Daddy and the 1982 National Championship

It was the first UNC game I had memory of and even that is but a fragment.  While I have seen it replayed a thousand times, in my mind’s eye I only see the pass from Fred Brown to James Worthy followed by Worthy attempting to dribble to clock away until he was fouled with 2 seconds left.  And that is all I have.  I am assuming that is all my seven year old brain decided to retain at the time.  Of course I also remember my father who, for some inexplicable reason, is always intertwined with how I view each of the Tar Heel titles which has transpired in my lifetime.

In 1982 when Worthy took the gift from Brown and raced up court I can remember my father yelling, “Run out the clock! Run out the clock!” His thought process was the same as Worthy: Kill the clock.  We were all jumping up and down in the living room and while I was probably still too young to grasp what it all meant, it was a distinct moment that has stayed with me.  Of course my father pontificated that Georgetown had been so accustomed to playing as the #1 seed that being in road uniforms for the first time during the tournament and UNC in white must have confused Brown in that split second Worthy flashed out of position on the play and he tossed it to the white jerseyed forward thinking it was a teammate.  I am not sure how much that was true but that was what we did when we watched UNC play, analyzed and speculated as to what might have caused something to happen.

In 1993, my senior year of high school, we watched UNC win another title.  Sitting the floor in front of a console TV we rode the wild roller coaster of that game from the point the Heels fell behind early to the rally to take a five point lead in the final minute.  He was always the cautious optimist in watching a game.  When Webber called the ill fated timeout for Michigan I immediately jumped up knowing on the spot that it meant the Wolverines would be assessed a technical foul.  Daddy was having none of that and wanted confirmation that was the case.  In fact he even turned Woody Durham down and turned up the CBS broadcast audio to make sure it was what we thought it was.  It was the last season we watched in full since I left for college the following August and it was the last game we really enjoyed watching together.

By the time 2005 came, I was actually at my parent’s house with UNC-Michigan State on the TV but Daddy was not there.  He had died a few hours earlier in a tragic accident and that Monday night I watched UNC clinch the title against Illinois with a heavy heart and a longing to have him on the phone in those final minutes as Raymond Felton missed one of two free throws followed by the Illinois miss and Felton salting the game away with 9 seconds left.  He was gone and all that was left were memories, the previous UNC title games among them.

And I also remember Daddy having one of those dust collector items on his desk.  It was a wood basketball goal with a rubber hoop and a interlocking NC on the back board.  I remember he wrote on the back of the following words:



MARCH 29TH, 1982

To this day I can remember his handwriting on the back of that little wooden goal and every time I looked at it during the intervening years it reminded me of that night when Worthy took the ball up court with the national title hopes of Tar Heel Nation in his hands and all of the other Tar Heel wins and losses we celebrated and suffered from that day forward.  And with every game since he died I wonder what he would have thought and how he would have reacted to beating Duke two straight times in Cameron or losing to NC State in a huge upset.

I do know it would have been fun to talk to him about it.

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3 Responses to Daddy and the 1982 National Championship

  1. Displaced Heel says:

    Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Stuart Crampton says:

    Thanks for sharing that – very powerful.

    You probably already saw this, but to commemorate the recent 25th and 50th anniversaries of the 1957 and 1982 title wins, the N & O published the following three articles (still on line, along with other retro articles on those wins)…

    UNC’s first NCAA title put ACC on map
    By A.J. Carr, Staff Writer (News and Observer)
    Published: Feb 10, 2007

