Friday, October 26, 2007

The Greatest Game?

I have previously done some writing that I am proud of at another site focused on sports, called Because Dave has stopped running his site due to his having gone to law school, I wanted to preserve the following article about Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball, by moving it here:

The Most Important ACC Game

[Dave: Dave Sez reader William Loeffler has emailed to me or posted in the Sports Shack some great thoughts on ACC history, so I asked if he'd be willing to write some ACC History pieces for Dave Sez. This is his first effort, and it's an outstanding look at the most important basketball game in ACC history. It's probably not the one you are thinking of.]

Was There ACC Basketball Before Dick Vitale?

My name is William Loeffler, and I am someone who grew up in the ACC region during its rise to glory during the 1970's, following it wherever I was living at the time. With the exception of one year in Pennsylvania, I have been fortunate enough to have always lived in ACC country, dividing my years between Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, NC; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Falls Church, Virginia and now Frederick, Maryland. I attended UNC as an undergraduate and then did some graduate work at the other Carolina, USC. Like many of you, I am a huge fan not only of my local or state team or alma mater, but even further, of the ACC, and am interested in its schools, players, coaches and history in general.

Dave has asked me to write some articles about the history of the ACC. For those of you who are as obsessed with ACC hoops as I am, I hope that maybe I can be a resource to show just why ACC basketball is the best and why it has been for at least 30 years. Any readers out there, we ask that you submit questions or potential articles that interest you, either to Dave, at, or to me, at [Dave: or even better, post something in the Sports Shack and get a thread started]

Although many people would have loved to be at Carolina when I was there, from 1983-1987, during the period of Jordan, Perkins, Kenny Smith and Brad Daugherty, and two perfect 14-0 seasons in conference, I think that the ACC was far more exciting ten or fifteen years earlier, when Cameron was not much different from any of the other schools' gyms and the league only had 7 or 8 teams, with the Big Four teams in North Carolina often playing each other 3 or 4 times per year.

Because UCLA was so strong through 1975 and then Carolina and Coach K and Duke have been so strong since the early 1980's, I believe that a lot of younger ACC fans and students don't know a lot about the period between 1961 and 1981, except maybe a little about David Thompson and the Wolfpack.

Bill Foster's Duke teams in the mid to late 70's, and Frank McGuire's Gamecocks and Dean Smith's and Lefty's teams of the early 1970's were all sensational in their own ways, and many of their players have gone on to great success in the fields of law, politics, television, coaching and team administration. UVA's teams of the early 80's were certainly among the strongest teams never to win an NCAA title. All of these teams deserve to be remembered more than they currently are, I believe and maybe we can help provide some prospective and give some accolades that continue to be due them.

For this article, I will try to sketch out some of the events regarding the one major game that I believe took ACC and college basketball to the level where it is now, after languishing far behind college football and the NBA for years:

NC State versus UCLA, NCAA Semi-Finals, Greensboro, March 23rd, 1974.

In 1954, the ACC started play in basketball, forming from some of the mid-Atlantic remnants of the old Southern Conference. While it didn't take the league long to win its first national title in 1957, it would take 17 years before another ACC club would win it all.

The 1957 Tar Heels went 32-0, winning the championship and setting a record for most wins without a loss that still stands, having only been equaled by the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. As good as the 'Heels were that year, it took an enormous amount of good fortune for them to win it all, starting with a 2-point victory in the ACC Semi-Finals over Wake Forest and their then winning a pair of triple overtime games in the Final Four, finally triumphing over Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas by a score of 54-53. Dean Smith, who was a former Kansas player and Air Force assistant coach, would meet Frank McGuire at that Final Four, while rooting for the Jayhawks, but that is another story.

Nevertheless, in spite of their amazing success, the 1957 Tar Heels were somewhat of a fluke, not in terms of their abilities, but in terms of the ACC's. UNC's success was based more upon Frank McGuire's NYC connections, which he later employed with equal success in Columbia, SC, than were they necessarily indicative of the ACC's overall basketball prowess at the time. Between 1957 and 1974, no ACC team seriously came close to winning the NCAA tournament.

