Orange Watch: Boeheim, Krzyzewski have matched wits against each other


Item: Won’t next season’s SU-Duke, Boeheim-Krzyewski, match-up be the Dome’s most anticipated game of the year?

In a first-ever upcoming season in which five national champion programs will invade the Carrier Dome, four of the visitors being “thank you” gifts coated in southern hospitality from the ACC office in Greensboro in the inaugural conference hoop season, even a rematch with NCAA Sweet 16 victim Indiana (ACC-Big Ten Challenge) and a second-ever Dome meeting with North Carolina won’t grab as much attention as the first-time hosting Duke under the Teflon Top.

The mutual disdain Hall of Famers and longtime friends Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyewski have for being assigned the task of defeating the other goes back decades, the two having known each other before Coach K even landed in Durham in 1980 while at West Point, who’s friendship grew with a connection to USA Basketball that goes back almost the same amount of time, and who are about to begin preparations next month in Las Vegas for a third go-round together for Olympic gold in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

Boeheim (L) and Krzyzewski (R) are long time friends

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We remember the mutual respect shown, and playful banter exchanged, between the two in 1988 at, ironically, the Dean Smith Center, when the coaches crossed paths during the mandatory practice sessions before that year’s NCAA East Regional thinking, “there’s the two coaches together of the last two teams to finish as national runners-up,” as Duke had lost to Louisville in 1986 and SU to Indiana in ’87, up to that point the zenith of their respective careers.

Well, a little over a year later in December 1989 because of the inaugural ACC-Big East Challenge, the two schools were bracketed in one of the two marquee matchups (Georgetown-North Carolina was the other), the game held at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Perhaps Jim Boeheim’s derision towards Greensboro, especially its lack of a myriad of dining establishments versus New York City as he pronounced shortly after the ‘Cuse was ACC-bound in Sept. 2011, really goes back to ’89.  The coach came into the fifth game of that season ranked No. 1 led by future NBA players Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens, and Stephen Thompson, but kicking and screaming.

Those were the days in which Boeheim hated playing such a highly-ranked team in early December (Dec. 5) on a neutral court to boot.  He was happy with a less than mediocre strength of schedule before the Big East heated up, and considered a tough test in the now defunct Carrier Classic title game good enough.

The Orangemen were cruising over Duke by 15 early, but the sixth-ranked Blue Devils led by Alaa Abdelnaby, Phil Henderson and a young Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley, came roaring back to make it a nip and tuck second half affair in front of a disappointing, half-full Coliseum crowd.

Sophomore David Johnson (another future NBA player) saved the day hitting two clutch foul shots with three seconds left to win 78-76, while Owens was spectacular throughout with 18 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, the last a beauty to Johnson to set up the winning FTs.

Fast-forward eight seasons later to 1998 and 21st ranked Syracuse, coming off a last-second escape over Iona and a comfortable victory against New Mexico at Rupp Arena, was back in the NCAA Sweet 16 facing No. 2 Duke in front of 40,589 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

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Led by senior Todd Burgan and sophomore Ryan Blackwell, SU hung tough with the Blue Devils up to the 12:29 mark of the second half the game tied at 49, before Duke went on an 11-0 run holding the Orangemen scoreless for seven plus minutes and cruising to win 80-67.  Burgan finished with 20 points.

That Duke team, with a host of future NBA players including freshmen Elton Brand and Shane Battier and upperclassmen Roshown McLeod and Trajan Langdon, ended up blowing an 18 point lead to Kentucky in the regional final losing 86-84, and the Wildcats would go on to win the national championship.

Meeting number three (or four, it’s a home-and home regular season) between Boeheim and Coach K, and Duke’s first Dome appearance has a Saturday night, primetime ESPN slot written all over it.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.