Men's Basketball

UK notebook: Source of Duke hate goes beyond Christian Laettner

The question puzzled Kentucky fan Sarah Clemons: Why do Kentucky fans hate Duke?

An expression came to Clemons' face that suggested she couldn't believe anyone had to ask. She countered with a question of her own: "Have you ever heard of Christian Laettner?"

Yes, the name rings a bell. Or, more correctly, scratches a fingernail across UK's blackboard.

But, really, Laettner's famous (or, if you prefer, infamous) winning shot in the 1992 East Region finals can be considered more symptom than disease. Duke's great crime has been to threaten Kentucky's superiority complex. Five national championships since 1991 are two more than Kentucky's won in that time and bolster the opinion that Duke basketball is preeminent.

Even some UK fans grudgingly recognize there's a basis for such heresy. "That's not bad," fan Alan Bohanon said of Duke's five titles. "We have to do something about that."

Of course, a chance to do something comes Tuesday when Kentucky plays Duke in the aptly-named Champions Classic.

Kentucky and Duke share a winning tradition and iconic players and coaches. Both personify the blue in blueblood.

Like other sports dynasties — for instance, the Yankees and Notre Dame football — all that winning by Kentucky and Duke engenders dislike.

Or as ESPN analyst and Duke graduate Jay Bilas said, "Nobody hates a loser."

Mike Pratt, a former UK standout and now analyst on radio broadcasts, reminded that there's a history of opponents threatening Kentucky and thus reaping Big Blue scorn. Former Tennessee Coach Ray Mears not only beat Kentucky in the 1960s and 1970s, he disturbed UK's sense of decorum with unicyclists and orange sports coats. "Big Blue Nation hated Ray Mears," Pratt said. "Just despised him."

Former North Carolina Coach Dean Smith irritated with his Four Corners stall and air of elevated propriety. Oh yeah, he also beat Kentucky, in one stretch winning 13 of 16 meetings.

Duke has done more than succeed Mears and Smith. The Blue Devils came to be seen, perhaps widely, as the top program.

"Duke grabbed the national (spotlight) over everybody," Pratt said. "That probably hurt Kentucky fans' feelings."

Duke winning seven of eight games against Kentucky since Mike Krzyzewski became coach didn't ease the pain.

"Maybe that's got something to do with it, huh?" Pratt said.

Cameron Mills, one of the heroes in UK's lone victory over Krzyzewski (1998 South Region finals), grew up in Kentucky. He knows Kentucky-Duke as a fan and player.

"They've always been seen, fairly or unfairly, as the rich, white kids," he said of the Blue Devil players. "So everyone dislikes that.

"And they won. If they were a nobody, if they were a rich, private school like Vandy or an Ivy League school that's never on anyone's radar as far as basketball goes, nobody would care. But they won, and they won a lot."

UK fans find other reasons to dislike Duke. Mills suggested ESPN has a bias in favor of Duke in particular, and the Atlantic Coast Conference in general.

Bohanon said he didn't like Krzyzewski's looks. He probably wouldn't like the Duke coach's official title, which Sports Illustrated reported as Michael W. Krzyzewski, Leadership Head Coach.

Bob Harris, who has been the play-by-play announcer on radio broadcasts of Duke games since 1977, said he'd put the Blue Devils' rivalry with Kentucky "right behind North Carolina." Proximity (10 miles) and a much longer history of competition makes North Carolina a bigger rival, he said. "I think they could play Tiddlywinks against each other and it'd still be a rivalry," he said.

In Harris' opinion, there's a "mutual admiration pact" between Kentucky and Duke.

"But when they toss it up, it becomes something a lot of other schools want," he said. "A matchup as intense as Duke-Kentucky is."

'The best word'

Coaches and reporters can have a cobra-and-mongoose relationship. So the ongoing trend of shrinking newspaper circulation and expanding social/digital media influence should please coaches.

But there's at least one coach not applauding. He's actually lamenting. He's Texas A&M women's coach Gary Blair.

During the SEC Media Days, Blair said he is an avid reader of newspapers. He prefers something more thoughtful than a tweet, more substantive than Instagram. Not exactly a high bar in either case.

"The printed word is still the best word," he said. "And what's killing us today in journalism today is the social media and the instant communications."

The shoot-from-the-lip nature of social media troubles Blair.

"I don't have a speech writer," he said. "What comes out is what you get. This is something we really need to figure out how we're going to solve this problem of social media. If people would sit there and write their response back before they put it on twitter or they talked on the phone, I don't think the same words would be said. They'd have a chance to reflect and gather their thoughts a lot better. That's why I'm still a newspaper freak. I grew up (delivering) the Dallas Times-Herald and reading Blackie Sherrod, reading Jim Murray. It didn't get any better than that."