The conference simply didn't have members that were quite good enough during the years between 1957 and 1963, but for the 12 years after that, there was one major reason: UCLA. Between 1964 and 1974, only one other team made it to the hallowed grounds: Texas Western, and they made a movie about them. Everyone else was beaten back by UCLA, the so-called “Wizards of Westwood.”

Only Duke and UNC even made it to the NCAA finals during this 17 year period and both lost handily. Duke made it to the finals in 1964 and got throttled by UCLA, 78-63, followed by UNC in 1968, which lost to UCLA by a then-NCAA record 78-55.

Dean Smith had his team slow down the action in the first half, knowing that his team could not compete with what many considered the greatest team of all time, and UNC managed to “only” trail by ten at the half. Dean was a little more democratic in his younger days as a coach, and after conferring during the intermission with his players, who wanted to play UCLA straight up, Smith relented, and his team went on to lose by the largest margin in NCAA Finals history, a record that was later broken in 1990 NCAA finals by another ACC team.

I would mark the start of the modern college basketball period with two key events: Lew Alcindor going to UCLA, and then David Thompson and the N.C. State Wolfpack ending the UCLA dynasty in a 80-77 double-overtime game for the ages in 1974. After this point, it was clear just how good NC State was, and how strong the ACC had become as a league. College basketball's crown was now wide open for winning again and both the ACC and the sport of college basketball took off at the same time as the NBA declined and moved into its mid-70's era of mediocre champions and basketball.

For context, State's monumental achievement occurred just weeks after UNC's 8-point comeback in 17 seconds against Duke in Chapel Hill, and which, because it involved Duke, many of you may hear about more now than State's victory over UCLA. I was 9 years old at the time and along with the ACC tournament that year, those were the first ACC games that I really remember watching. It wasn't a bad couple of games to start with.

Let's look at UCLA and see how the Bruins lifted the college sport, helping to set up this titanic game that became the battle that set the stage for where the college game and the ACC conference are now.

Starting in 1967, New York native, Lew Alcindor, later to become Kareem Abdul Jabbar, reigned over college basketball in a way that not even Bill Russell had, leading UCLA to 3 championships in three years. Alcindor's record was 88-2 in three years (freshman could not compete at that time), but beyond that, UCLA's nationally televised match-up with Houston, led by future Hall of Famer, Elvin Hayes, in the Houston Astrodome in 1968, took college basketball from being a minor sport and put it on the front pages. Although UCLA lost narrowly with Alcindor suffering from blurred vision, this only set up the 1968 Final Four, making it bigger than ever. The Big A got revenge over the Big E, as UCLA stormed past Houston, 101-69, in the Semi-Finals, en route to winning the second of Alcindor's three titles.

The Bruins also were the coolest thing going. Unlike many ACC teams before the mid-70's, they featured multiple black stars. Jabbar and Walton were probably two of the hippest players anyone had ever seen, with Jabbar being a well-read jazz aficionado and Walton a 6 feet 10 inch Bob Dylan-resembling, self-proclaimed “Dead Head.” Both were thought to smoke, gasp, marijuana. The Bruins had sensational looking uniforms, especially their road ones, and played an exciting, fast-paced brand of basketball, pressing and fast-breaking, and refusing to stall, even when doing so might have guaranteed wins against Maryland, Notre Dame and NC State during the 1974 season. They were fearless.

Sports Illustrated made sure we all knew just how great the “Walton Gang” Bruins were, featuring Alcindor, Walton and UCLA on the cover, time after time, referring to Walton's version as basketball's “Slaughterhouse Five.”

By the time 1973 had rolled around, making it 16 years without a national title for the ACC, UCLA had won 9 titles in 10 years, with the last seven coming in a row. UCLA was so good that its back-up center Swen Nater, who hardly ever played for the Bruins, was a number one draft pick and then Rookie of the Year in the ABA, later going on to a highly successful career in the NBA. UCLA arguably had the two greatest college centers of all time and possibly the two greatest NBA centers of all time, in terms of peak performance, in Alcindor and Walton.

I don't think I have to say anything more about Jabbar.

