A while back, I asked for readers to submit their memories of the 1983 season, and what I had initially planned to do was post them before NC State's game against Indiana, which surely would take place, and I figured we could use a little bit of pre-game inspiration. Which... yeah. I will take the blame for the Temple game; I have no idea what I was thinking.
Anyway, we are close to the anniversary of the win over Houston, so now's a good time to share the memories too. Check 'em out below.
From Rick (class of '87):
Thanks for wanting to hear some first hand accounts of that season. I guess this is one of those moments when it actually comes in handy to be "old." I was a freshman at State that year. My father was an alumni, so the Pack was in my blood from birth. The first t-shirt I ever remember getting was a '74 Championship shirt that my dad bought for me at the red / white spring practice football scrimmage that was held in Charlotte that spring of '74 at my high school to be. I have lived and died with every Pack win or loss ever since.
In '82 / '83, Academics was secondary at the time..........I was there to help continue the family legacy of helping to pull the Pack through in person, at every game. The excitement of walking into Reynolds as a student, going through the main entrance, down that side corridor and then finally into the glaring spotlights reflecting off of the floor with the band playing, the cameras rolling and the teams warming up, was like Christmas morning with just more adrenaline pumping! That place was magical and I really do feel sorry for anyone who never got to experience that atmosphere in its "prime," especially as a student. PNC is great, but it is no where close to the advantage that Reynolds was! It was worth at least a 10 point advantage in any game! Anyone who watched a game packed shoulder to shoulder in those sidecourt student seats knows what I'm talking about.
My memories from that season vary. I was at every home game that year and at first, just in awe of being there. I couldn't believe I was standing there in person watching the team play that I had watched on tv for all of those years before. My first actual memory from that year, was the Virginia home game. In the first half, Whit was on fire with 27 at the break and we all knew in the stands, that this was going to be one of those nights that the opponent walked off of the floor at the end of the night not knowing what hit them. Whit had one of the most consistent, smooth jumpers I have ever seen. You just expected every shot to fall with him, and most of the time, it did. The noise meter was staying all the way at the top for most of the first half. We were giddy in the stands. I don't remember exactly, but Virginia was ranked in the top 5 at the time, I believe.
Then it happened......second half had just started, Whit leaving his feet for another jumper on the left baseline (from my perspective) and then going all the way to the ground when he landed. To this day, I have never been in an atmosphere that changed so dramatically or so quickly at one moment in time (although I've been told that David Thompson's fall on his head in the NCAA tournament game in Reynolds was pretty close) as that moment in that game. When people use the phrase, "let the air out of the balloon," that's exactly what it was like. The crowd went from a 10 to a 0 in that one second. We watched Whit hobble off the court, which gave some of us hope that it wasn't that bad and he would be back by the next game at the latest, but for now, the momentum took a total 180 degree turn and we ended up losing. That was the first game of many, many, many in my life that I experienced in person, the sudden highs and lows, exultations and heartbreak of being a Wolfpack fan. Little did I know at the time, that that game would be only the first of many "cardiac pack" games that would take us to the edge of exhaustion that season. We all knew our grades were going to suffer that semester just from trying to recuperate from those games. I took 16 hours that first semester my freshman year and made a 3.0. I took 12 hours my second semester, and barely made it out with a 2.0. I was not the only one, trust me!
Drew ('08) collected this note from his pops:
The whole championship run with the Cardiac Pack was amazing with State somehow finding a way to win - usually in the last seconds. Your Mom and I watched the semi-final game with a bunch of W-S friends in a bar on the Outer Banks - an amazing win over Georgia and an even more amazing bar bill I hate to say. We all drove home Sunday and back to our house on Lockland Ave for the Monday night final. We thought the earlier wins were great upsets, but possible upsets. Nobody thought State had a chance against Houston, a team that many thought could beat some NBA teams. "Phi Slamma Jamma" was Houston's nickname and they had a 25 game winning streak coming in. Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde "the Glide" Drexler were the top NBA prospects to be coming out of college in years. We just hoped we would not lose by 30 or otherwise be embarrassed.
When it was close at half time, we thought - wow, this might happen or we still might lose by 30. At the end, when Whittenburg threw up a desperation shot from around half court, the crowd, the TV viewers, and 9 players just stood up and stared to see if the ball might go in at the buzzer. While everyone stared, Lorenzo Charles (who did not seem to have a clue what was going on at the moment) went up and caught and dunked the ball with no one really blocking out or realizing there was going to be any time left. If the ball had not been short, Zo would have been called for offensive goal tending and I was afraid they were going to call it anyway. So many things had to go right for that to happen. Even afterwards when the other State players were celebrating, Zo did not really seem to know what he had done for a while. As you have seen on many replays, one of the best images was Jim Valvano running around looking for someone to hug. State or UCLA was supposed to win in 1974, but nobody saw the win in '83 coming.
Bob, who was fortunate enough to be at The Pit:
My wife and I went to the west regional finals in Utah the week before. I didn’t think anything could top beating Ralph Sampson again in the West regional finals. I didn’t give any thought to going to Albuquerque the following week because I didn’t think my level of giving would get me a ticket. Charlie Bryant stood up and announced on the plane home that anyone on that plane that wanted a ticket to the final 4 could have one regardless of level of giving. I looked at my wife and said I’m going even though her mother was coming the following week from Tenn. Fortunately I have a very understanding wife and mother-in-law.
