On the inside of the Duke-Carolina rivalry, something other than hate

Luke DeCock, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in Basketball

Duke and North Carolina have more in common now than ever before. Everyone from administrators to trainers communicates regularly with each other, because only the other side can really understand the particular requirements of playing on this stage. When Duke is headed to the Final Four, at least one administrator sends a good-luck note or email to his counterpart at North Carolina, and vice versa.

Even such a mechanic as basic as scheduling press conferences is done through mutual agreement, with North Carolina holding its availability Tuesday and Duke on Wednesday. That may not sound like much, but that kind of coordination isn't always as easy as it may seem. Last month, before North Carolina hosted N.C. State, the schools scheduled their pregame availabilities on the same day one half-hour apart. N.C. State refers to North Carolina as "UNC-CH" in all of its official materials in all sports, over North Carolina's objections.

There's none of that pettiness with Duke and North Carolina, where combat on the court long ago gave way to cooperation off it.

"We should both be mature enough to understand we're the caretakers of our programs, and we're the guys who are in this spot right now, but we don't own it," Krzyzewski said. "We don't own it. We're privileged to be able to be in that position. In that respect, I think we see a lot of things like that the same way. Look, he wants to beat our program and we want to beat his, but we understand there's a bigger world out there."

None of that has taken away from the traditional spirit of the rivalry, with Williams jabbing Duke for its alleged appropriation of North Carolina's beloved "family" with its #TheBrotherhood hashtag on social media, or players talking about how this game is unlike any other, from how the fans approach it to how the opposition approaches it.

Allen even described his final trip to the Smith Center on Thursday as "bittersweet."

"Because I don't have to go back there and get booed, but it's an amazing place to play," Allen said. "It's always fun to go there and guys love to play in those types of crowds. It's just such a big game. There's such a great atmosphere around the game and around the rivalry."

But the only way to truly understand that is to go through it, and once you get past your own brotherhood, the only other people who have that same knowledge is the family on the other side. And vice versa.

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