Walton may be underestimated by some who never saw him play, because his career in the NBA was continually hampered by injuries, and only once could he play in more than 67 games in a season. But if you want to know how good he was coming out of college, think of Steve Nash if he were a center. Like Bill Russell, Walton was unselfish and did not care about scoring and also played on several great teams at Portland and later at Boston.

Walton's Trailblazers won the NBA crown in his third year, as he led the NBA in rebounding, blocked shots, was third in player efficiency and second in his defense rating to UNC's Bobby Jones, and he won the 1977 Finals MVP. He followed this by the winning the league MVP in 1978, when he also joined David Thompson and Julius Erving on the First Team All-NBA team. So, if anyone doesn't remember Walton and you wonder why he talks so much on television, part of it is because has that right because he truly was an all time great, who unlike Charles Barkley, was also a winner.

In winning its ninth title in 1973, UCLA beat Memphis State, 87-66, and Walton had a night that not even Christian Laettner could top: 44 points, on 21-22 shooting from the floor and 13 rebounds. Walton's teams at UCLA slightly lagged Alcindor's, as Walton ended up with only two titles and 88-4 overall.

UCLA's dominance was so complete, that to a large extent, it is difficult to compare coaches like Vic Bubas, Lefty Driesell and Dean Smith from that era with current coaches like Coach K and Roy Williams, because if the yardstick is winning the national title, or multiple national titles, there were almost no coaches floating around in the 1970's who had ever won even one. Adolph Rupp had retired, Frank McGuire was nearing the end of his coaching days and the coaches from other former titleholders in the 1950's and 1960's like LaSalle, California, Ohio State, Loyola, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Texas Western and Kansas, had all either retired, moved on, or their schools were no longer emphasizing basketball.

With the exception of John Wooden, by my count, there are only five coaches in the last 50 years who have won more than one NCAA tournament championship: Jim Calhoun, Denny Crum, Bobby Knight, K, and Smith.

As great as Wooden was, it should also been remembered that he basically hit the recruiting lottery twice by getting Alcindor and then Walton.

Neither Duke nor UNC nor Maryland with all their great recruiting and NBA stars has had a conventional center even close to those two in terms of ability. Mike Gminski and Cherokee Parks? Please. Brad Daugherty and Eric Montross? Nope. Not even close. Tom McMillen and Len Elmore? Closer, but not quite, although excellent players, all. Ralph Sampson? Perhaps, but still not quite. Of course, nowadays, most of the centers are more in the Elton Brand and Scott May mold, which looks more like a power forward compared to the old days where centers shot hook shots.

Give Wooden credit for getting Walton, though. He was obviously both an excellent recruiter and judge of talent, as well as tactician, and brought Walton to UCLA while Dean Smith and Lefty Driesell were ferociously competing to land Tom McMillen, who switched schools from UNC to Maryland at the last minute without Dean Smith's knowledge. By getting McMillen, Lefty and the Maryland Terps, rather than the Tar Heels, became the foil for NC State. The Heels would not be back at top strength in the league until 1976, although somehow Dean continued his decade-long streak of finishing either first or second in the conference regular season, a streak that would go on until 1985. In my opinion, the 1974 Terps were better than the 2002 Terps and were one of the top ten ACC teams of all time.

Lefty Driesell was a Duke graduate, who had come to Maryland after making tiny Davidson College a top-ten NCAA power and garnered a reputation as a power recruiter as he sought to make Maryland the “UCLA of the East,” taking them in a couple of short years from perennial also-ran status to perennial top-ten power in the mid to late 1970's. Driesell's teams also rated highly on the fun-to-watch scale, as Lefty was a funny guy who had a bad temper on the sidelines (although not whiny), and had a reputation for liking to let his guys play, often using fast offenses with three guards running the plays.

Stealing Tom McMillen away from Dean was Lefty's greatest triumph, although, unfortunately, it was mostly a long gradual glide downhill for Lefty in the conference after this period in the early to middle part of the decade, marked by the accidental deaths of several of his players. Nevertheless, the 1973, 1974, and 1975 regular seasons in the ACC were significant in that it was one of the few intervals in conference history where both UNC and Duke were down, with NC State and Maryland being the dominant teams and winning all three regular season crowns and two of the three conference tournaments.