    North Carolina trailed Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas 53-52. Six seconds left. Third overtime. The 1957 national basketball championship on the line. Carolina’s Joe Quigg stepped to the foul line after assistant coach Buck Freeman had reminded him: “Just get up on your toes. You just want to get a little rhythm.”
    “For some reason, I felt real confident,” recalled Quigg, a 72 percent free-throw shooter.
    The 6-foot-9 center swished both foul shots. Carolina won 54-53, one night after a triple-overtime conquest of Michigan State, completed a 32-0 season and created euphoria from Manteo to Murphy.
    Thousands watched the championship game on television, the first commercially produced telecast in the area by C.D. Chesley, a Washington, D.C., area businessman. Before that, WUNC-TV in Chapel Hill offered games via “Broadvision,” whereby fans got the picture — sometimes snowy — on the TV screen while listening on radio to the gravley voice of legendary announcer Ray Reeve.
    Today, when the Tar Heels play Wake Forest at 1:30 p.m., members of that 1957 team led by All-America Lennie Rosenbluth will join UNC’s ’82 national champs for a reunion at the Smith Center.
    While both teams reached the pinnacle, the magic of ’57, still reverberating after 50 years, changed the state’s basketball climate and skyrocketed the ACC’s national reputation.
    New York flavor
    Those Tar Heels — coached by dapper New Yorker Frank McGuire and featuring five starters from the New York area — did more than conquer the 7-foot-1 Chamberlain and became the ACC’s first NCAA basketball champions. They also spawned an unparalleled surge in regional television exposure.
    After showing the ’57 final, Chesley launched the ACC Game of the Week on Saturday afternoons the following season and later expanded telecasts throughout the week.
    “He realized ACC basketball could be something special as a business,” former ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan said. “Our conference had TV when no other conferences did. The money the ACC got for its regional package was more than anybody else [later] got for a national package. That [championship] was a huge thing for this part of the world.”
    Credit Everett Case with an assist. He arrived at N.C. State in the 1940s and built a powerhouse program with Indiana talent. Carolina responded by hiring McGuire, who had led St. John’s to the national championship game in ’52.
    McGuire’s connections in New York brought blue chippers to Carolina. The success of that ’57 team inspired other coaches to intensify recruiting and it cast a brighter spotlight on the NCAA Tournament.
    Jack Murdock, a Wake Forest All-America whose Deacons lost to Carolina 61-59 in the ’57 ACC Tournament, said the major emphasis had been on winning the conference title and the Dixie Classic at Reynolds Coliseum. The Classic was the biggest holiday tournament in the country, a three-day shootout featuring State, UNC, Duke and Wake Forest and four outside opponents.
    To some, the Dixie Classic was an even greater spectacle than the ACC Tournament. But it was dissolved after the 1960 event in the wake of a point-shaving scandal.
    “They [teams] weren’t really thinking about the NCAA,” Murdock said. “The Carolina team made people more aware of the NCAA Tournament, to win it. It became a focal point.”
    Since ’57, nine ACC teams have won national titles, with Duke and Carolina each winning three, State two and Maryland one.
    But Irwin Smallwood, a writer at The Greensboro Daily News then and later sports editor at the paper, said nothing captivated the state and validated the ACC like the ’57 Tar Heels. Beating Chamberlain, going undefeated and winning it all with two straight triple overtimes “defied Hollywood,” Smallwood said.
    Chamberlain, who later scored 100 points in an NBA game, couldn’t have gotten into school at UNC.
    It was before integration in the South, so the Tar Heels fielded an all-white team composed chiefly of talent from up North. Those guys who didn’t say “y’all,” could play big-time ball. Beaufort’s Gehrmann Holland and Draper’s Roy Searcy, both deceased, were the lone in-state players.
    They played in tiny Woollen Gym (5,632 capacity), which would fit inside the Smith Center and is still utilized for physical education classes, intramurals and free play. But in ’57 the Heels were more like the Harlem Globetrotters, playing 15 of 24 regular-season games games away from home.
    By March, they were seasoned road warriors undaunted by the Final Four atmosphere in Kansas City. McGuire, ever the psychologist, also conducted night practices to match the game times.
    “I think it was to keep us from dating,” joked All-America Pete Brennan. “We finished about 10:30 and the girls had to be in at 11.”
    The Tar Heels played a lot of 2-3 zone and held opponents to 35.9 percent shooting. They free-lanced on offense in an era of pattern play and averaged 79.3 points — with no shot clock or 3-point field goal.
    “We had one play,” Quigg said. “Get the ball to Rosenbluth.”
    Rosey, turned down by State’s Case, averaged 28 points in ’57 and won National Player of the Year Honors. His repertoire included a jumper with a lightning-quick release, one-handed push and nifty hook shot.
    “In my mind, he is still the best pure shooter ever at Carolina,” Brennan said.
    After stunning Kansas in the championship game, most of the team came home to a championship celebration. Rosenbluth, accompanied by McGuire, flew to New York for an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
    Since then, Carolina has produced three more national title teams. But none was as perfect, or had a more profound impact, than the ’57 Tar Heels.

    UNC wins NCAA Championship
    By Joe Tiede, Sports Editor (News and Observer)
    Originally published Tuesday, March 30, 1982

    NEW ORLEANS — The seventh trip to the NCAA Final Four was finally the lucky one for North Carolina Coach Dean Smith.
    Smith’s talented Tar heels captured the national basketball championship — the “Big One” — in a seat-squirming thriller Monday night in the Superdome, with a clutch basket by freshman Mike Jordan and a surprising steal by James Worthy clinching a 63-62 win over the Georgetown Hoyas.
    Jordan, the ACC rookie of the year, drilled in an 18-foot jumper with 15 seconds left. Jordan’s high-arching shot from the left side gave Carolina its final margin, setting up what proved to be a stunning, heart-stopping climax.
    The Hoyas, disdaining their own remaining timeout, sped down the floor in hopes of getting off a winning shot before the Tar Heels set their defense. But, with the final seconds ticking away and a crowd of 61,112 standing and roaring, Georgetown’s Fred Brown inadvertently passed the ball directly into the hands of Worthy, who was fouled with two second left.
    The shocking turnover sealed it. Worthy missed both free throw, but a desperation, half-court heave by Georgetown’s Eric “Sleepy” Floyd feel well short as a pom-pom waving band of Tar Heel faithful massed onto the floor in a wild, foot stomping celebration.
    The Tar Heel victory ended one of college basketball’s great frustrations. Although one of the most respected coaches in the nation, Smith had made six previous trips to the Final Four without winning a title.
    True to form, Smith downplayed the drama of the moment.
    “I am very grateful to my players,” said Smith, now in his 21st year as head coach. “Georgetown is the best team we played all y ear. We played very well and feel very fortunate to win.”
    Carolina point guard Jimmy Black summed up the game neatly and concisely.
    “It was the type of game you expect for the national championship,” the senior said.
    The team will leave New Orleans at noon today and will arrive in Chapel Hill at 2 p.m. Smith will not be on the flight and will not accompany the team to its 2:30 pep rally at Kenan Stadium.
    (In Chapel Hill, it was Mardi Gras a month late as more than 30,000 screaming, beer drinking, Carolina Blue paint-tossing students and fans packed downtown as if it were the French Quarter of New Orleans.
    (They had packed bars and restaurants and friends’ homes, and as the final horn blew and the Tar Heels won the national championship, they spilled out onto six blocks closed to traffic and started the biggest party in the state. Worthy was “The Man for the Tar heels, whose championship — UNC’s first NCAA title since it’s 32-0 run in 1957 — capped a 32-2 season and gave the school its second national crown. The junior forward from Gastonia finished with 28 points and was named the tournament MVP.
    Jordan from Wilmington, added 16 points for the Tar Heels, and Sam Perkins had 10 points.
    Only Worthy’s performance could match the intimidating effort of Georgetown’s Pat Ewing. The aggressive, 7-foot freshman was a constant force from the opening seconds, topping the Hoyas with 23 points and 11 rebounds.

