There were several storylines about the Duke/UNC game on Saturday that you could follow-and almost none of them were actually about UNC.
That changed once the game was over.
On Monday, Sports Illustrated highlighted something that didn’t get a lot of mention before the game, because, it was about UNC and no one really cared about UNC until the game happened:
Duke is apparently not happy that UNC didn't honor Coach K in Chapel Hill last month https://t.co/09YhMqzven— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 7, 2022
The story set Twitter on fire among fans on both sides on Monday because it seemed like it was stuff that had leaked after the game. In fact, it’s about this Wright Thompson article that came out before the game.
The “controversy” if you will is about the fact that when Carolina and Duke played a month ago, the Tar Heels didn’t do any sort of pre game ceremony that honored Coach K’s final appearance in Chapel Hill. You may recall that this snub messed Duke up so much that they took control of that game and never really let go. If it was an issue, the Blue Devils seemed to have gotten the last laugh by...winning.
So, flash forward to Sunday night and the K-stravaganza that ensued. Most folks were expecting a repeat of a month ago (including this author). Then when the amazing happened and Carolina won, the team was headed for their post game handshakes and...well...
So, apparently, the lack of any bending of the knee publicly to K in Chapel Hill actually did matter to those around the program. If you needed anymore proof?
Love the fans but all y’all see is what you can see. That’s the problem here. Far more to this story. The only real story should be that UNC came in there and beat us. Hats off. But we shouldn’t compare class. Nobody said anything when every school honored K and UNC didn’t…— Gerald Henderson (@g_hender09) March 7, 2022
Former Duke player told me there were 3 things that didn’t sit right w/them:— Carolina Blitz (@KeepBlitzin) March 7, 2022
1. Hubert Davis didn’t shake assistants’ hands before game.
2. UNC did nothing to honor K’s retirement.
3. HD didn’t intervene when UNC fans chanted “F*ck Coach K”
All likely led to handshake snub.
Because, man, if there’s someone who can give a lesson on class, it’s Gerald Henderson.
So there’s a lot to unpack here. We can sit here and argue till we are out of oxygen about whether or not Roy Williams or Coach K retired the right way. How you feel about that is going to be shaded by who you root for. I know how I feel, and as someone who writes for a site centered on the Tar Heels, you can probably figure that out. I’m also willing to acknowledge that it’s shaped by rooting for a team that had Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge, and Roy Williams who all retired after their season instead of before. I’ll also acknowledge that if any of them had decided to announce before I would have loved having a season to say goodbye to them.
What I do think is problematic, though, is criticizing how each school decides to react to that coach retiring. I’m struggling to recall a moment where Duke took time to honor Roy Williams or Dean Smith before one of their games — and in fact I’m painfully aware of how the students in Cameron took such great care to greet each and every member of the Tar Heels any time they came in. At any point in the history of this rivalry, K could have stepped in to stop stuff like this:
Making fun of a kid happy about his car. Hilarious.
This isn’t about saying which school is classier, or handled the process better, it’s about reaping what you sow. If you’re a school that co-opts some silly hashtag in order to try and combat a true family atmosphere eight miles down the road, or if you’re a school that encourages the worst behavior of their students inside the confines of the basketball court, or even if you’re a school that has a coach that’ll essentially blame the victim for a nasty incident, then don’t be surprised if the other school decides “ya know, maybe we won’t give the guy a gift before the game.”
The whole manufactured outrage about this really is silly, and you can see that in Davis’ face as Chris Carrawell makes a show of not shaking his hand. It’s even more ridiculous when you consider this anecdote about Davis immediately after the game:
While that was happening, most of Carolina’s players had already gone down the steps to the locker room. Hubert Davis was at the top of the stairs. It was pandemonium at this moment. Most of the Duke security personnel was stunned, and suddenly the vast majority of the entire Krzyzewski family was standing in the hallway outside the UNC locker room. Security initially stopped them; they didn’t have credentials, because why would the Krzyzewski family need credentials on this day of all days in this place?
Davis immediately stepped in. “Please let them through,” he told the security staff. “This is Coach Krzyzewski’s family. They need to get through.”
For the record, Brendan Marks confirmed the account in his own story for The Athletic, so it can’t written off as “just made up by a UNC reporter.” You need a paid account for that story — and Marks’ work is highly recommended because his account is a very small piece about the UNC side of Saturday Night — but he even includes this detail:
Debbie Savarino, Krzyzewski’s oldest daughter and an assistant athletic director, hugged Davis, as did several other family members.
It would have been easy for Davis to have let Duke figure this out on their own, especially since one of K’s own family members is in the athletic department, but prior to his team arriving he made sure that the ceremony honoring K would go on without a hitch, and did it in such a way that members of the family felt compelled to give him a hug.
So, in the end, is all of this talk about the class that Davis and Carolina handled K’s retirement silly?
It may be, but it does reveal something bigger: Hubert Davis has managed to get under their skin more than they want to admit. That’s a level of spice that this rivalry hasn’t had in a while, and it’ll be interesting to see how it manifests itself as K exits and the new regime takes over. Maybe it’ll end up being nothing, or maybe it’ll bring some explosiveness that has been lacking.