Tom McMillen was supposed to be as good as or better than Walton, but ended up being merely excellent, if not a superstar, making first team All-ACC twice and the second team once, also playing center in the Olympics in 1972, and then in the NBA, and finally ending up in Congress with Bill Bradley.

Lefty's 1974 Terps were focused around a core of three players who would all go on to have some success in the NBA: John Lucas, at guard and then the two towers, Tom McMillen and Len Elmore, both of whom basically averaged a double double during their three years at Maryland. Of course, Elmore is now known for broadcasting ACC basketball and does it well, and Lucas was an excellent NBA player and tennis player before becoming a successful coach.

Lefty subsequently almost pulled off a recruiting coup similar to Wooden's, by signing Moses Malone when McMillen and Len Elmore were rising seniors. At the very last minute, Malone decided to turn pro and became one of the few early successful players to go straight to the NBA from high school. I seem to recall Maryland being ranked number one that year by Street and Smith, because the magazine had come out too early, assuming that Moses was going to be in College Park instead of in Utah.

Lefty's team ended up being sensational that year anyway, winning the conference regular season crown with a 10-2 record before losing to David Thompson and NC State in the 1975 ACC Semi's, and ultimately losing to what was probably the second best team in the country that year, Louisville, in the Great Eight. It was the first year that teams besides the ACC tournament winner were eligible to be selected by the NCAA, and Maryland became the first ACC team to receive the conference's second bid when the tourney chose the Terrapins over the Wolfpack, joining automatic bid-winner UNC in the 1975 NCAA tournament.

After seeing the ACC recruiting coups in bringing in David Thompson and Tom McMillen and noting Maryland and State's success in 1973, Sports Illustrated realized that true competitiveness was in the air in college basketball for the first time in years.

The magazine highlighted this new state of basketball competitiveness, by putting UCLA's mascot on the cover of its glossy 1974 basketball preview issue, showing what appeared to be an uncertain Bruin cornered on one side by an angry Wolf, and on the other by a hopeful-looking Turtle. No Blue Devils or Rams were anywhere in sight, as Sports Illustrated had pegged the year quite accurately.

Like UCLA, NC State had been undefeated in 1973, but had been placed on probation for recruiting violations, and so did not get a shot at UCLA that year. Maryland, which had finished third in the ACC regular season got the sole automatic bid for finishing second in the conference tournament to NC State, and like UCLA and State, had most of its key players back.

In those days, almost all college basketball television coverage was regional, but as college basketball was getting bigger, in the 1973-1974 season several exciting nationally-televised match-ups were slated between UCLA and the other consensus top 4 teams in the country, which were NC State, Maryland and Notre Dame.

UCLA won three out of four of these contests. UCLA edged Maryland 65-64 in Los Angeles in early December, although Maryland scored the last six points in the game and had the ball and a chance to win; the Bruins beat NC State handily on December 15th , 1973, on a neutral court in St. Louis, 84-66; and then split with Notre Dame in a home and away series. Notre Dame ended the Bruins 88-game winning streak on January 19, 1974, by beating UCLA 71-70 after scoring the last 12 points in the final three minutes and thirty seconds in that game, shocking the nation. UCLA, then rebounded to beat Notre Dame the next week in Los Angeles by 19 points.

Now that the 88-game winning streak was over, UCLA relaxed, almost a bit too much, and lost two conference games to Oregon and Oregon State, dropping to second in the polls, and then had to beat USC in its last conference game just to earn the right to go to the NCAA tournament. The Bruins served notice that they were back in form by crushing USC, which had gone into the game tied with UCLA for first place.

1974 was clearly a seminal season for the ACC. With the possible exception of 2005, it is difficult to remember another ACC season that had 3 teams that were as good as NC State, Maryland and UNC were that year, with all three finishing in the top ten, with State at number one, Maryland at number four and Carolina at eight in the AP Poll.

