I spent three glorious years on the campus of Duke while attending Duke Divinity School. Growing up with no real ACC allegiance, I only really need the acceptance letter to become a Duke fan. For the next three years I attended as many Duke basketball games I was allowed. One of my fondest memories was watching them win their third National Championship from the hallowed halls of Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2001. Then the crowd walking, chanting, and smashing together into the quad to burn benches to celebrate.
My roommate and I would play racquetball in the gym next to Cameron on occasion and there on the court next to us would be Coach K. We would watch him play and you could tell he was a competitive person. One day he was walking out as we were and for the first time I put two and two together on exactly how tall he is. He looks short when he is coaching his 6 foot umpteen inch players. In reality he is 5’10”, my height.
It was in 2001 that I was able to go to my only Duke/Carolina game. Me and some fellow soon-to-be ministers had seasons passes to the games that year (students in graduate schools camp out of a weekend for the chance to buy season tickets to the games). But if we wanted good seats we would have to join the ranks of the undergrad students and camp out a few days before the game. For two nights we slept in a tent just outside Cameron and I was able to score a seat in the middle of Graduate Student section, second bench up from the court.
The night before the big game Coach K would always gather the students waiting to get into the game and thank them for their dedication. He would tell us to represent Duke with all the passion and energy we could but also with all the respect and pride. It was there that I first his illustration of the fist.
In basketball there are five players, like there are five fingers on a hand. If you attempt to attack with only one of those fingers you won’t make too much of an impact and probably break the finger. Yet if all five fingers work together, bury their pride as individuals, they turn into a fist. A fist can make a huge impact. If the five individuals work together on the court then a great impact can be made in the game. He told us we needed to hold his players up to that standard and he counted on us, the Cameron Crazies, to be a part of that fist.
The next day, at the joyous occasion that is the Duke/Carolina game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. As the teams came out, we the students, stood silent and simply holding out a fist.
Coach K can capture the imagination of anyone and fill that person with confidence and pride. This season has been one of milestones for him. He added to his status and the winningest coach in the NCAA and also, as of last night, the ACC (passing Coach His class and how he holds his players, coaches and people around him, including the Cameron Crazies, to the highest standards possible only deepens my respect and admiration for him.
This video sums it up beautifully…Congrats Coach K!