The Class of '86 did more than just win basketball games. They also captured the imagination of much of the basketball-watching public. Intelligent, articulate, and photogenic, the seniors were an interviewer's delight. Dave Anderson of The New York Times summed up the consensus when he wrote "Duke does it the right way."
Twenty years later, these men are still doing it.
Two-time All-America guard Johnny Dawkins, the dazzling point guard who was Duke's all-time leader in points with 2,556, played nine seasons in the NBA. After retiring as a player, he worked as an analyst with the Duke radio network before taking a job as an assistant coach at Duke. Nine years later, he is associate head coach, officially in charge of player development and, unofficially, a father figure for many of the players.
David Henderson played one season in the NBA and then moved to the American minor leagues in France, Turkey, and Israel, before joining the Raleigh Bullfrogs of the late, unlamented Global Basketball Association. He became an assistant at Duke in 1998 and head coach at the University of Delaware in 2000. His teams have gone 76-72 in five seasons. Delaware plays in the Colonial Athletic Association, a conference that rarely sends more than one team to the NCAA Tournament. "When you get used to playing into March," Henderson says, "it becomes hard to sit it out."
Mark Alarie scored 2,136 points at Duke, making him and Dawkins the first classmates in NCAA history to score more than 2,000 points. His NBA career ended after five seasons because of a leg injury. He went back to the books, earning an M.B.A. at the Wharton School of Business in 1995 and going on to work in investment banking and money management. In the late 1990s, Alarie got the coaching itch. "So many of my friends were coaching," he says. "I thought that since I played for Coach K I had the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx. It just seemed like something I was supposed to do."
He spent one season as an assistant at the U.S. Naval Academy, but says he quickly discovered that it was the wrong move. "I was starting at the bottom. I was never home. It just wasn't good for me or my family." Alarie got out and went back to the business world. He is a principal for Cross Hill Financial Group in Bethesda, Maryland, concentrating on providing venture capital. (One of his fellow principals is another former Duke basketball player, Stuart Yarborough '72.)
Alarie says his basketball background is useful in his work. "My job is to recognize successful entrepreneurs. There comes a timewhen you have to look past the figures andthe projections and look at the people behind a project. I look at them as prospective teammates. Would I want them on my team? Are they good guys in the locker room? Can they be a captain, a leader? The business world is as competitive as the sports world, and we want to back people who are honest, hard-working, good communicators."
Weldon Williams is the most ambivalent about his Duke career. "I admit I was bitter when I left Duke. I wanted to play more. But I've matured and moved on. I made some bad decisions from an academic standpoint. Working through the adversity helped me as a person, helped me see what was important. Coach Krzyzewski showed me how to be honest with myself."
Williams became an engineer with General Electric, but was called to the ministry in the late 1980s. He attended Westminster Theological Seminary near Philadelphia and became an ordained Presbyterian minister. Williams is pastor of the Triumph Community Church in Bolingbrook, Illinois. To help support his wife and three children, he also works as a quality manager with Smurfit-Stone, a container company. "I did a whole lot of growing up at Coach K's expense," Williams says. "But it all worked out. I've always been a spiritual person. I'm where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing."
Jay Bilas once quipped that he "would cut off an arm to play in the NBA, except the NBA doesn't need one-armed players." He didn't make the NBA but played in Italy and Spain from 1987 to 1989. He was assistant coach at Duke while attending Duke Law School. Bilas was on the bench for Duke's 1991 and 1992 NCAA titles and earned a law degree in 1992. He practices law in Charlotte for Moore & Van Allen. Bilas is also a member of the Screen Actors Guild and appeared in the 1990 science fiction movie I Come in Peace.
Since 1995, he's been most visible for his work for ESPN, where he has been a sideline reporter and game and studio analyst. Bilas sees lots of college basketball. "There will never be another class like ours," he says. "The NBA has seen to that. Players as good as Johnny Dawkins and Mark Alarie just don't stick around college for four years any more. In fact, I tell Johnny and Mark that if we had come along twenty years later, I would be Duke's career scoring leader because they would have gone pro after their sophomore years.