UNC and Maryland ended up tied for second at 9-3, behind State, which went 12-0 for the second season in a row. Carolina split with Maryland, while losing to State three times. Carolina lost its first two games against State by a total of four points, but State won handily in the third match-up. Carolina would end up losing 9 times in a row to State. During this period of NC State dominance, few at Carolina felt much assuaged by eeking past Duke in both conference games that season.

State beat Maryland more easily than it had Carolina during the regular season, but Maryland was improving as the season went on, culminating in an annihilation of the Tar Heels in the ACC tournament semi's, 105-85, in a game that was a blow-out from the beginning.

Maryland had really perfected their break and were playing fast-paced and thrilling basketball. Although State was the favorite, Maryland had the momentum, and raced out to a 12-point lead, which was narrowed to a 55-50 lead at halftime. Even without the three-pointer and the shot clock, this was one of the highest-scoring tournament games in ACC history. The teams kept slugging it out, with Maryland shooting 62% from the floor and clearly the hunter, and NC State, which had beaten the Terps five times in row, desperately trying to even up the game. State finally knotted the score in the last five minutes, but Maryland had the ball and a chance to win at the end of regulation but was unable to score, putting the game into overtime.

Maryland again went out in front in overtime, but exhaustion began to set in, as neither team had played more than seven players. Maryland had four players who had played every single minute of the game and the overtime. A missed front-end of a one and one and a turnover by John Lucas finally gave NC State the edge, as they survived 103-100.

The next couple of weeks were anti-climatic, as NC State easily advanced to the Final Four, which was in Greensboro that year. There was a scare though in the Regional Finals when Thompson fell and hit his head against Pittsburgh. Thompson only played ten minutes, but the team rolled to a 100-72 win anyway, and David turned out not to be seriously injured. UCLA struggled a little more, having to win one of their games in overtime, but the semi-final was set. Number one NC State against 9-time defending champ and Number two UCLA.

Even though I was already a Tar Heel fan by this time, I couldn't help but be absorbed by that NC State team, which was composed of a popular core of guys who mostly hailed from North Carolina and coach Norm Sloan's Indiana. State's team really seemed to enjoy playing together and featured the following: Monte Towe, Moe Howard, Phil Spence, Tim Stoddard, who went on to play in the majors for Baltimore, and the team's big stars, Tommy Burleson and David Thompson.

The Wolfpack also seemed a little less regimented and less stiff than the Tar Heels and had almost a carnival aspect to them that was appealing to a kid growing up in the region. Not only were they great, they were fun to boot.

They had both one of the shortest and one of the tallest players ever to star in the conference. Monte Towe was a sharpshooting ballhandler, listed as 5'7”, but thought to be closer to 5'5” and was known for shooting his usually perfect free throws without hesitation, within one half of a second of the referee handing him the ball; Burleson, the All ACC center, was the tallest player to star in the ACC, along with Ralph Sampson, and was listed at 7'4”. And then there was David. David Thompson could jump higher than anyone had ever seen. Although slightly smaller than Michael Jordan, he played even bigger and was almost certainly one of the top five players ever to play college ball.

Marquette and Kansas played in the first Semi-final game, or in what Kansas coach Ted Owens referred to as the preliminary, with Marquette winning 64-51. Al McGuire was so outspoken as to make it known to the media that he thought that his squad had little chance against either UCLA or NC State in the finals.

I won't give a blow by blow of the thrilling NC State victory by a score of 80-77 in the second Semi-final, as that can be found elsewhere. My hope is that at some point the game will turn up on ESPN Classic, as has the regulation part (but for some reason, not the overtime) of the 1974 State-Maryland tourney title game. If you do get a chance to watch either of these games, notice how much more the players used the backboard then to bank in shots that are usually shot straight on by today's players.

The UCLA game was obviously a big deal in North Carolina. Even though NC State was not as popular in Charlotte where I lived, as UNC, it seemed to me as though most people were rooting for State anyway, as they would do once again in 1983, unlike the situation in the years to come with Duke. I even remember earlier in the year at school, one of our spelling and vocabulary words was the word “undefeated,” in honor of the 1973 Pack.

