The Man Behind Duke Blue Planet

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He’s been to China, Dubai, Hawaii, and everywhere else Duke has been since 2004 but there is a good chance you don’t know who he is.

“Every year its own, every season its own animal. There’s new people, new storylines, new trip. We’re going to New York this year, we went to the Bahamas last year, you know, there’s always something new there.”

Dave Bradley is the man behind Duke Blue Planet, the ultimate online Duke basketball experience.  DukeBluePlanet.com takes you behind the game and into the lives of the players, into practices, into the locker rooms and allows the fans to get to know the players when they aren’t donning their jerseys.

“Quin Snyder started it actually,” Bradley told me, “as a newsletter that went out four times a year. It was something they put together mostly to send out to recruits. I took it over as a student, it was something they asked me to do so I kind of caught a break.”

“They put out an ad in the school newspaper looking for people who knew Photoshop and Pagemaker.  I didn’t know anyone in the program, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I’d done Photoshop a little bit but they gave me a chance and I worked hard at it.”

A lucky break if there ever was one, Bradley has since transformed the newsletter into an all-encompassing media outlet that gives unprecedented access to a collegiate team.  But with few, if any, other teams doing this, why evolve so aggressively?

“We had the magazine and made it a little bit better, tried to grow it, took it to full color and after that, it was the 07 season and we lost to VCU.”

Duke fans would be lucky to forget Eric Maynor’s dagger in the first round of the NCAA tournament that put the 2007 team out of its misery.  It was the nadir of a Duke era that saw more criticism than ever.

“There was a lot of negativity out there, there’s always the haters but that year was really bad.  So Coach K had everyone in a room that was on the staff.  There was more of an intensity to it.  After the 07 season, and after Lehigh, you saw a different Coach K like things were going to change, there was no question.  So one of the things he said was ‘We do this Blue Planet really well, how can we get our story out there to more people?’  That was sort of the genesis of it.”

Since then, the Duke brand has tried to evolve and represent more than what the stereotypes and the haters would have you think.

“I think Duke has an image I’ve tried to help with Duke Blue Planet but Duke has this image of being really serious, really intimidating, you see Coach K on TV and he looks really intense.  That’s the biggest negative recruiting against us; that class is just so strenuous, you’re not going to have as much fun here, and that’s not really the case.  We do have fun, we win, and you try to show that personality.  We’re not some corporate machine, there are great personalities here, great kids, and you want people to see that.”

Of course, who would know the pulse of the fanbase better than someone who has experienced all the highs and lows of Duke basketball as one of us?

“One of the best parts of the job is, growing up a huge Duke fan and tenting in Kville, I want to reach those people.  I get excited about the same things. I’m a fan just the same.  When you go on social media and you see people are excited about it, that makes me want to go out and do more videos, see what people think, and hear more great ideas; all that is just great.”

Now, the rare quality of Bradley’s job is that he is given the freedom and creative control to bring that Duke brand to the fans and gauge their thoughts.  However, he did point out that cultivating the brand isn’t the best part of the job.

“People always think, you work for Duke basketball, like that’s the sexy job, but the best thing about it is the type of people.  Obviously Coach K attracts great people to the program, so working for him is cool and actually getting to know him and you get to know the players, it’s a family.”