TDD Conversation: Matthew Laurance

After a successful career in movies and television while living in Hollywood, Matthew Laurance returned to Duke to start a new career. Aided by Coach K, he's now Duke's leading radio personality and the director of one of Krzyzewski's favorite public service projects. TDD caught up with Laurance to discuss this and more.

How did you wind up transitioning from the Duke Basketball office to the Emily K Family Life Center?

Last May Coach asked me to take over as Director of Donor Relations. I think the relationship I had with him made it a natural fit. It's something he is as passionate about as I've seen him.

The idea of building a Center in Durham that will affect generations of families in a positive way is a legacy that means a great deal to Coach and his family, as a way of giving back to a place that he feels has given so much to him. I'd do anything for him, and this was something I was passionate about. I have a 16 month old son, and the kids in our world need to have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Knowing Coach K's story of his childhood in Chicago, and the influence his Mom had on his life as well as I did made it something I could really relate to.

We started a very intensive campaign to raise the remaining funds needed to start construction, and we succeeded. Construction began during the first week of February, 2005.

You mentioned your relationship with Coach K. How did that come into being?

I met him when I came to play in the Duke Children's Classic many years ago. PJ Carlesimo was a very good friend and he introduced me. We kept up our relationship all the time I was in LA, and when I wanted to leave LA and do something different, I thought about doing sports at Coach's suggestion. I called him to ask if he could call ESPN for me, and he said if I came to Duke he'd find something I could do. He's the best friend anyone could have.

What is the mission of the Center, and what is its current status?

Our mission is to build a better future for the children, youth, and families in our community by creating an environment that fosters the development of life skills that are fundamental to reaching one's highest potential. We will act as a partner in outreach with local service organizations, faith institutions, schools and universities, and corporate and individual sponsors. We want to change the cycle of the impact of poverty to a cycle of "Change the Dream, Build Fundamental Skills, Create Opportunities for Achievement"- DREAM>DO>ACHIEVE

At the beginning of November, 2004, Marleah Rogers came on board as the Director of Project Management. She is another link to Coach K-her Dad is "the Colonel", who has been with Coach since he was a cadet at West Point. Her background is amazing- she has over 20 years of business and consulting experience leading businesses facing start-up, turnaround or complex merger situations. We're currently involved in 3 areas of focus-construction, fundraising (to top off our capital campaign and start to endow our programs and operations), and development of our core programs.

What is the current opening date?

February, 2006

In what ways can a person make a contribution to the center?

One thing people can do is to visit www.dukeforlife.com . Some Fuqua Business School students have started a fundraising project involving "Duke for Life" bracelets. They're $2 each with all proceeds going to the Center. They're a huge success already. In terms of donations, there are other ways to contribute. For example, we will have a "Walkway of Dreams", an area that is in honor of David Borman, the brother of former Duke basketball and soccer player Andy Borman. You can purchase a brick for the Walkway and have it inscribed for $150, and I think it's a great thing to do to help the Center while honoring a family member or friend. Of course, any donation, large or small, would help us in making the Center a reality, and would be most greatly appreciated.

Volunteering will be a large part of what takes place at the Center-we would not be able to do all we want to do without volunteers. Once we get closer to opening, and have put our programs into place, we'll have a better idea of our needs.

People should go to www.emilyk.org to contact us or to get more information.

Is a donation to the center tax deductible?

Yes, we're a 501(C) (3), and a donation is 100% tax deductible.

What else can be donated?

If people want to donate things, they can get in touch with us. We're getting a lot of help from different sources with things like windows and doors, but everything else could be open to discussion!

In addition to individual donations, are businesses getting involved in the effort as well?

We have many businesses and corporations involved in helping us. To name a few-GlaxoSmith Kline, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, Wachovia, CCB, Bank of America, Verizon, -really too many to mention here. The business community has been very supportive, and we're going to ask them to do as much as they can to help. It's the whole community's future that's at stake here.

Will there be another 3 on 3 Bull City Shootout this spring like there was last year?

Not this year, perhaps in the future.

The Center is going to be much more than a place where kids can play sports although that will be part of it. Can you expand on all the Center will have to offer and the various age groups it targets?

Coach K and Mrs. K have made it clear that they want this to be much more than a place to play basketball. Mrs. K is particularly interested in the performance arts aspects of the Center-she's an incredibly artistic person.

Our focus will be on four core areas-education, health awareness, recreation, and the performance arts. We are developing programs in those areas right now, and we're in discussions with various partners in every area that will allow us to utilize the excellent resources we have around us to best serve the needs of our community. Many of these potential partners have locally and regionally recognized programs which have been proven to be effective.

As stated in our mission, we'll be serving children and youth in the West End and surrounding communities, including our rapidly growing immigrant population.

You spent 20 years in acting from what we understand and the Emily K Family Life Center is rumored to have a stage in it and perhaps some acting classes, will you be involved in teaching acting there at all?

I'm very excited about the stage at the Center. It's going to be a large stage with plenty of room for programs involving acting, dance, music, mime, improvisation- all disciplines that will help keep children off the streets and make productive use of their time, as well as allowing them to explore and develop their creativity and imagination. I want to be involved in different ways-I'd like to start a theater group that writes, directs, stages, and acts in their own plays.

Do you still look into potential acting opportunities on occasion?

Every once in a while I'll do something. I did two episodes of One Tree Hill this year. But I'm so busy with work and my family that I only do it if I'm asked. I don't want to have to go look for work-I left LA because I was tired of the business of acting.

Outside of your accomplishments as a part of the Duke Basketball Program on the court, what part of your career at Duke have been the most rewarding and fulfilling?

The friendships I've made with so many wonderful people.

Will you be making the videos for the banquet again this year?

No, my work here at the Center is what I'm concentrating on.

Have current and former Duke players expressed an interest in the Emily K Family Life Center and being a part of it?

Many of our former players have committed financially-as an example, players like Billy King and Danny Ferry have named offices at the Center in honor of their moms. Johnny Dawkins has been involved with coordinating the players' interest both financially and otherwise, as well as being a generous donor. It truly is a "Family Affair." Many other players have also helped financially, and our basketball "family" will be involved with clinics, lectures, and whatever else we can think of to get them in front of the children!

Turning to hoops. This year's team has been incredibly resilient. Why is that?

The coaching staff has done an unbelievable job of creating an atmosphere around the team that allows the players to understand what's needed to win. From the start of this year, our guys understood that defense and togetherness were the most important elements of this season. Some Duke teams won with individual talent-this team is a #1 seed and ACC Champions because of their collective heart. They've overcome obstacles along the way because they believed in each other, and in Coach K, who is the ultimate leader.

Looking back on your acting career, what are some of your favorite memories?

Sal Amato in Eddie and the Cruisers is my favorite part. Getting to travel all over the world, and the relationships I've made while working are my favorite memories.

How did you get started in acting?

Outside of the obvious


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