I was still too young and antsy to sit there during the entire game which was on a Saturday afternoon, so I would get up periodically to go out and shoot baskets in my backyard, which was a gathering place for many of the kids in the neighborhood, who would often shoot there. I remember one of the older boys doing a Pistol Pete Maravich impression, but I only vaguely knew who that was.

I had gone out after halftime, with the game tied at 35 apiece after a back and forth first half, but when I came back in after shooting a few hoops, I was shocked to see NC State was now losing by 11 points with about ten minutes to play. Halftime goes by fast when you are a little kid. Eleven points was a lot to make up in those days, but to their credit, UCLA refused to slow the ball down and NC State began to rally, scoring ten straight points, and then finally took the lead, 63-61, before UCLA came back to tie at 65. Both teams had an opportunity to go ahead, but they traded misses. Overtime.

State went ahead by two, but after the Bruins tied it up, nothing much happened, as State held the ball for most of the period and the teams went into a second overtime.

At this point, UCLA roared out to a 7-point lead and the Wolfpack appeared doomed, since there was no 3-point shot or shot clock, but UCLA uncharacteristically began turning the ball over and State converted its chances before a thrilled crowd in Greensboro, and victory was the Wolfpack's, 80-77. I remember my parents being really excited and neither of them had even gone to an ACC school. State's subsequent 76-64 victory in the Finals over Marquette was humdrum and I barely watched it. I knew an anti-climax when I saw it.

This was back in the era before we had electronic bulletin boards, much less the Internet, and cable news and USA Today and ESPN were still several years away.

We waited all week for Sports Illustrated to arrive at our house and I will never forget the April 1st , 1974 issue. One of the great sports photos of all time adorned the cover, David Thompson and Bill Walton, by far the two greatest college stars of the 1970's soaring and battling almost perfectly vertical in the sky: with the caption stating above their raised hands, as if decreed from on high:

End of An Era: NC State Stops UCLA.

To this day, that cover gives me goose bumps and I don't even like NC State, but I love the ACC and Sports Illustrated's cover conveys just how monumental that game was.

Not only was NC State the national champion, but the ACC also was back on top for the first time in 17 years and the goal of winning the NCAA basketball championship was finally a realistic one for basketball-crazy college programs all over the country. Although Wooden would eek out one last championship the following year, his team was not a dominant one that season and mostly earned its victory due to the broken arm of number one Indiana's Scott May, whose son would one day go on to be a pretty good player as well.

The college game was now wide open to all contestants and only Indiana in 1976 would ever go undefeated again. Duke in 1992 would be the only team able to repeat during the next 30 years.

Only two ACC teams can match that 1974 NC State team, the 1982 Tar Heels and (I grudgingly admit) the 1992 Blue Devils. Nevertheless, the 1974 Wolfpack had an intangible quality that no other ACC team has ever had. They were good, 57-1 over two years; they were clutch; they were likable; they were fun to watch; and they finally proved to the rest of America what those of us in the ACC region already knew. ACC hoops was tops, and 1974 was only the beginning of great things to come.

(1) by Jerry (unregistered) on 02/12/2007 12:19 pm
Fantastic writing, William!

(2) by Dave on 02/12/2007 03:16 pm
As I alluded to in my intro, the game that most folks would say was the ACC's most important would be that 1974 ACC Final between State and Maryland. That's the game that many people call the greatest college basketball game of all time. But think about it, would folks say that if State hadn't gone on to win an NCAA title? If they hadn't, UCLA would have continued their dominance and that would have been the story.

One of the justifications for calling that State-Maryland game the greatest ever is the claim that they were the two best teams in the country. It's generally assumed now that whoever won that game would have gone on to a national title. That claim would have had no merit if State had been beaten by UCLA. A loss to UCLA would not have been considered an upset, the Bruins would have been declared the better team, meaning Maryland was at best the third best team in the country.

(3) by Lee J. Cockrell (unregistered) on 02/12/2007 04:15 pm
Great article. I'm a little young to remember any of that, as we moved to Virginia when I was four in 1976. (We didn't have a TV, or electricity for a while after that, either.) Nice to have someone put it all into context.

