Stetson Spoils Jeff Bzdelik's Debut, but Hatters Once Beat Duke, Krzyzewski Too
Ask Mike Krzyzewski.
Although Stetson's sports information department listed the Hatters' win over Wake Forest Friday night as the school's first victory over an ACC opponent since 1974, Stetson did defeat another ACC also-ran in 1982, Duke, a team led by a young coach with a lot of pressure on his shoulders and a lot of consonants in his last name.
Like Bzdelik, Krzyzewski made his ACC debut against the Hatters, though Coach K won that opener 67-49, starting a so-so first season that Duke would finish 17-13 and 6-8 in the ACC.
But in 1982, Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard, the senior stars that carried Krzyzewski's first team, had graduated, leaving the young coach with a team short on talent due to the declining recruiting efforts of Bill Foster in his final seasons. The effects were quickly felt in the fall of 1981. Duke lost to Vanderbilt at home in its season opener, and in what would look like the mother of all typos now, lost to Appalachian State in December.
One week later, the Blue Devils were routed by Princeton.
So, by Feb. 10, when Duke traveled to DeLand, Fla., it wasn't quite a Page 1 story when Stetson handled Duke 88-81. In fact, the only reference I can find in Google's newspaper archive (albeit incomplete) from the time is a brief mention in a syndicated column, which focuses more on Krzyzewski's recruiting failures.
(Consider the rest of the story of Rodney Williams, mentioned in the column, a one player metaphor of just how far Krzyzewski has come. That five-man recruiting class Krzyzewski missed out on included Chris Mullin, Uwe Blab, Jim Miller, Bill Wennington and Williams, a high school star playing about half an hour from Stetson in Daytona Beach. Krzyzewski put a full-court press on for Williams. The future four-time national champion and Team USA coach himself spoke at Williams' high school awards banquet. However, that wasn't enough of an enticement for Williams to show up. He skipped the event after committing to Florida earlier in the day.
That wasn't the end for the Duke-Stetson series, one Krzyzewski kept alive as a home-and-home series to keep Duke in front of its alumni base in South Florida and the area's fertile recruiting grounds. (Remember, this was in the '80s before the cable explosion made Duke more ubiquitous on television than reality shows.) Krzyewski faced the Hatters in each of his first 10 seasons, and although he didn't lose again, Stetson did prove to be a thorn in Duke's side. In 1987, the 13-ranked Blue Devils eked out a three-point win over the Hatters. A year later, ninth-ranked, and Final Four bound, Duke again escaped with a three point margin of victory.
Of course things worked out for Krzyzewski, just not in 1982 when he won only four league games and was crushed by Wake Forest by 35 points in the ACC tournaments. Krzyzewski whiffed on his first super class, but signed Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, David Henderson and Jay Bilas the following year. Those four players led Duke to a 37-3 season and Krzyzewski's first Final Four as seniors in 1986.
The rest is a long, storied and successful history.
So cheer up, Coach Bzdelik. Losing to Stetson is a rough way to make a debut, but it could be worse.
You could've lost to Appalachian State.