Duke's White lauds Blue Devils big year
Kevin White has collected frequent flyer miles while Duke athletics raked in NCAA championships and flexed its collective muscles over the last week.
It started with a personal award for the Duke athletics director when Sports Business Journal named him Athletic Director of the Year during a ceremony in New York City last Wednesday.
The next day, White was in Greensboro watching Duke’s baseball team beat Georgia Tech 6-0 in the ACC Tournament. That marked just the second postseason win for the Blue Devils since 2004.
Even bigger things were in the offing for White and Duke.
On Friday, he was in Tulsa, Okla., watching Coach Dan Brooks and Duke’s women’s golf team win the program’s sixth NCAA championship by surviving a thrilling final round to top reigning champion Southern California.
By Saturday, White had traveled back east to be at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium where Duke’s men’s lacrosse beat Denver 15-12 to reach Monday’s NCAA final.
And he remained in Baltimore to enjoy seeing the Blue Devils win their second national championship in a row and the third in five years with an 11-9 win over Notre Dame on Monday.
That’s quite a run.
Still, White took time Monday to speak with me about what’s been an outstanding year in Duke athletics. The Blue Devils won two NCAA titles and had a third team, field hockey, lose in the NCAA final.
Duke won the ACC in women’s golf and volleyball and was the ACC runner-up in four other sports -- football, women’s basketball, men’s basketball and women’s tennis.
“Looking back on this last year, really strong year,” White said. “We made a statement that we are really improving on so many fronts.”
Here’s what else White had to say Monday:
On Duke’s sports year as a whole:
Kevin White: “We tend to look at things in the aggregate at his point of the year as we look in the rear-view mirror. It’s been a really, really good year. We had a chance to have one of those historic years. It wasn’t quite the historic year I had hoped for but I’m looking for an historic year every year.
But it was just one heck of a year and when you look team by team I think all our teams are on a serious get better and /or growth mode. We have some wonderfully talented kids in the program at this point and some terrific recruits on the horizon (and) arguably the best coaching staff in the nation. So its hard not to be aspirational and it hard to not think in terms of having an historic year. I would tell you I think 2014-15 could very well be that year. It’s right there in front of us.”
Specifically about baseball, which had its most ACC wins since 1994 with 16, how about the jump they made this year?
KW: “Huge jump. A program changing season, in my opinion. The job (coach) Chris Pollard has done has been masterful in every way possible. We’re a tough out. We’re a damn good baseball team. We’re probably one game away from playing in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve come so far and we are so optimistic and excited for the future. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
What was it like being in Tulsa when the women’s golf team won the championship?
KW: “It was magical. Particularly the way we won it. I think most people realize we went into round four with a 6-stroke lead. It kind of evaporated through the day. We found ourselves down. To find a way to battle back and to regain the lead and to fight it out on the 18th was really memorable to me. I just love the way our team fought. We beat a damn good USC team.
Dan Brooks and (assistant coach) Jeanne Cho are brilliant leaders and coaches. What do you think about a guy who has won six of these (NCAA titles)? How remarkable is that achievement?”