannot play the best rivalry in all of college basketball, then guess what, Coach K, somebody is going to report it.
I know a lot of the old school basketball fans and analysts are going to have a problem with these two coaches having a war of words. Many of them will say that this is a bad example for the kids on their basketball team, that it draws attention off the kids, and it takes the focus off the game of basketball, but that is all bologna in my mind. If this feud does anything, it makes the rivalry even better. It makes everybody want to watch the next Duke-NC game even more.
Does this bring a distasteful Kobe-Shaq like feel to the game?
Sure it does!
But that is what a rivalry is all about! If a game were just solely about basketball, it would not be a rivalry; it would just be another game of hoops. It’s the outside stuff, like they mutual animosity, the history, the pressure, the relationships, the fans, the schools, the families, and the coaches that make a rivalry a rivalry. So I hope these two stay at it up until the two teams meet on March 8th. It will add just a little bit more wood to an already fiery inferno of a rivalry.