I’ve written about Dean Smith a bunch of times on this blog over the years, which might seem odd coming from a huge Duke fan (more on them later).
It’s just that along with Billie Jean King, Dean is the classiest individual I’ve ever had the privilege of interviewing, and it’s been such a shame reading and hearing about his battle with dementia over the past few years.
Mostly, the stories about this incredible basketball coach’s failing mind have been rumors and whispers, without much coming from his inner circle.
But now Tommy Tomlinson, whose work I plug on here so often he ought to pay me, has penetrated that inner circle and written a heartbreakingly beautiful story for ESPN.com about the 83-year-old coaching legend.
So many of the stories about Dean’s dementia ring true to me, because I experienced it with my grandmother: A person who was once so sharp, so on top of everything, now unable to remember the simplest things. And just as cruelly, dementia leaves the body physically fine, so there’s no telling how long the sufferer has left to live.
Read Tomlinson’s story about a true American legend. It’s one of the best things I’ve read in a long time.
**Next up, you may have seen some of Jimmy Fallon’s “elementary school classroom” routine with songs before, where he and The Roots take a current hit song, bring in the singer, and perform it using only instruments you’d find in a grade-school music room.
It’s pretty hilarious every time, and it is again with Idina Menzel (or whatever John Travolta says her name is) singing her Oscar-winning hit from “Frozen.”
**Finally, I freely admit that sometimes this blog is more “therapy” for me than entertainment for you.
That’s the case tonight, as it’s March, the NCAA Tournament is coming up, and I need to rant for a few hundred words after a pathetic, disgraceful, disgusting showing Wednesday night by my beloved Duke Blue Devils.
After a week between games, against a miserable Wake Forest team that has won ONCE in the past 10 tries, Duke fell behind early, rallied to take a seven-point lead in the second half, then completely imploded and lost by 10.
They went more than FIVE minutes without a basket in the final minutes. Quinn Cook, who used to be good, is more useless than a 1970s Dodge Dart at the point guard spot, dribbling and dribbling so damn much it’s like he thinks you get points for pounding the ball into the floor 403 times per possession.
Jabari Parker, the best player on the team by far, barely touched the ball in the final minutes. Rodney Hood is still committing stupid fouls, 35 games into his Duke career. Andre Dawkins can’t shoot anymore. No one on the damn team can shoot anymore.
When Marshall Plumlee is the lone bright spot, you know it’s a bad night.
So fed up with this team’s lack of heart. And lack of consistency. And K’s annual refusal to go deeper into his bench on nights like this, to see if someone, anyone might provide a spark.
Duke is soft on the interior, can’t hit 3’s anymore, and folds in the clutch. And has major problems at point guard. And plays the hottest team in America. the damn Tar Heels, on Saturday.
Other than that, everything’s great.
I can’t see this team making a run in March. Right now, a Sweet 16 appearance is all I can hope for. Just such a waste.
OK, I feel better now. Thanks.