With Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski announcing retirement after 2021-22 season, we look back at when he brought his team to Gaston County
By Richard Walker
The college basketball has been shaken twice this offseason by decisions made by legendary ACC coaches.
In April, it was the University of North Carolina’s Roy Williams announcing his immediate retirement from coaching.
On Wednesday, reports began circulating that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski would also be retiring.
By the end of the day, the Associated Press reported Krzyzewski would remain the Blue Devils coach for one more season, which would making the upcoming 2020-21 season the final year of the 74-year-old Hall of Fame coach’s career.
It also brought back memories of November 1988 – or when Krzyzewski brought a No. 1-ranked Duke team to Cherryville’s Nixon Gymnasium for a Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage.
The facility that opened in 1957 has seen lots of basketball games over the years but the Nov. 10, 1988 scrimmage at Nixon Gymnasium created the largest buzz and biggest crowd in its history.
And it had everything to do with another Duke Hall of Famer – Cherryville’s Max Crowder.
Crowder, a 1949 Cherryville High graduate, was Duke’s head basketball trainer from 1966 until his death on May 28, 1992 of lung cancer.
And during Crowder’s tenure, he worked for all three of the school’s Final Four coaches – Vic Bubas, Bill Foster and Krzyzewski – in addition to handling all of Duke’s athletic training duties as the school’s head athletic trainer from 1978 to 1989.
When Krzyzewski’s team came to Cherryville, it coincided with the town’s “Max Crowder Day” that included Crowder being presented with a plaque and key to the city by Cherryville mayor Bill Upchurch and receiving plaques from Duke senior players like Danny Ferry and Quin Snyder.
Crowder, who also was a trainer and student at Gardner-Webb Junior College, graduated from Duke with an education degree in 1962 and immediately got involved with the Blue Devils’ athletic programs.
He even had a streak of 899 consecutive Duke basketball games before the lung cancer that would take his life forced him to miss a game on Dec. 14, 1991.
His memorial service on May 29, 1992 at the Duke Chapel was held in front of an overflow crowd before his funeral was held at First United Methodist Church in Cherryville the following day and he was buried at Cherryville’s Mount Zion Baptist Church cemetery.
In 2010, he was inducted into the Gaston County Sports Hall of Fame on a night in which former Duke player and assistant coach Jay Bilas was the featured speaker and Bubas and players Jack Marin and Mike Gminski were among the players in attendance.
For his part, Krzyzewski sent a video commemorating Crowder’s achievement that was played at the Sept. 10 banquet since he was coaching the U.S. National Team during the FIBA World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in college basketball history with 1,170 victories that includes 1,097 wins in 41 seasons at Duke. The Blue Devils also have won five NCAA titles, the first two before Crowder died in 1991 and 1992; The others came in 2001, 2010 and 2015.
In the 1988-89 season in which the Blue Devils came to Cherryville, Duke was ranked No. 1 until late January and finished with a 28-8 overall record after a Final Four semifinal loss to eventuall runner-up Seton Hall.
Danny Ferry averaged 22.6 points per game to lead the team that also included Phil Henderson, Fayetteville’s Robert Brickey, Christian Laettner, Alaa Abdelnaby and Quin Snyder. Ferry was ACC and national player of the year and had his No. 35 jersey retired at Cameron Indoor Stadium late in the regular dseason.
In the scrimmage at Cherryville, the White team edged the Blue team 64-60 as Brickey scored 21 points and Ferry 18 to lead the way.