Duke hatred is a fact of college basketball, just as hatred of Notre Dame is of college football and hatred of the New York Yankees is of baseball. It's not quite as widespread, but yes, it is there. If you are in the state of North Carolina, and you tell someone you're a Duke fan, there is a 15% chance (slight exaggeration) he or she will say to you, to your face, "Fuck Duke." Literally. Out loud. There aren't a lot of other things in life that's true for.
There are many reasons to hate Duke, and I am familiar with all of them. I went there for four years, and I got my taste.
There is Duke's hegemony:
eight nine straight seasons, from '86 to '94, in which Duke missed the Final Four only twice, plus three national championships in the Coach K era ('91, '92, '01). There is Duke's arrogance and snobbery, and, most importantly in all of this, perhaps, the issue of class: it is a private, formerly Methodist school full of rich white kids, segregated from the African American and Hispanic communities around it in Durham, North Carolina, and it looks like a castle, but only because it's modeled after Princeton. There is a really awful Greek system, which generally throws bad parties.
Coach K recruits mostly white players, and mostly upstanding, clean-cut guys from middle-class backgrounds. You don't see Duke players with tattoos; you don't even see them with headbands. There are no thugs in the Duke basketball program.
Duke seems to be a rigid, mechanical unit that suppresses individual play and turns everyone into a role player. (Perhaps that's why some of its best players haven't become stars in the NBA, unlike waves of Carolina players.) Duke haters see it as old-school to a fault. Coach K doesn't recruit NBA-bound, one-and-done players, opting instead for guys who will stay four years. It's anachronistic, people say; it perpetuates an idealized, stubborn, unrealistic vision of NCAA basketball and how it works. And it's holier-than-thou.
There is the privilege and unapologetic ambition for personal success that Duke has, at times, embodied. There is Coach K holding a fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole, and insinuations that he used the Duke name and his position as coach to generate political cash. There is Coach K doing American Express ads.
There is Duke getting all the calls.
There is Christian Laettner, stomping on the chest of Kentucky's Aminu Timberlake in the 1992 Elite Eight game that also saw Laettner hit probably the most famous game-winner in the history of college ball.
But while there are many reasons to hate Duke, you shouldn't. Here's why.
For one, because of the story that began this article, of Coach K yelling "Fuck you!" at the renowned and revered Dean of college basketball, Dean Smith, a man no one cursed at, especially not a young, upstart coach who hadn't been in the league for so long. And at the time Coach K was an upstart: the boosters had given him a rough time when he got to Duke in 1980, and at first no one could spell his name. This was not the action of a man who was established.