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That time Maryland football coach DJ Durkin and Jim Harbaugh played an ultra-intense 1-on-1 basketball game

The oral history of Durkin's hourlong one-on-one basketball game with Harbaugh, plus lessons from Urban Meyer.

Alexander Jonesi

Terps head football coach DJ Durkin swung by a reception for students at Maryland's journalism college on Tuesday afternoon, which happened to be held in the classroom where I'd been doing some work when Durkin walked in. Durkin talked with us for about an hour, but one story seemed worth relaying: the time Durkin played Harbaugh in what sounds like an extraordinarily tense game of one-on-one basketball while the two worked at Stanford.

This has been documented in pieces elsewhere, but here's the whole story, straight from Durkin's mouth. He was fielding a question about the intensity level of Harbaugh and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. Both men are former bosses of Durkin's – Meyer at Bowling Green and Harbaugh at both Stanford and Michigan. Here's Durkin:

We were in the office one day.

"And this is at Stanford. And at Stanford, all the athletic department revolves around a basketball court. In the middle of the building was a basketball court. It's glass walls going all the way up three, four floors, and all the athletics are in one building. We're up in the football office, and I don't know, we were trying to talk about something. Usually when he's thinking, he's got something in his hand or moving around. He doesn't really sit still very long.

"He had a basketball. He was bouncing a basketball, and we were talking about something, and I can't remember the exact conversation of how this began, but somehow it came to he and I walking down the steps, down to the basketball court, to go play one-on-one. And so we're playing a game to seven or something.

I go up for a shot, and he fouls me pretty hard. I mean, a clean foul right on the arm.

"And so out of pride, I'm not gonna call the foul. I'm not gonna say, 'You fouled me.' He was ready to check the ball back to me. I'm like, 'No, no problem, go ahead, your ball.' And so it became no one was gonna call a foul then, the whole game, and so we played a game to seven. It probably took close to an hour. There was, like, breaks involved, and it was probably a pretty ugly game of basketball. Neither of us was trying to lose that game. He's very competitive.

(Ed. note: The winner of the game was a classified matter.)

And I think Urban, it's a pretty well-documented scene, the way he responds on the sideline and everything else.

"But he was the first guy I ever worked for. Right when I was done playing, I became a graduate assistant coach, and so that was the first head coach that I ever worked for and learned a ton from. His intensity, his demeanor on a day-to-day basis, he lets you know the amount of competitiveness he has. There's no mistaking it. He's a very intense guy in his conversations – with everyone, with players, with his staff, everyone in the program. It's not hard to find."