UNC Vs. Duke: Book Recs For Basketball Rivals

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

For those of you who don’t keep up with college basketball, we’ve finished with Rivalry Week. I only cared about one game: UNC versus Duke. (And what a game it was, especially when Chapel Hill was coming off a hard, emotional week.) Those who know me know I am a Tar Heel through and through. I went there for grad school, and my closet has more Carolina blue in it than any other color. But when I first moved down to Chapel Hill, I wasn’t a basketball fan. I didn’t understand the appeal. Didn’t know why the UNC-Duke rivalry was so big. After all, I was from New Jersey (and Duke is known for its large Northeastern population). Needless to say, sometime during my first year down there, I somehow absorbed the love of basketball. And now, nearly five years later, Duke blue can send my blood pressure soaring. I scream at the television like a madwoman during games. I taught my nephew “Go Tar Heels, boo Duke!” when he was only a toddler. But the basketball season can only last so long, which is why I love to read books about the (quite possibly) most famous rivalry in college basketball, if not all of college sports. After I moved up North, I had to console myself with reading about the basketball team I’d grown to love. I would read these books whenever I got too homesick, or to get fired up for March Madness. Whether you’re a Tar Heel or Blue Devil, call the Southern Part of Heaven or Bull City home, or revere Roy or Coach K, these books won’t disappoint. (I’ll admit, though, the list isn’t entirely unbiased.)

To Hate Like This is to Be Happy Forever

To Hate Like This is to Be Happy Forever by Will Blythe

This might be my favorite book about the rivalry. Part memoir, part reportage, part sports fanatic, this book goes through the history of the rivalry, examines what makes it so passionately alive, and interviews players and coaches alike, on both sides. It’s easy to read, unlike some sports books that lose the reader in game plays and score reports, and reads like the author is talking with you over a few beers. Even if you’re not a sports person, it’s easy to get lost in this book. It’s one of my all-time favorites.




blue_bloodBlue Blood: Duke-Carolina: Inside the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops by Art Chansky

Less of a memoir, this book looks at both schools and the history of the rivalry, but also delves into coaching practices, ethics of college basketball, and the ACC. But again, the book reads like a novel- not a sporting report- with its descriptions of players and arenas, as if you’re sitting right there, courtside. This might be for more of a true blue (either shade) basketball fan.





The Carolina Way: Leadership Lessons from a Life in Coaching by Dean Smith

Anyone who went to UNC is familiar with the term “The Carolina Way.” Dean Smith, one of the most successful coaches in college basketball, coined the phrase. Smith passed away last week, and this book is a great introduction to him, if you’re not familiar. He talks about aspects of leadership and team building in ways that are applicable to anyone, even the least sports-minded individuals. (But there are sports stories in here, too, for the fans.)




Light Blue Reign: How a City Slicker, a Quiet Kansan, and a Mountain Man Built College Basketball’s Longest-Lasting Dynasty by Art Chansky

Focusing on UNC, this is a history of the basketball program there, documenting the leadership of coaches Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, and Roy Williams. Don’t expect a dry history story, though – there are plenty of game stories and personal stories of the coaches. It can be confusing at times, so this is more for a die-hard Tar Heel fan who doesn’t mind piecing the timelines together.




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