    Jordan had a dream — NCAA title
    By Tom Harris, Staff Writer (News and Observer)
    Originally published Tuesday, March 30, 1982

    NEW ORLEANS — Michael Jordan had a dream.
    “It was on the way over here,” Jordan said Monday night in the North Carolina locker room, after his jumper with 15 seconds remaining gave the Tar heels a 63-62 victory over Gerogetown and the NCAA basketball championship. “I knew this team made it here (to the finals) las year. I knew I was the new man, the addition.
    “And I dreamed we made a last-second shot to win it. And I dreamed I took the shot.”
    The jumper came more than half-a-minute after Eric “Sleepy” Floyd had given the Hoyas a 62-61 lead.
    “We were running our No. 2 offense,” the UNC freshman explained. “It can go to Jimmy Black or (Matt) Doherty or me. It just happened to go to me.”
    The shot, a long arching jumper from the left side, hit nothing but the bottom of the net.
    “I never saw it go through,” Jordan said, laughing. “I didn’t look. I didn’t want to look.
    “Then I knew from the crowd reaction and my teammates’ reaction that it went through.
    “But there were still eight or 10 seconds left. I had to get downcourt and play defense.”
    The Tar Heels had an out. James Worthy, who scored a career-high 28 points and was named the tourney MVP, was stationed underneath, ready to put it back in if Jordan missed.
    “James told me after the game he was there,” said Jordan, who was named to the all-tourney team along with Worthy and center Sam Perkins. “He said he had it if I’d have missed. I’m just glad I didn’t miss.”
    Jordan and the rest of the Tar Heels were quick to praise Worthy, who was on the receiving end of a pass from the Hoyas’ Fred Brown in the closing seconds, putting the game and the title on ice. In all, Worthy had 28 points on 13-of-17 shooting including a variety of prodigious slam dunks, four rebounds and three steals.
    “James Worthy is the best college basketball player in the country,” said Black, the Heels’ floor leader.
    “Al (Wood) did it for us last year,” said Doherty. “When things aren’t going well for us, James takes over. That’s what he did tonight.”
    Worthy picked off Brown’s pass with about five seconds left.
    “I saw him fake inside, then bring it down,” said Worthy. “I moved in, then back out.
    “It was instinct,” he added, “just an instinctive move.”
    Most of the Heels were amazing calm after the contest.
    “It just hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Doherty, “but it will.”
    “We’re just glad to win it, for ourselves, but mostly for Coach (Dean) Smith,” said senior reserve center Chris Brust, who put in two productive stints in the victory.
    This was Smith’s seventh trip to the NCAA Final Four, but he’d never won the title.
    “Jimmy (Black) was the one talking that way all last week, about how we wanted to win this for Coach Smith,” Brust continued “But we wanted it, too, so the writers would stop writing that he’d never won the big one.”
    “We never said that,” added Jimmy Braddock, a junior who put in a crucial first-half stint, “because nobody ever asked us.”
    Black, the senior so close to the coach had the final word.
    “It’s too good to be true,” he said, brushing away the tears. “It has been so long coming for him. I’m so glad we could go out and get it for him.

  3. Kenny says:

    I was an 19-year old college Freshman at Towson U who drove home to watch the game with my Dad as we rooted for my Hoyas (I had assimilated my Dad to be a Hoya fan two years before). Dad was a big football fan so some of the nuances of college hoops were still unfamiliar to him. As GU came up the floor for that last possession we were both screaming to get the ball to Sleepy in the corner. When the pass went to James Worthy I can still remember how quiet we both were as Worthy dribbled the other way with Eric Smith in pursuit. I did not cry that night because my Dad always told me it was okay to cry but not over a stupid game. Just thought I would provide a GU perspective on a great title game I will never forget.

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