I wanted to highlight some of the best quotes from PostTV’s look back at the Maryland-Duke rivalry.
But because this is the third thing this week I’ve written about the pending end of that rivalry — and because it might not be the last, either — it’s probably worth a word about why this seems important to me.
I moved to D.C. in late 1998 and started paying attention to Washington sports soon after. This was the Norv Turner Era for the Redskins, which soon transitioned into something even worse. The Caps were coming off the Stanley Cup Finals, but they felt like teases. There was no baseball. The Wizards … yeah. D.C. United was thrilling and fresh. And then there were the Terps.
They had bashed their heads against the Sweet 16 wall for years, but it still felt like a program building toward something grander, a program that was vital and alive, something you couldn’t ignore, especially as Steve Francis’s team transitioned into Juan Dixon’s and Lonny Baxter’s.
The first Post readership survey I ever saw — more than a decade old now — had Maryland basketball ranked only behind the Redskins and the Olympics in reader interest. Much of that was because of the two seasons detailed in the PostTV documentary, when every Duke-Maryland game was a hold-all-my-calls event, when my friends and I would actually hold Terps viewing parties, and when the two rivals played game after memorable game while splitting two national titles.
I’m not sure that a few thrilling seasons would be quite so striking for someone who was 40 or 50 at the time, but I was young-ish, and it felt immense. And it’s hard to re-create that feeling when you get a bit older, and have swallowed a bit more of life. Even now, I see video of Steve Blake and Juan Dixon and think: “Man, that’s Steve Blake and Juan Dixon. Lookit those guys. Man.” I won’t ever feel that same way about, say, Dez Wells, or Alfred Morris, or even Bryce Harper or Bradley Beal.
And the reason I’m not ashamed to admit all this is because, more likely than not, you understand. Most of my readers, I think, are vaguely in my age range or a bit younger. Many feel the same way about Maryland basketball in the early 2000s, and about the Duke rivalry, and about probably not feeling quite the same way again. For example:
As an adult, I’m glad I’m past the point of hating athletes. But I think I hated dudes on those Duke teams enough to last a few lifetimes
— David Malitz (@malitzd) February 13, 2014
Gary Williams — who has a few years on us — has more perspective. Here he is, talking about the end of that rivalry.
“Believe me, I played here – right HERE in fact,” he told The Post, while sitting in Cole Field House. “I played here, coached here. Nobody has more memories of the ACC than I do. When I got here, there was no rivalry with Duke. We had to create that. Well, you can do that again. … People don’t like change. I don’t like change. But at the same time, if change is in your best interest, then you have to look at that and embrace it and figure out how to make it really good.”
He’s right. And everyone will. And a kid who’s 10 or 11 now won’t care much about Duke-Maryland, especially if there are six thrilling Maryland-Ohio State games over a two-year span in 2024-25. But we care, so we’re allowed to wallow in the nostalgia seen above.
Anyhow, here are some of the best quotes. But you should watch it.
Shane Battier: “I learned some new four letter words when I played at Cole Field House. And so if nothing else, it was an educational experience.”
Michael Wilbon: “Fans in college Park were completely out of control. And the rivalry should have stood on its own, to me. It didn’t need that.”
Gary Williams: “If we were ever going to be good, we had to go after the best teams. And Duke and Carolina were the best teams, so I watched everything they did. ‘Course, I wouldn’t tell them that.”
Jay Williams: “Yeah, I still got pumped up about playing North Carolina, because within the state, it was a massive rivalry. But the one team that I knew I couldn’t wait to play every single time, no doubt about it, it was the Terrapins.”
Jay Williams: “Fear the Turtle. I HATED that, the whole Fear the Turtle thing. I was like, It’s a turtle. Nobody’s afraid of a turtle.”
Gary Williams, describing a foul call he didn’t like from 2001:
Gary rolls his eyes while discussing a foul call he didn’t like in a regular season game 13 years ago. pic.twitter.com/mLbyknAffZ
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) February 12, 2014
Steve Blake, on winning at Duke on Battier’s senior night: “You know, their fans didn’t take too well how much we were celebrating. … Once the game was over, I saw how distraught those seniors were over there. It kind of made me feel how I felt when they beat us at home. And I kind of liked it, actually.”
Juan Dixon, on losing in the 2001 Final Four: “After that game, I knew that we would come back the following year and win a national championship. I knew that for sure.”
Steve Blake on stealing the ball from Jay Williams just before halftime the next season: “I actually kind of wish I had maybe thrown a behind-the-back pass to Chris [Wilcox] so he could have dunked on him or something.”
Juan Dixon, on beating Indiana for the title: “Beating Duke in that championship game would have been much sweeter. You know, because that’s what we all were looking forward to. We knew they were on the other side [of the bracket]. We knew we had some classic games in the past. … What better way to finish your college career than playing against a team that’s in your conference. Every game was a classic. And unfortunately it didn’t happen that way. But we’ll take a national championship however we get it.”
Steve Wojciechowski, on the end: “When I think of Maryland, I think of the ACC, and the great battles, and traditional games against powers in the ACC.”
Jay Williams, on the end: “To take that away from the ACC is painful.”
Michael Wilbon, on the end: “Do I want to see Maryland in the Big 10? It is awful. … I don’t expect people in Bethesda or Baltimore or Towson to want to see the Northwestern Wildcats. What does that mean to them? Nothing.”