(4) by william (unregistered) on 02/12/2007 04:19 pm
Maryland ended 23-5 that year, losing to State three times, UCLA once in Los Angeles, and once to UNC.

And when I say that UNC was down in 1974, that is in relative terms. Except for their loss in the NIT,where the Heels look uninterested in playing, North Carolina went 22-6 and only lost to State and Maryland that year, and beat Duke and Wake three times each. They also easily beat Kentucky and Georgia Tech, Florida State and Virginia Tech, who would be future rivals in the league. Carolina also ended up being the team that had the ACC player who had the most long-term success in the NBA, with All-American Bobby Jones going on to a great career in Philadelphia.

(5) by rdubose (unregistered) on 02/13/2007 06:06 am
Great post. I also grew up during this era and most of my own perceptions and subjective judgments of this time mirror yours. The only correction I would offer is that the NC State two guard who started alongside Monte Towe was Morris Rivers, not Moe Howard, who was part of Lefty's three guard line-up at Maryland during the same period (along with Lucas and Brad Davis). Moe, of course, also enjoyed fame as one of the "Three Stooges." (or maybe that was a different Moe Howard).

(6) by william (unregistered) on 02/13/2007 02:35 pm
You are right, rdubose. I think that both Moe's were underappreciated.

I pulled out some of my old ACC Handbooks and tournament programs and I noticed a few other things I found interesting.

Carolina in 1974 had a Mitch Kupchak, All-American Bobby Jones and future NBA star Walter Davis, so looking back, it seems that Carolina should have been better than they were, in the same way that it seems hard to believe now that Carolina beat Michigan in 1993, based upon the NBA success of the players involved in the 1993 title game.

The ACC tourney guides had pictures of almost all the players in the ACC. I have the guides from 71-72, 72-73 and 74-75, which were the years that my father was able to get tickets. It is interesting to compare the guides of the early seventies, and note the rate of integration.

In 1973, UNC had 14 players and only 3 of them were African-American. Duke had 14 players and only 1 African-American. Clemson had 14 players and 1 African-American. NC State had 14 players and 1 African-American, David Thompson. Virginia had 14 players and 1 African-American. Wake Forest had 14 players overall and 5 African-Americans.

Maryland, which was the first ACC team to be integrated, and Lefty deserve the honors, for having 14 players and 8 African-Americans on their team during the 1972-73 season.

(7) by tongass kid (unregistered) on 02/14/2007 12:30 am
I was a senior at College Park Maryland in 1974 and very much enjoyed 4 years of basketball in Cole Field House. I belive 1974 was an important year for officating. Starting in 1975 the ACC clearly began an attempt to clean-up the officating. The Maryland/State games brought national atttention to the ACC and to overt officating problems.

Carolina Basketball

Basketball season is arriving and I will probably begin to write disproportionately about my favorite team, the Tar Heels.

I recently go a nice email about some basketball writing that I had done at another site, and the writer sent me some interesting YouTube links:

William -

What a fantastic write-up you did on some historical perspective of ACC hoops, in the DaveSez site from Feb of this year. I was a teenager those years, entering UNC as a freshman in fall 1975, so i followed all of the action that decade intensely.

Seeing that, and your passion for some of the history, i thought you might enjoy a couple of clips i have put on youtube:

footage of 1961 UNC-dook fight (Larry Brown and Art Heyman):

video of last 5 minutes of 1975 ACC Tourney Final, UNC vs NC State:

video of postgame celebration of that ACC Final:


- Hayes Holderness, UNC '79

These are excellent clips for Carolina fans and I thoroughly recommend them.

This might only be of interest to fanatics like me, but I wanted to share my observations and response to Hayes' email:

Dear Mr. Holderness

I appreciate the feedback and the links. Apparently, DaveSez is defunct, so I may try to move some of the writing to my blog. I can also post these links there if you want to share them with others.

I am watching the 1975 ACC tournament final now. One thing that I try to impress upon people about UNC and ACC history is that often the conventional wisdom is wrong.

