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'It's like a storybook' | UNC and Duke basketball legends talk Final Four

Two North Carolina basketball legends give their thoughts on UNC and Duke's meeting in the Final Four.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A Battle of the Blues is headed to the biggest stage the rivalry's ever seen.

No matter who wins in the Final Four, it's sure to add to the Duke vs. Carolina legend.

Many of the names in that story are found at the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. It's where WFMY News 2's Grace Holland sat down with two UNC and Duke basketball legends--Steve Vacendak and Phil Ford.

Vacendak was recruited to Duke by Coach Vic Bubas and played from 1962-to 1966.

"We had some pretty good teams but we also had some difficult losses," Vacendak said.

Ford played at UNC from 1974-1978 under Coach Dean Smith.

"I got to play for who I consider the greatest coach every four years and get to know him as a friend, not only as a basketball player," Ford said. "That friendship that we had until the day he died was just something very special."

Both had NBA careers but returned to their respective schools later in life.

Ford did so as an assistant coach.

"Mike Krzyzewski had been there for a little while, that's when the rivalry went crazy and it's got better and better every year that I've been here," Ford said.

Vacendak said he gets credit and blame for that.

He recommended Coach K for the job while working as an associate athletic director at Duke.

"There's no way when we hired him that we could have projected the length and the depth of his career," Vacendak said. "Mike was very good for Duke University and Duke was very good for Mike."

They've watched plenty of matchups between the teams and title runs, not to mention playing in their own. This one is special.

"It’s just ironic that it wasn’t really until Mike’s last season and Hubert‘s first season that this came together. It’s like a storybook. You could have written a story and have it end this way," Vacendak said.

When it comes to this level of play, Ford said it's not something you can prepare for.

"I hear it all the time-- treat it like another game," Ford said. "It's not just like another game. If it was just another game, it would be another game but it's a championship game."

Vacendak believes this match up comes at a time when college basketball needs a rivalry of this magnitude.

"It needs to be the Duke Carolina game. Between the transfer portal, the one-and-dones and the NIL deal, there are a lot of things that are distracting from all the things that we normally associate with college basketball and the continuity of teams," Vacendak said.

Both said they'll cheer for the rival team if theirs loses on Saturday.

"I think former players do that but I'm not sure how many fans do that," Ford said.

Until then, they'll watch to see who's blue wins out this time.

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