Catching Up With: Dieter Krause

Former North Carolina forward Dieter Krause got so excited when Sunday’s Miami-Duke game went to overtime that he couldn’t watch the extra period. When he found out the Hurricanes had won, he said he was elated -- and re-wound the game to watch the final five minutes.

“I was glad Duke got beat, because that put Carolina in the higher standings of the ACC conference,’’ said Krause, 71, who now lives in Virginia. “I still keep up with that stuff, and sure, I would probably root for any team that’s playing Duke.”

Old rivalries die hard -- especially when you, unknowingly, helped fuel it.

From 1960-63, the 6-foot-5 Krause played in 32 games for UNC, averaging 1.8 points and 1.5 rebounds, according to scacchoops.com. But the Vietnam veteran and grandfather of five is perhaps better known in Tar Heels annals for what happened before he played varsity.

In 1960, during a freshman game in Siler City, N.C., Kraus got into a fight with Duke rookie Art Heyman -- the top recruit in the nation who had originally committed to UNC, earning coach Frank McGuire’s ire when he changed his mind.

The common story goes that Krause threw the first punch.

But Krause said he was only playing tight defense and defending himself.

“My memory of it -- and I don’t think my memory has faded in any regard to that particular incident, is this:

“If you can imagine yourself with the basketball backboard toward your back, and you’re up past the foul line, sort of where the semi-circle comes down, we were the 2 o’clock position, sort of toward the top of the key,’’ Krause said. “This was the second half, and I was playing defense on who I subsequently found out was Art Heyman -- I really didn’t know who he was going into the game. I was playing him pretty tightly, after having been chastised at halftime for not playing defense aggressively enough. And I assume [the coach] meant that for all of the players, not playing tight defense.

“... And I remember a fist coming at me, and I instinctively ducked. He missed in his effort to hit me with his right hand -- and I instinctively counter punched, and I connected with a punch to his face. ... And then total mayhem broke out.

“The benches cleared, I remember being on the floor somewhere between midcourt and the top of the key, sort of being in the embryonic position trying to protect my head because the Duke players, of course, were irate, and trying to kick me in the head and stomach or wherever.”

He was ejected from the game, while Heyman (who scored 35 points) ended up going to the hospital for stitches.

The next day, Krause met with McGuire -- who Krause said is the only one who has ever asked for his side of what happened, until now.

“I told him essentially what I told you -- I was playing tight defense, he swung, missed, and I counterpunched,’’ Krause said. “And he was very calm about the whole conversation … and I continued my basketball career at Carolina.

He added: “It wasn’t a big deal in my mind … I think more was made of it because Art Heyman went on to become a great basketball player at Duke.”

And, perhaps, because the freshman fray became the undercard for the following season’s brawl at Cameron -- the one that saw Heyman, and UNC’s Larry Brown and Donnie Walsh, ultimately suspended for the rest of the ACC season after the melee.

Those two incidents, former Duke coach Bucky Waters said, helped fan the flames of the Duke-Carolina basketball rivalry.

Although Krause takes no credit.

“I really didn’t know who [Heyman] was when we got into our little fisticuffs, and I can’t say, in my mind, that that started any kind of rivalry,” Krause said in an interview earlier this week. “It was just a tough basketball game between freshman teams.”

After graduating in 1963, Krause, who immigrated from Germany when he was 8 years old, spent 28 years in the Army, serving two tours in Vietnam. He now lives in Virginia with his wife, and usually tries to get to a UNC game, in person, at least once a season. He credits his time with the Tar Heels for helping to build the leadership qualities that helped him in the military.

And, yes, he’s looking forward to the UNC-Duke game on Wednesday night.

“I certainly don’t remember it [the rivalry] being like it is today, at least during my freshman season,’’ Krause said. “But it did heat up during my junior, senior and sophomore years.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.