This was something to see, and something almost painful to watch. Here was Temple's Mark Macon—the freshman guard already being compared with the fledgling Oscar Robertson—a silent, stone-faced, 6'5" gunner, getting a public lesson in the gun laws. Duke would go on to shoot down Temple 63-53 in the East Regional final, but it was Macon's personal torment that gripped the crowd in New Jersey's Meadowlands Arena.
"Coach told us before the game that Macon's the kind of guy who, if he misses, he'll keep shooting," said Blue Devils guard Quin Snyder afterward. And, indeed, even with Duke defender Billy King all but hanging around his neck, Macon kept shooting—and missing. He wound up making only six of 29 shots. Eight of his misses touched neither rim nor glass, and the notorious Blue Devils cheering section actually grew weary of chanting, "Air ball!" By the end Duke fans were simply watching with courteous good cheer.
The 18-year-old Macon, who is carefully protected from media probers by his coach, John Chaney, was shown no mercy by Duke's ferocious, switching man-to-man defense and by the 6'6" King, the best midsized defender in the college game. Said King afterward, "I played him hard, but I don't know if he got frustrated. One thing about Macon is he doesn't change his expression."
April 3, 1988
He doesn't, but his coach sure does. The man can go from somber to angry to furious faster than most folks can duck. Chaney's finest fit came in the Owls' 69-47 regional semifinal rout of Richmond when, with Temple leading by 17, Owl forward Mike Vreeswyk threw a behind-the-back pass that went astray. Chaney danced about like a rabid raccoon. Vreeswyk later explained that "for a split second I kind of was possessed by an evil being."
On Saturday the entire Temple team was possessed by the Blue Devils, who limited the Owls to 18 baskets in 63 attempts. But statistics don't tell you much about these Dookies. King scored a total of seven points in the two games, yet he made the all-regional team. These guys slap the floor and huddle and shake hands enough to tick off the most tolerant of opponents. Certainly, Danny Ferry's head is the leading target for elbows in the NCAAs. The 6'10" Ferry, who has more sneaky taps and nudges and arm hooks than a 10-year NBA vet, was named Most Outstanding Player after scoring 20 points against Temple and a team-high 17 in Duke's 73-72 win over Rhode Island in the semis. But with this team, the whole is greater than the parts, and the parts feel fine about that. "Our togetherness, you can't underestimate that," says Ferry.
"Remember, it all starts at the defensive end of the floor," says Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Temple led the Blue Devils 28-25 at the half, but in the first 13 minutes of the second half Duke held the Owls to seven points. Vreeswyk would end up 2 for 12 from the field and floor leader Howard Evans would convert only two of eight shots. But Macon's desperate flings showed how out of sync the normally unflappable Owls had become. Did Chaney ever consider taking out his star and soothing him? No, said Chaney, "I didn't think he was doing anything out of the ordinary." Said Temple assistant Jim Maloney later, "Whatever got us here, we were going to stay with it. One reason Mark's a great player is we don't put restraints on him."
In the locker room after the game, Macon wept and then covered his head with a towel. Teammates put their arms around him. As the media reps surged forward, assistant coach Dean Demopoulos roared, "How many times I got to tell you? Freshmen are off-limits to the press!"
But as far as lessons learned on the court are concerned, Macon is now at least a sophomore.