Documentary: Duke basketball title teams not all laughs

Updated: Sep 18, 2018

USA TODAY | October 13, 2011 | Ray Glier

In a pickup game in Cameron Indoor Stadium in September 1991, Bobby Hurley had enough of the bullying and opened the vents on Christian Laettner. He dished back for the taunts and insults from his Duke teammate.


Hurley, a street smart player from Jersey City, drove the lane anticipating Laettner would step in for the charge, but instead of dumping a pass to Laettner's man, who was open, Hurley whipped the ball into Laettner's face.

"Of course it was intentional," Laettner said.

The 6-11 Laettner chased Hurley, listed at 6-2, out of the gym but couldn't catch him.


"Man, that hurt," Laettner said. "I don't know what I would have done to him if I had caught him."

In a telephone interview, Hurley chuckled from Wagner College, where he is an assistant coach on his brother Dan's staff.


"Christian was tough, but I played for my dad and he was tough, and I grew up playing on some tough playgrounds in Jersey," Hurley said. "We had our disagreements from time to time. One time I missed him in the post when he was open, and we were arguing so much going up the court I almost got a 10-second violation."


Laettner, Hurley and Grant Hill were the centerpieces of Duke's 1991 and 1992 teams, which won consecutive national titles. There was chemistry to that team during games, but some ill will because of Laettner, the All-America forward, whose needle was long and sharp.

Twenty years later, Laettner, 42, and Hill, 39, will be co-executive producers of a documentary on those Duke title teams. The show will air on Turner Sports TruTV next March as part of the network's coverage of the NCAA tournament.


Laettner the only player to start in four Final Fours, was a target of opposing fans and players for his exuberance on the court, and also because he played a little too proudly for Duke, which was a powerhouse program and disliked for it. His teammates were Laettner's target, especially in '92 when Duke was trying to repeat.


"I was the kind of whip cracker. I was asked to do it, and I was very good at it," Laettner said.

Hurley was Laettner's preferred target, but the point guard could shovel it back and more than once rifled a ball at Laettner's head in offseason workouts.

"I taunted him, told him he sucked and he needed to go home, and I've apologized for all that," Laettner said. "I was hard on Bobby, but I also remember the first time I saw him play. It was like, 'Wow, I get to play with this kid.'"


The documentary, according to Hill, will tell how Duke's 1992 team stayed on an edge that Laettner and Brian Davis helped create. The Blue Devils were always on alert for the upset. They finished 34-2 and beat Michigan for the NCAA title by 20.


"Christian provoked everybody on that team," Hill said. "We had won one title (1991), but Coach wanted to keep an edge. We found out later than Coach K would talk with the captains and tell them this was about more than winning two titles, this was about creating a legacy. That whole season was about the big picture, a legacy."


In 1992, Duke was 17-0 before it finally lost, 75-73 to North Carolina on Feb. 5, and Hill figured Krzyzewski would not waste time re-sharpening the blade.


The next day I took a nap because I figured practice that day was going to be long and hard," Hill said. "You know what Coach K did? He took us over to the football stadium for an ice cream sundae party. I was thinking, 'Did Coach bump his head or something?' It shows you something about the genius of the man."


The documentary also will draw from interviews from the stars, but also the role players on the bench and a student manager. It will try to convey the culture of a program that was the first with back-to-back titles since UCLA in 1972 and '73.


"My first day on campus I'm walking out on the court, just looking around, and I see Danny Ferry and he says 'Hey Christian, how are you, you finding your way OK?'" said Laettner, who has a basketball academy in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. "Then he asks me if I want to play one-on-one. The first move, he spins on me and just plants an elbow right in my teeth and scores. It was my indoctrination, so to speak.


"I guess when it was my turn, I passed it on."

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