Photo of Clay Buckley letter

This was the photo with a note that Clay Buckley received in the mail from his former Duke coach.

He wasn’t expecting any package, so when one arrived on the doorstep of his home, Clay Buckley was confused.

That was until he looked at the return address and saw “Durham, N.C.” Then, the assistant Langley High School girls varsity basketball coach had a pretty good idea who the sender might be, but was still puzzled about the contents.

The package came from Duke University men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. Inside was an old team photo of the 1991 NCAA men’s basketball champion Duke team being honored in the White House Rose Garden by President George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle.

Buckley was a 6-foot-10 forward and a captain on that Duke team, which included Grant Hill from Northern Virginia and other former and famous NBA players Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley. Washington-Lee High School graduate Crawford Palmer was a player, as well.

The package also included a short note from Krzyzewski saying how he’d found the photo and thought Buckley might be interested. He also told Buckley to “be safe.”

In the picture, Buckley is standing three people to Bush’s left and right next to “Coach K.”

“I had no idea it was coming,” Buckley said. “He must have been cleaning out or something. I have other photos from that event, but not one taken from this angle.”

Buckley explained that it’s not unusual for him to receive mail from the successful coach. Krzyzewski regularly sends him and his former players birthday wishes.

“That’s the way he has always been with his players,” Buckley said.

Duke defeated Kansas in the 1991 championship game, after knocking off previously undefeated UNLV in the semifinals.

The season before, with the same lineup, University of Nevada-Las Vegas had routed Duke by 30 points in the NCAA title game.

“Coach K had a week to prepare us, and the plan worked,” Buckley said about the 1991 victory.  

Buckley has been an assistant coach at Langley for a number of years under head coach Amanda Baker. He has helped the Saxons become a perennial district, region and state contender. 

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