I like to ask people about 1977 and most say that Marquette beat UNC handily in that game and that UNC was not in contention to win at the end, when in reality they are remembering the 8-point final difference due to intentional fouling and forgetting that Carolina had the ball and a chance to tie the game with less than 2 minutes remaining.

The conventional wisdom about this Carolina-State game is that the incredible ability of UNC in the Ford Corners made this upset possible, but I have seen in this short clip a variety of turnovers and bad shots and missed free throws by the 'Heels down the stretch. Play on both sides looks kind of ragged.

Except for the lighting, the clip looks great. I wonder if it is a film transfer or from an early Betamax. This tournament has a special importance to me as it was the first one that I followed from start to finish, although I don't believe that the Wake OT thriller was on television as I remember listening to it on the radio when Brad Hoffman made a name for himself at the buzzer of regulation, leading to Carolina's 101-100 victory.(No shot clock or 3-pointers either!)

I love it when Dean says that "he is extremely pleased" with the win, with his characteristic, perhaps excessive, politeness. He was quite gracious in accepting the bid to the NCAA tournament after the game. I had forgotten they used to do that.

What a crushing defeat for the Wolfback, maybe the worst in their history since it prevented them from defending their NCAA title.

About the fight clip, I find it interesting how little a deal it was in the context of the period. If something like that happened today, there would be felony charges and suspensions and the coaches would be fired. I know two or three guys got suspended here but it wasn't considered all that serious.

Even as late as 1970, South Carolina and Maryland got into a huge basket-brawl and there were no charges or suspensions as I recall. Two USC players were actually into it with Lefty as can be seen on the DaveSez site article about the Mcguire Gamecocks. McGuire loved to scrap and so did his teams. He is still an inspiration to me and I believe he deserves far more credit from UNC fans.

I would love to see a replay of the 1971 ACC title game. Talk about bad blood. It was even worse than against Duke in the late 80's. After the game, John Roche stormed across the court and yelled "F-you, we beat you" to Dean Smith.

You caught a great period of UNC basketball, between 1975 and 1980, which was the consolidation of the program into one of the four or five periennal powers in America. Until the 1975 tournament title, people were writing off Carolina and Smith, and had Driesell and Sloan in the forefront, but in many ways the 1977 tournament title and NCAA run was more significant.

Getting revenge on Virginia, in a tournament title game full of bad blood and then winning with a rag-tag group of subs and the walking wounded was amazing, given all the serious injuries Carolina had that year to their three best players, Laguarde, Ford and Davis.

Carolina then almost did the unthinkable and almost won it all. Who can ever forget the Purdue and Kentucky and UNLV games. That was still probably Smith's greatest coaching job and one of the greatest seasons ever for Carolina.

Nobody remembers anymore that UVa was arguably Carolina's biggest rival between 1976 and 1984, with the Cavs ruining Carolina's 1976 season and the 'Heels and Al Wood torching UVa in the Final Four in 1981. The only team to beat Carolina's starting five in 1982? Virginia, of course, and they ran roughshod over us in Charlottesville. (Wake also beat us but Sam Perkins did not play that game). Who made it to the Final Four in 1984 during Jordan's last year when Carolina seemed a shoo-in? A mediocre UVa team, of couse, that came within a hair of the title game.

It is funny, because I got to Carolina in 83-84, one year removed from our winning the title and it was definitely anti-climactic. We had finally won one in our lifetime, and we were so amazingly good all four years that people did not have as much interest, I believe, as they did previously and do now. We sort of took it for granted. People would have tickets for games in Carmichael or the Smith Center and would watch on television instead. Of course, we knew that Carolina almost always would win anyway as they had few rivals during this period and yet in spite of having the best four year win totals in school history, and going unbeaten in the conference twice, Carolina won neither an ACC tournament nor an NCAA title.

Greatness always needs a foil and during my time at UNC we did not have one. State and Duke were pretty good and Georgia Tech was rising but all were still a step behind and UVa was fading. It may be a paradox but Smith and Carolina needed the rise of Duke to make their game all it could be and to restore lagging interest.