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View Full Version : Tate Armstrong..why no respect?



jfhammer01
01-08-2008, 08:56 AM
How come no one ever talks about this stud! How many other Duke players were first round NBA choices and hold a Gold Medal in Basketball from the Olympic Games? Were his numbers while a Duke not strong enough to consider a place in the rafters? He not only graduated, but also came back and received his MBA from Duke in '85....yet no one ever mentions him as one of the great players........

blueprofessor
01-08-2008, 09:13 AM
There were many Duke players discussed in some with interesting information. My post on Tate Armstrong is as follows(but read the entire thread,if you can, as other posters were very knowledgeable!):
Tate Armstrong(1973-1977) was a great player on offense and defense.
Latta6970: "Builders: 1976-1990. Coach Foster and Coach K. 8 players Gminski, Jim Spanarkel, Gene Banks, Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, Danny Ferry, Tommy Amaker. This is where it gets tricky for me, deciding on one other player, Vince Taylor, Kenny Dennard, Jay Bilas, Quinn Snyder etc. I REALLY need some help deciding that last player."
Tate Armstrong was one of Duke's lesser- heralded, great players. No offense to Bilas, but Jay was no better than the 5th best player(maybe 6th, considering Danny Ferry was the 6th man in 1985-86; Quin Snyder was a spot reserve on the team) on the 1986 Final Four team. In his career, Bilas played 127 games, 2,864 minutes, and had 56 assists,117 turnovers, 379 fouls,41 steals, 23 blocks, and 692 rebounds. He shot 65% from the line and 55.7% from the floor ,but took a highly selective(point-blank,mostly) 655 shots.Taylor was an excellent player ( All-ACC) and Snyder was a fine assists- maker.
Armstrong, however, was an outstanding all-star player on defense and offense who often was matched against the other team's best defender on offense,as well as the other team's best scorer on defense.He was All-ACC first team in 1976 (would have repeated in 1977 barring a season-ending injury--only 16 Duke players have been 1st team All-ACC 2 or more times); averaged 24 and 22 ppg, respectively, his last 2 years; and was,according to John Roth, one of Duke's greatest shooters of all time (51.9% career, as the marked man on 4 teams with a dismal 50--56 record--9 and 39 in ACC-- and 80% from the foul line).Not just a great shooter and defender, Armstrong tied the Cameron Indoor Stadium assists record with 12 in a game vs. Tennessee.There was no three-point shot in his career, but in one game(37 points against Maryland his junior year), 11 of his baskets were from beyond 19 feet. He would have made 1st team All-ACC again in 1977, but he sustained a season-ending injury in one of the truly heroic performances in Duke basketball history.In January of 1977,the senior Armstrong broke his wrist minutes into a game on the road against Virginia (Duke had lost 27 consecutive away- ACC games), continued to play the entire 45 minutes in an overtime win, and scored 33 points (31 after the injury). That ended his career at Duke.Through the Virginia win, he had led Duke to an 11-3 start;Duke would go 3-10 the rest of the year without him. He was the Art Heyman of the 1970s in talent, fire, and hustle, and he was voted best defender on his team for two seasons. His junior average of 24.2 was the highest since Verga's 26.1 ppg in 1967. Lefty Driesell called Tate "the best one-on-one player I've seen in this conference since David Thompson." He was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bulls and won a gold medal in the Montreal (1976) Olympics for a US team coached by El Deano.:)

Olympic Fan
01-08-2008, 09:58 AM
Let's keep this in perspective ... to talk about putting Tate in the rafters is silly.

He was a great offensive player for one and a half seasons -- on some poor Duke teams. I don't remember anybody suggesting at the time that he was a great (or even exceptional) defender. He was a good ballhandler, however, and essentially played point guard on the 1976 and 1977 teams.

Tate was an unheralded recruit from Texas. He averaged a modest 6.3 points as a freshman (for a 10-16 team) and upped that to 9.7 (fifth best on the team) as a parttime starter as a soph (for a 13-13 team).

As a junior, he replaced Kevin Billerman at the point and with the departure of Billerman and Bob Fleicher became the top scorer on a team that played at a breakneck tempo. New Coach Bill Foster (76 was his second year at Duke) wanted to establish a fast pace as a selling point to recruits. His early Duke teams played some wild games -- twice scoring 100-plus points and losing; three times in 1976 alone scoring 91-plus points and losing.

