Numbers speak loudly of Duke’s basketball tradition

Apr. 03, 2013 @ 09:50 AM

I know Duke fans everywhere are feeling down this week after the loss to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament.  But the Duke men had a very good season, and will be back again next year fighting for national honors, no doubt.  Quite frankly, at least in my opinion, and I’m sure some would disagree, but Louisville this year was just a better team; certainly they were better in the tournament game.  I think we will see Louisville standing as national champions when it is all said and done.

Just last week, I was talking about the tournament and the success of Coach K, when a colleague of mine started to talk about schools such as Indiana and Kentucky being as successful as Duke over the past 30 years or so. I let him go on and on, then simply brought up the fact that Coach K has four national titles and 11 final four appearances, and told him to compare another active coaches to that. There was a hesitation, then no real answer. The numbers speak loudly, don’t they?

Here is a recent quote from Coach K that shows in one small way why the Duke program is so successful under him.  “A really important thing for a competitor is to be able to forget. Not just forget when you play bad, but forget when you played well. In other words, get on to the next thing.”

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One of the best known and successful athletic directors in the country passed away last week at Duke Hospital. Mal Moore was the AD at the University of Alabama, and was a former football player and assistant coach under Bear Bryant at Alabama.  After publication of my book a few years back on former Alabama and Duke coach Wallace Wade, I met with Moore in his spacious office in the Mal Moore Football Building overlooking the practice fields at Alabama.  We met for a good 30 minutes or so, and he told me how much Bear Bryant admired Wallace Wade, and how much Coach Wade meant to Alabama. I also saw him last fall when I attended an Alabama game in Tuscaloosa in the press box.

The passing of Mal Moore reminded me of another Duke-Alabama connection. Back in 1947, former Alabama head football coach Frank Thomas came to Duke Hospital for treatment of his high blood pressure. He came at the insistence of Wade, then football coach at Duke. Thomas had succeeded Wade as head coach at Alabama. Thomas stayed in Durham for most of the fall of 1947 and attended many of Duke’s practices. Duke had defeated Alabama in the 1945 Sugar Bowl, by the way. Another connection today is that present Duke football coach David Cutcliffe graduated from Alabama and learned much of his football knowledge from Bear Bryant.

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Although men and women need exercise and benefit equally from it, there are differences in performance levels.  Women will probably never run quite as fast as men, or lift as much weight or jump as high.  I know, and you know, there are many instances of women doing better than men in athletic pursuits, but men do have certain advantages.

Women, on average, carry more fat on their bodies while having less muscle than men, so this is a hindrance to moving.  Men’s greater muscle mass gives them 30 to 40 percent greater strength on average. Often the strength difference is even more.  Also, the male heart and lungs are larger than those of women.  This produces higher stroke volumes, the amount of blood pumped by each beat of the heart.  Another performance factor in favor of men is that they have more hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in red blood cells, in their blood than women.  The combination of a larger heart and more oxygen in the blood gives men an advantage in terms of performance and endurance.

Another disadvantage for women in relation to performance with men is that they have fewer sweat glands, and this, in combination with having more fat than men, results in women having less tolerance to heat.  A woman’s greater amount of fat serves as insulation and affects heat loss.  Women simply are more prone to heat stress.

There are other differences in men and women that play a role in physical performance, but these listed are some of the major ones.  Women can and have achieved extraordinary athletic feats, and are to be applauded for their efforts.  Women should participate in exercise and sports just like men, and enjoy an active lifestyle. What most women want from exercise, just like men, is what they will gain: decreased fat, more muscle, and firmer, strongerand toned muscles.