Christian Laettner “Of Course I Remember Losing To UNC In 92, We Only Lost Twice That Year”
Mac Attack 02/07/12: Duke legend Christian Laettner joined the guys to discuss his memories of the rivalry with UNC, the stories that he didn’t get along with Bobby Hurley, and what he is up to these days.
Laettner is top on the list of most hated college basketball players of all time, but that title doesn’t phase him. He actually sees the title as a bit of a compliment, because without such a high success rate, no one would have paid him (or his teammates at Duke) any attention.
“I think [being hated] is directly related to how many wins and how much success we had when I was at Duke. If you win ten games a year, people don’t hate you much. If you win 30 games a year, you get a little hateful, and I won 30 games all four years at Duke, which is why I was so hated.”
One unusual rivalry for the Duke player was with the University of Michigan Fab Five. Laettner didn’t let much phase him on the court, but was always on the lookout for the teams with the biggest mouths off the court. Fortunately for Laettner, big mouths don’t always equal big skills.
“It was only a rivalry and very heated in my mind because I was wary of them, scared of playing them. They had so much ego and so much swagger. You have to be scared of a team like that…it must still eat them up that we smashed them twice my senior year, once in Ann Arbor, once at home…it didn’t bother me too much, because when you are playing against people of a high level…they gotta want to bury you out there on the court to try and beat you.”
Laettner acknowledged that even collegiate rivalries are left in college when you reach the pros. He found himself facing one of his biggest rivals now as a teammate in the NBA, something that wasn’t difficult for him to get over.
“You didn’t necessarily like them in college, but you highly, highly respected them…the schools are so close, you are both in the ACC…I almost went to Carolina…but I wanted to be a part of the team that got Duke to the pinnacle…once I got in to the NBA and I was a teammate [of former rivals]…you wouldn’t [even realize we used to fight like that].”
Laettner was never known for his patience on the court and with his teammates. Interestingly, he finds himself as the Assistant Coach of the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants, a D-league team in Indiana. He says his patience has gotten marginally better, but thanks his players for being so skilled they don’t try his patience very often.
“Well, I would like to think that I have gotten a little more patient as I’ve grown older and gray…you still have to be demanding of the players that you are coaching, just like I was demanding of the players I played with at Duke. At the same time, you try and show them what you know, teach them what you know, but the thing that is so rewarding is you see instant results with them because they are so good. You tell them something once or twice and they are doing it. You don’t have to be that patient with them because they are so good.”