Tate was the team's best offensive weapon. He averaged 24.2 points, while shooting 52.3 percent from the floor. While he got a number of layups in transition, he was mainly known as a deadly long-range shooter -- no telling what he would have scored with the 3-point shot. He had one stretch in February where he scored 37, 38, 40 and 42 points in a span of six games against ACC opponents.

He also averaged just under five assists a game (in a time when statisticians were a lot more stingy with assists than today).

He earned first-team All-ACC honors despite playing on a 13-14 team (3-9 in the ACC). He did not, however, earn any signficant All-America honors.

That summer, he tried out in Raleigh for the US Olympic team. Armstrong was a surprise pick -- reportedly one that was forced on Dean Smith by the committee who thought the team needed a shooting specialist. Smith, who caught a lot of flak for having seven ACC guys on the team (including four Tar Heels) was angry about Armstrong's selection and almost never played him in Montreal.

The next year, it looked like Duke was going to finally take off after a string of bad years under Waters, McGeachy and Foster. Soph Jim Spanarkel was the reigning ACC rookie of the year and 16-year-old freshman Mike Gminski was amazing in the middle.

But the key as Duke got off to a 10-1 start was Spanarkel. He had 27 points as Duke lost its opener to Wake Forest (in the old Big Four Doubleheader), then came back the next night with 23 points and eight assists as the Devils upset No. 15 N.C. State. He had 35 points and five assists in a victory over Washington and 29 points and six assists as Duke traveled to Knoxville and upset No. 15 Tennessee (with Bernard King and Ernie Grunfield).

Duke suffered an overtime loss at home to Clemson (a very good Clemson team with Tree Rollins), in the ACC opener, then lost to UNC in Chapel Hill, but on the night of Jan. 17, went to Charlottesville and upset Virginia in overtime ... a great game that saw Armstrong score 33 points, pass out three assists (the Virginia stat crew was the hardest to get an assist from) and play all 45 minutes as Duke beat the Cavs to break a three-year ACC road losing streak.

Duke was 11-3 at that moment and seemed assured of earning an NIT bid (in a year when only two ACC teams could play in the NCAA). But it turned out that Armstrong had broken his right (shooting) wrist early in the second half. He was listed as out indefinitely.

Duke collapsed without him. In hindsight, as great a scorer as Armstrong was, he was even more valuable as a ballhandler. Steve Gray, a fine athlete who had been offered a football scholarship at UCLA (and whose nephew Aaron Gray would be a star at Pitt), just wasn't a point guard. I won't go through them, but those who lived through them can recall all the late-game screwups -- especially the turnovers against N.C. State (when he dribbled the ball off his foot) and Maryland (when with Duke up three in the closing seconds, he threw a crosscourt pass that hit the Maryland basket, then fouled the Maryland player who scored off the TO, forcing OT).

Duke lost 10 of 13 down the stretch to finish 14-13 and miss postseason.

There were reports at the time that Armstrong was cleared to come back and play late, although he would have had to wear a cast to to protect his broken wrist and that would have restricted his shooting. The rumors at the time was that his "advisor" (who would become his agent) suggested that it might hurt his draft status to come back at less than 100 percent. Don't know if that's true, but Duke sure could have used his ballhandling, even if he didn't get his shot back.

Armstrong was the first-round pick of the Bulls, but played just one and a half years. He averaged 4.2 points as a rookie in 1978 and was averaging just 2.5 points in '79 when he was cut after 26 games.

At any rate, Armstrong was a truely great player in 1976 and through the first 14 games of 1977. We definitely should honor him, but he didn't do the things that usually lead to a jersey in the rafters (not only was he not a national player of the year, he was never an All-American; he never led a Duke team to greatest).

He was a bright spot for a season and a half in a dark time for Duke basketball.

hurleyfor3
01-08-2008, 10:19 AM
How many other Duke players were first round NBA choices and hold a Gold Medal in Basketball from the Olympic Games?

Two.

CDu
01-08-2008, 11:03 AM
Two.

