On paper, the Duke Blue Devils are one of the most successful basketball schools in NCAA history. However, wins and losses only tell part of the story. In the hearts and minds of fans, tales of the program stretch to epic proportions. Supporters talk about Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beater in 1992and Jason Williams’ “Miracle Minute” in 2001 with the sort of reverence usually reserved for eulogies of great American war heroes. Since handing the program over to Mike Krzyzewski in 1980, the Duke men’s basketball team hasn’t just been in a league of their own -- it’s more like a galaxy.
The first hoops team in Durham began play in 1906. Much like how the game itself was still evolving, so too were the Blue Devils. Their fearsome moniker wasn’t adopted until 1922, and the school was known was Trinity College until 1924. However, Duke’s winning tradition was born with the naming of Eddie Cameron as head coach of the basketball program in 1929. Over the course of the next 14 seasons, the school would win the Southern Conference on three separate occasions, and Cameron would become the winningest coach in school history. In 1972, the university renamed the basketball arena after their remarkable leader. While Cameron Indoor Stadium was beginning to emerge as a hotbed for hoops, it wasn’t until the ‘80s that the legend of Blue Devils basketball would really take on a life of its own.
On March 18, 1980, Mike Krzyzewski was named head coach of the men’s team. While success wouldn’t come immediately, Duke quickly grew into one of the most formidable programs in the country. After qualifying for the NCAA tournament in 1984, “Coach K” and the Blue Devils missed the Big Dance just once in a 30 year span. In that time, they’d also win 30 or more games 13 times and appear in 11 Final Fours. Led by the All-American play of Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley, Duke captured its first national championship in 1991, and repeated the feat the next year. While another title wouldn’t come to Durham until 2001, Duke had become a national power. With over 900 victories, Krzyzewski obliterated the previous mark for coaching wins set by Cameron, and in 2000, the hardwood floor was renamed to honor on-court excellence. These days, the Blue Devils play their home games on Coach K Court.
Not only does the team intimidate opponents, but Duke fans have also carved out a reputation that can’t be matched. The “Cameron Crazies” are often referred to as feverishly devoted, and their clever cheers are among the most celebrated in all of college sports. Rooting for the Blue Devils is an all-encompassing commitment, as evidenced by the growth of “Krzyzewskiville,” the name given to the packs of tents that spring up on campus while students camp out for tickets.
While the men’s lacrosse team has won national titles in 2010, ‘13 and ‘14, Durham is undeniably a basketball-mad town.