Every year, on the eve of their annual grudge match, the managers of the Duke and UNC basketball programs face off in an exhibition scrimmage.
The game is held in the spirit of (semi-) friendly competition, but like any game between the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels, the occasion has developed into a fiercely competitive battle with pride on the line.
A bit of chippy play is to be expected between the teams’ towel boys and personnel, but few could have foreseen the throwdown that nearly took place at the Dean Smith Center on Tuesday night.
According to Matt Norlander of CBS Sports, the two teams engaged in a shoving match after a contested rebound led to a Tar Heels manager cracking one of the Blue Devils with a wild elbow.
Things fell apart quickly, with both sides entering the fray to defend their teammates. The video is grainy at best, but it looked as though the UNC manager dropped an elbow on his Duke counterpart with cool intent.
This kind of behavior isn’t tolerated on any level of basketball, and it certainly wasn’t going to fly with two intense rivals on the floor.
Both benches cleared after the elbow, but hostilities never escalated into an all-out brawl.
The game would go on, according to Delaney King of The Chronicle, with UNC’s managers pulling out a 38-33 win.
King spoke with Duke managers coach Mike Sotsky after the game, who was disappointed with the result but happy to be carrying on the tradition of the manager game.
“This is bigger than the managers,” Sotsky said. “This is about tomorrow’s game, but it’s nice that we’re able to play a small role in it and do this every year and keep this tradition alive.”
Indeed, it’s a time-honored tradition and a frisky one at that.
The Tar Heels host the Blue Devils at 9:00 p.m. ET Wednesday night. We’ll see if Tuesday night’s manager dustup adds another edge to the actual game—if that’s even possible between these two teams.
Don’t be surprised to see UNC fans holding up signs touting the People’s Elbow their managers dropped on Duke. Almost everything is fair game in the Tobacco Road rivalry.
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