And both of them have their jersey in the rafters. That said, I wouldn't argue at all in favor of Tate Armstrong's jersey being retired. That's an honor reserved for a select few. Being a first round pick and winning a gold medal are honors that have nothing to do with Duke basketball. Laettner and Hill got their jerseys retired for reasons entirely separate from the gold medal and first round pick status.

Olympic Fan
01-08-2008, 11:47 AM
Two.

Wrong -- the answer is four Duke players with Olympic Gold and first-round status:

Jeff Mullins (1964 Olympics; fifth pick in 1964 NBA draft)

Tate Armstrong (1976 Olympics; 13th pick in 1977 NBA draft)

Christian Laettner (1992 Olympics; third player in 1992 draft)

Grant Hill (1996 Olympics; third pick in 1994 draft)

I suspect the number will grow this summer -- Shane Battier and Elton Brand have a good chance to make the 2008 team that I expect Coach K will lead to the gold.

I would also point out that this is something of a fluke catgory. With the Olympics coming once every four years, a lot of great Duke players never got the chance to represent the country in the Olympics. Before 1992, only college players (and AAU players) were invited -- an basically, if you weren't a senior or at least a rising senior in an Olympic year, you didn't get the chance -- thus Heyman, Verga, Jack Marin, Mike Lewis, Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry all had bad timing.

Since 1992, the pros have filled all the slots, so that eliminates the timing problem but adds the requirement of NBA success. Under the old system, Jason Williams would have been the star of the 2000 Olympic team (in exhibitions against the pros, he was the only college player who really excelled). The only game the 1992 Dream Team ever lost was a closed scrimmage against a bunch of college stars -- headed by Bobby Hurley.

CDu
01-08-2008, 12:25 PM
Wrong -- the answer is four Duke players with Olympic Gold and first-round status:

Jeff Mullins (1964 Olympics; fifth pick in 1964 NBA draft)

Tate Armstrong (1976 Olympics; 13th pick in 1977 NBA draft)

Christian Laettner (1992 Olympics; third player in 1992 draft)

Grant Hill (1996 Olympics; third pick in 1994 draft)

I suspect the number will grow this summer -- Shane Battier and Elton Brand have a good chance to make the 2008 team that I expect Coach K will lead to the gold.

I would also point out that this is something of a fluke catgory. With the Olympics coming once every four years, a lot of great Duke players never got the chance to represent the country in the Olympics. Before 1992, only college players (and AAU players) were invited -- an basically, if you weren't a senior or at least a rising senior in an Olympic year, you didn't get the chance -- thus Heyman, Verga, Jack Marin, Mike Lewis, Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry all had bad timing.

Since 1992, the pros have filled all the slots, so that eliminates the timing problem but adds the requirement of NBA success. Under the old system, Jason Williams would have been the star of the 2000 Olympic team (in exhibitions against the pros, he was the only college player who really excelled). The only game the 1992 Dream Team ever lost was a closed scrimmage against a bunch of college stars -- headed by Bobby Hurley.

The question was how many OTHER Duke players were first round picks and have a gold medal. So the correct answer is three. :)

I agree though that it's a fluky stat. And regardless, the point is that Mullins, Laettner, and Hill have retired numbers not because of being a 1st round pick and a gold medal winner. They're there because of what they did at Duke (Final Four appearances, Player of the Year awards, etc).

Olympic Fan
01-08-2008, 03:46 PM
Oops ... I got to work on reading comprehension. The correct answer is three (I feel like King Arthur in the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch sketch ... "Pull the pin and count to three" "One ... two ... four ...")

Thinking about this did raise an interesting bit of trivia. Mullins, Laettner and Hill all won Olympic gold after graduating at Duke. Tate is the only Duke gold medalist to return to play at Duke (albiet for just 14 games in the 1977 season).

With the pros now making up the Olympic teams, he's very likely to remain the only Olympic Gold Medalist to play for Duke.

Two other Duke players returned to Duke after participating in the Olympics, but never won the gold -- Cameron Hall (1976 Olympics; last Duke season 1978) and Dan Meagher (1984; last Duke season 1985) both played for the Canadian Olympic team. Greg Newton also played for the Canadians after he left Duke and Crawford Palmer played for the French team after his Duke days.