By Pete Grimm
As a class we were all proud to see Mike tapped to coach Army and, for what seems now only a moment, sorry to see him go to Duke. I recall one classmate saying if our dear Alma Mater had paid and quartered Mike like the great basketball coach he was instead of like a captain in the army, he might have stayed at West Point.
My family was the ACC Basketball “house divided.” My father-in-law graduated from NC State. My mother-in-law graduated from Duke, and my wife graduated from UNC. ACC basketball was and is a BIG thing at home. I was proud to have Mike coaching Duke, representing all that is good about the leadership lessons taught at West Point, and I joined right into the interfamily rivalry on the side of Duke.
Here we are 42 years later, and the ride has been magnificent. The joy and heartbreak, learning about wonderful new young men on both teams each year, watching them play their hearts out and losing, but mostly winning, has been uplifting. Through it all, Mike’s steady guiding hand on the tiller, steering Duke with the values of his religion, his family and our alma mater was inspiring. His lessons spawned the success of many of his players in the NBA and as coaches of big time college programs, living good lives and inspiring other in turn.
He didn’t do it for us. He did it for his kids. He did it because, as a leader, it was his responsibility. He did it because he had to. It was and is who he is. Nevertheless, we and West Point basked in a reflection of his success, an important connection.
It is a tribute to how much he influenced us that my dyed-in-the-wool, rabid UNC supporting wife rooted for Duke in the final minutes of the NCAA semifinal against Carolina last week. There are no losers when the players and coaches leave it all on the court. for 42 years, Mike left it all on the court. I know he will miss it dearly. We will miss him in that role almost as much.
by Suzanne Rice for Bill Rice
I had no connection to Duke, but I do love basketball. My high school has been the winningest high school basketball in the country, so it is in my blood. Bill was a basketball star (he would challenge that saying he was just a “clean-up player” scoring most of his points with rebounds.) so it was also in his blood. For many years the only way to watch Coach K was to hope the Blue Devils would be named on March Madness Bracket Sunday. In 2004, the regional finals were in Atlanta, so we met Dale and Colleen Smith there to cheer Mike and his team on to victory in both games. What a thrill. Most of the time, however, it had to be at home in front of the television. We would spread a tablecloth on the floor, make a bunch of snacks and enjoy them picnic-style – all of us munching, watching and cheering. One year, Chick-fil-A had a promotional: little stuffed animal Chick-fil-A cows of favorite teams; ours was the Duke cow. After the picnic on the floor was over, Bill would go to his favorite chair with the Duke cow nearby. Whenever the game got close, the kids would say, “Dad, where is the cow?” He would grab it and place the cow on his head – that seemed to do the trick – Duke usually won the game!
Why was this time special to us? I think it was because Mike brought his West Point leadership lessons to the game; his focus was his Duke players, but his love for them as people showcased the values he learned at home in Chicago and at West Point. Bill was proud to be his classmate and we were glad to be a part of that extended family.