There is a generational element to this. Blair, 70, acknowledged his players do not share his love of reading newspapers.

When asked how much the A&M players read newspapers, Blair said, "Zero. They might read the paper if I tell them there's an article about them or their parents call and say there's an article. But, unfortunately, the newspaper is a dying breed right now, and I do not like it. And we've got to find a way to keep it because that's a form of journalism that's a pure form.

"And the great writers that are out there, not everybody can write a book. I'm the process of writing one right now, and it's taken me two and a half years and I'm still on it."

This led to some good-natured kidding about reporting versus coaching as professions. When a reporter said he would retire if he had had Blair's contract, the coach said, "That's why I didn't use my journalism degree. I got out of it. I knew what you guys made."

Blair then playfully offered the sportswriters advice.

"If I was you I'd do one thing," he said. "I'd buy more than one lottery ticket per week. Don't put all your eggs in one lottery ticket. Buy more than one."

Rules changes

Speed up play. Reduce the times the action stops. Keep a competitive balance between offense and defense.

Those are the reasons for the 25-plus rule changes in college basketball this season. Besides the well-documented shot-clock change to 30 seconds and the elimination of the five-second rule for a closely guarded player (as long as the player keeps dribbling), here are some other changes to be mindful of:

The block/charge arc near the basket has been expanded from three to four feet. This is intended to reduce the number of charges, and, better still, reduce the times a defender tries only to get in the way.

Teams will be allowed to dunk during warmup before a game and at halftime.

Coaches can only call timeouts during a dead ball situation. If a player is trapped, either he or his teammates must bail him out with a timeout.

If the ball goes out of bounds, the 10-second count to advance the ball past mid-court will not automatically re-set. It will not re-set if a defender causes the ball to go out of bounds, the offense retains possession on a held ball/alternate possession arrow, or if a technical foul is called on the offensive team.

The time a team has to replace a player who has fouled out is reduced to 15 seconds.

And, as UK fans know only too well, referees will be able to look at the release of the ball on potential shot clock violations at any point during the game. Previously, in the case of a made basket, the refs could check the monitor for a shot-clock violation only in final two minutes. Of course, the referees missed Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes scoring after the shot clock expired against Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four.

Before UK played Albany, SEC Network analyst Sean Farnham suggested another change. Play four quarters rather than two halves with the one-and-one bonus shot on the fifth foul of each quarter. Starting each quarter with zero team fouls can reduce the parade to the foul line, Farnham said.

Hall of Fame

Word earlier this month of the 2015 inductees into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame evoked a question: Aren't these guys already in there?

This year's inductees will be formally enshrined on Nov. 20. The class has Rolando Blackman (player, Kansas State), Quinn Buckner (player, Indiana), Don Donoher (coach, Dayton), C. Felton "Zip" Gayles (coach, Langston), John Havlicek (player, Ohio State), Lou Henson (coach, Hardin Simmons, New Mexico State and Illinois), Ed Ratleff (player, Long Beach State) and Charlie Scott (player, North Carolina).

Gayles may be the least known. Among his players was future Harlem Globetrotter icon Marques Haynes. Gayles coached and Haynes played on Langston teams in the 1940s that won 51 straight games.

Must-see TV

UK fans can watch a history of Rupp Arena — several times, in fact — in December.

A history of Rupp entitled Gamechanger: The Lexington Center Story will air on various public television stations. Ralph Hacker, a former color analyst and then-play-by-play announcer on radio broadcasts of UK games, is the narrator. Hacker conducted more than 16 hours of interviews. The program will air on KET, KET2 and KET KY.

Here are dates: Dec. 13, 12 a.m. on KET KY (channel 192 in Lexington); Dec. 13, 12 p.m. on KET KY (channel 192); Dec. 15, 8 p.m. on KET KY (channel 192); Dec. 17 6 a.m. on KET KY (channel 192); Dec. 17, 10 p.m. on KET2 (channel 15); Dec. 20, 3 p.m. on KET (channel 12); Dec. 21, 4 a.m. on KET (channel 12); Dec. 28, 4 p.m. on KET KY (channel 192).

Happy birthday

To Charles Matthews. He turns 19 on Sunday (today). ... To Karl-Anthony Towns. He turns 20 on Sunday (today). ... To Twany Beckham. He turned 27 on Saturday. ...To Alex Legion. He turns 27 on Monday. ... To Jared Prickett. He turned 42 on Saturday. ... To Bret Bearup. He turns 54 on Tuesday. ... To Clarence Tillman. He turns 55 on Sunday (today). ... To former Auburn Coach Sonny Smith. He turns 79 on Sunday (today). ... To Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim. He turns 71 on Tuesday.