May 31, 2010

CJ's Shot Gives Duke Closure, Foundation

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

BALTIMORE, Md. -- John Danowski didn’t need to go far for sage advice this week. Coach K’s door is always open.

Danowski’s conversation with Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke basketball coach who less than two months ago led the Blue Devils to their fourth NCAA championship, had a curious theme: selfishness.

“He said you’ve got to teach your kids to be selfish this week,” Danowski said. “It’s their time. It’s their time to focus. It’s their time to be alone. He said they’ve got to be selfish for each other. They’ve got to be selfish as a team. We took the cell phones away last night. You’ve got to be selfish with your parents. Mom and dad, I love you, but this is my time now.”

CJ Costabile’s time came at 5:52 p.m. on Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, in front of 37,126 fans sweating in the hot sun at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. They were sleepy, bored even, by 60 minutes of grinding, action-less lacrosse.

It took five seconds for Costabile to send them all into a frenzy, to etch his name in Duke athletic lore with the shot heard around the world.

Costabile battled Trever Sipperly all day in feats of strength. This was one of the few faceoffs the long pole got off clean. The ball jutted forward.

Not that he planned it that way.

“There’s no way to plan that,” Costabile said afterward.

But it was his time. Parker McKee, busy boxing out frisky long pole Andrew Irving on the wing, could see it. McKee knew after yelling in futility for Costabile to pull the ball out for a possession that he was going to the hoop.

“He had that tunnel vision going,” McKee said.

Costabile took two steps inside the restraining line. He uncorked a shot and a prayer on Notre Dame goalie Scott Rodgers, the tournament’s most outstanding player.

“When his hands get high on top of that six-foot pole, it’s about nine feet coming at you,” Rodgers said. “You don’t know where it’s going to go. It’s one of those shots you got to kind of take a guess on.”

Rodgers guessed wrong. Costabile beat him with high heat -- top cheddar, as lax bros call it -- with a shot that won’t soon be forgotten.

“What would Duke basketball be without Christian Laettner’s shot?” Duke assistant Ron Caputo posed. “And now, what would Duke lacrosse be without CJ Costabile’s shot?”

Probably stuck in the past. There was a certain poetry to having Matt Danowski, Tony McDevitt, Zack Greer and Brad Ross on the sideline to see that shot. They were the ones who held Duke lacrosse together during the 2006 scandal in which three former teammates were falsely accused of rape.

Those players, and the team, were mostly exonerated by the time the 2007 outfit lost to Johns Hopkins in the championship game. But the emotions from the case and near misses remained in the form of Duke’s last class of fifth-year seniors, who were awarded an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after that 2006 season was abruptly cancelled.

Those four players from the past had as much reason to celebrate as Tom Clute, Ned Crotty, Mike Catalino, Steve Schoeffel, Sam Payton, Devon Sherwood and Dan Theodoridis -- the last remaining links to 2006.

Matt Danowski refused to take off his sunglasses for a post-game interview on the field. The tears were too raw. His first instinct, he said, was to hug his father.

“He’s been the best coach in the country since 1985,” the son said. “This is long overdue.”

His second instinct, he said, was to feel jealous.

“I wish I was wearing the pads.”

Lastly, closure.

John Danowski echoed that.

“There was so much emotion those two years, people have no idea,” the coach said. “Sometimes when you leave a place and you don’t want that team to do well because you think, ‘They can’t do it without me.’ There’s not a bone in those guys’ bodies that feels that way.”

Asked if this championship would make people stop talking about 2006, he quipped, “I hope so. I will.”

Duke’s incoming freshmen were eighth-graders when the infamous events went down in Durham. John Danowski talked about this national championship representing not only closure, but also a foundation for the future.

CJ Costabile laid the first cinder block.

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