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Saturday December 4th

Klarmann Faces UNC as Devil's Advocate

Before an afternoon practice, Will, a junior attackman, walked into UNC's locker room, where his teammates were buzzing with shocked incredulity.

One of them had recently spoken to a friend who plays for Duke.

The friend had said that Dave Klarmann -- who served as head coach at UNC for 10 years before resigning in 2000 amid rumors that he was being forced out -- had been working as an assistant volunteer coach with the Blue Devils.

Working for your alma mater's arch rival might sound odd, but for a man with a reputation of doing things his way and speaking his mind, regardless of what others think, it wasn't terribly surprising.

"I was just amazed at first, but it didn't surprise me," Will said. "It's just Coach Klarmann. You expect the unexpected."

The Tar Heels (5-0) will get their first glimpse of their old coach on an opposing sideline today when they travel to Durham for their ACC opener against Duke (3-1, 1-0 in the ACC) at 7:30 p.m.

The players said that they have joked about facing Klarmann, a star defenseman at UNC from 1976-77 and an assistant coach from 1980-90.

But they said that John Haus, who replaced Klarmann, hasn't addressed the issue with them. They said that they're concerned with winning and don't anticipate the reunion being a distraction.

"It's not something that we're preoccupied with," said junior midfielder Austin Garrison. "It's definitely something that the guys are thinking about, but we're not really talking about it in depth."

Klarmann, who works for Realty World in Pittsboro and served as an assistant at Duke in 1978, secured his new coaching job during a round of golf with Duke coach and longtime friend Mike Pressler right around this past Christmas.

"I brought it up, and we kind of laughed about it at first," Pressler said. "And then, a week later he says, 'Sounds like a great idea. Let's do it.'"

Pressler said that his players immediately took to Klarmann, who last season coached Radford to a 3-9 record in the program's last year of existence and now works primarily with the defense at Duke.

"To have a volunteer of Dave's experience, pedigree and just overall knowledge of the game has been a win-win for us," Pressler said. "And I know, speaking for him, he's certainly enjoyed it too."

Klarmann won a national championship at UNC in his first season as head coach in 1991. But in his last four seasons, the Tar Heels compiled a record of 27-30 (1-11 in the ACC) and missed out on the NCAA tournament three times.

He announced his intention to resign during the summer of 1999, but lashed out at the UNC athletic department after a loss to Virginia in the first round of the 2000 ACC Tournament, spurring suspicions that he was being forced out.

"I deeply, deeply regret having to be removed from this lacrosse program," he said. "But I am greatly relieved to be leaving this administration."

Klarmann did not return messages left at his office in Pittsboro and at Duke on Tuesday.

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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