Friday, September 9, 2011

Sorry Coach K, I don't buy it

The final 2.1 seconds of the 1992 NCAA East Regional Final between Duke and Kentucky is the greatest 2.1 seconds in the history of college basketball.

Game. Set. Match. Take It to the Bank. Bar-none. Fuggedaboutit.

Whatever or however you want to say it, you know it's the truth.

Duke will be celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the 1992 National Championship team this season, and will also be celebrating the induction of Bobby Hurley into the Duke Athletic Hall of Fame. During the promotion of Hurley's induction, Coach-K noted that he believes the point guard's shot against UNLV in 1991 was a bigger shot than the one Laettner made a year later.

Sorry, but I'm just not buying it.

I mean, just watch the video.

It wasn't just the pass. Which, by the way, may be the most beautiful one-handed full-court pass in the history of college basketball.

It wasn't just the drop-step to fade-away jumper. Which, by the way, may be arguably the most beautiful drop-step to fade-away jumper in the history of college basketball.

And it wasn't just the post-shot pandemonium. Which by the way, may be arguable the most pure moment of disbelief and utter joy in college basketball history. Seriously, show me 1.3 seconds of Thomas Hill crying in disbelief and I won't not get choked up. The gleeful high-stepping of Laettner after the shot sank? You can't script it, or re-script it (Well, you can try to re-script it, but it's not as good as the original. Well unless you are Chris Farley).

But what makes it great is the whole moment. Four beautiful sequences placed one after the other, to make arguably the most iconic March Madness moment in March Madness history.

Maybe Coach-K doesn't think it's the biggest shot in Duke history because he was worrying about the win instead of embracing the sheer madness of the moment spill out on live television.

At least I'm not the only person who thinks Coach-K is wrong. Usually, I agree with what Coach-K says and does. But I couldn't disagree more with the multi-time National Championship-winning coach.

Maybe I'm biased because I was a 90's child. Sure I'm an 80's baby, but my passion for college basketball was born in the early-to-mid 90s. I didn't have the luxury of seeing the Lorenzo Charles put-back and Jim Valvano's subsequent dash to find a hug. For me, and probably countless other kids during the early 90's, the Laettner shot was the one I recreated countless times in my driveway.

The crazy thing about that shot is that we've seen shots like this since then. Ali Farohkmanesh's shot against Kansas was more unpredictable. Kemba Walker's buzzer-beater against Pitt was a bigger dagger. We've definitely seen buzzer-beaters more crazy than "Laettner in '92".

So maybe coach-K is right. Maybe it's not the best shot in Duke history.

But it's certainly the best moment in Duke history.


Matt B said...

I think you have to remember that Coach K chooses his words much more carefully than most people. It has been widely assumed that when he said "biggest" shot, that he meant it was the best shot or the greatest shot. From the context of the video, it seems to me that he meant it was the "most important" shot.

At that moment, Duke was playing in it's 9th Final Four, yet had not won a title, and it was hardly expected that they were going to bring it home in '91. To put that in perspective, only 6 schools have ever played in at least 9 Final Fours. Indiana, Michigan St, and Louisville are still looking for their 9th all time appearance in a Final Four. Houston and Illinois are the only other programs to even play in 5 without a title, and both are at exactly 5.

If Hurley walks the ball up and promptly bricks a three, UNLV is probably able to grab the long board (they dominated the glass) and run out on a break (certainly not uncommon for them). If they go down three possessions there, it's unlikely that they come back.

Without the '91 title, who knows if they could seal the deal in that Indiana game in '92, or use their experience to run away from Michigan down the stretch. Even if they do win in '92, is Coach K able to go on that incredible recruiting run from '97-'99 that produced the '01 title without having back-to-back titles in his pocket? Does he get the USA gig in '05 that helped him learn different styles that helped him win the '10 title?

I don't know the answer, but it's less than a definite yes. Of coarse, those things might not happen without Laettner either, but its hard to deny the importance of the one that gets you over the hump. I don't think that Coach K would argue whether or not the Laettner shot was the best, the greatest, and the most memorable, but he clearly has another one in mind for biggest.

Troy Machir said...


Thank you for the thought out answer.

You are correct on a number of levels. Without Hurley's shot in '91 there may have not been a Laettner shot '92.

Hurley's shot was more important, for the reasons you stated.

But in terms of more memorable, It's Laettner, and it's not even close.

But again, excellent answer. Thanks for the input.