Unbelievable atmosphere at the semi-finals. Even more so on Monday night. If they hadn’t been wearing red you would have mistaken the Houston fans for hole fans. Same old cockiness and better than thou attitude. It was nice to shut them up. Other than my wedding and birth of my two children, nothing compares to this time. I hope to live long enough to see this kind of greatness again from my beloved Wolfpack. GO PACK!!!
I have two memories that stand out. I was 8 years old when the Pack won, and we were living in Jacksonville. Our living room ("den") was just off the kitchen, and even at that young of an age, I was deathly afraid of NC State Sheeeeet. For the majority of the second half, I remained in the kitchen with my head literally face down on a chopping block and my hands covering my ears. I just couldn't handle the stress. To be honest, I'm not sure I even saw Lo's dunk at the end. I do know that some friends of my parents left our house just before the end of the game (I never did understand their timing), and when State won, I ran to the front door, burst through and yelled to them as they walked down the street, "We won! I swear we did!" I then remember my mom getting on me for saying, "I swear."
The second memory was weeks later. Jimmy V came to the mall and was hawking his "Coach V" line of clothes at Belk. My father took me down to meet him, and we both expected a long line, but when we got there, we were the only ones there, and Coach V was sitting, looking rather lonely. But he quickly perked up and showed us around the merchandise. Yes, he was a salesman, but at that moment, I was not only the biggest State fan in the world, but he treated me as such. My dad bought me a Coach V painter's cap (hey, it was the '80s) and a baseball shirt. I wore the shirt until it was way too small.
(V had a clothing line? Does anyone still have any of that stuff?)
I was 14 at the time we made the Championship. I had already committed to play in a church men’s league softball tourney that Monday night. I missed the entire first half as I played 2nd base. They were giving updates over the PA every minute or so. I made 6 errors in the first two innings, took a line drive to my boys, and struck out twice. Finally my coach told me to go home and watch the game. I got home just before the 2nd half. When Lorenzo dunked the ball to win the game, I ran through the house screaming and attempted to go into the back yard. However, our storm door was locked. I took the door off its hinges and took out the glass with my forehead while falling down the steps into the yard. The funny thing is as bloody and bruised as I was, I got up and kept running and screaming through the neighborhood. The neighbors must have thought I had been attacked, while I was euphoric. Good times!
In 1983, I was a freshman at NC State. Living on campus, you went to all the basketball games at Reynolds Colosseum. Tickets were easy to get, you just show up, and you are in. You might have to get in line for Carolina tickets, maybe overnight.
The team was one of personalities: Wittenburg, the leader, Lorenzo Charles, tough dude and power forward, Cozell McQueen, with the big mole on his shoulder ( yes he actually said he was "amphibious" and could shoot with both hands), Sidney Lowe, who we still love despite his disaster as a head coach, and steady Thurl Bailey. And of course, Jim Valvano, blessed with the gift of gab. It was an up and down season, some killer wins with celebrations, and disappointing losses. But then came the ACC tournament. The Pack squeezed a win over Wake, then Carolina in OT, and an unexpected win over Virginia, giving big man Ralph Sampson a big disappointing loss, but both teams went to the NCAA tourney. NCSU only managed to get in the tourney by the impossible ACC tournament win.
I don't recall any ACC tournament celebration on campus, as it may have been spring break, but campus celebration soon became among the most memorable things of my college life, now an impossible 30 years ago (I only feel 28).
For the NCAA, the Pack drew Pepperdine, a school which I had never heard of before, living on the east coast all my life. But learning that it was on the beach of Southern California, and had a large population of girls, made us think we had chosen universities poorly. (State had relatively few female students at the time). We watched the game on a tiny TV, with 8 or more friends crammed in our cell-like Metcalf dorm room. It was a nail biter, but the Pack squeaked the win, and the campus ERUPTED! After jumping around the room yelling, we all knew instinctively, where we had to go. We hustled down the stairs (the entire dorm it seemed), and were met by thousands of others, hooting and hollering on their way to our holy ground: The Brickyard.
Here we gathered celebrating the win. It was spontaneous, and joyful. And, since the drinking age was 18 at the time, it was, uh, rowdy. I believe the Eckard Drugs across from the library ran out of beer that night, including Schlitz. Of course, the party spread to Hillsborough Street as well, where cars were eventually overturned. Raleigh was less than amused.
The next game was again a surprise victory against the favored UNLV, and again, a flood to the Brickyard/ Hillsborough St. This time, a spontaneous bonfire was started, where furniture was burned, including desks and sofas. For the next week, we were secretly grabbing toilet paper rolls, to toss into trees in case we had a reason to celebrate again. And we did: another impossible win. Finally, Virginia again, and it was certain that they, and Ralph Sampson, were out for blood. But, sadly for Ralph, his college career ended with a one point victory by State. As the buzzer sounded, we rush out of the dorm, being handed toilet paper rolls like soldiers stocking up on cartridges for their carbines. The campus had no chance: it was like a TP snow day, which lasted till the next rain.
We were in the Final Four. Not since 1974, with David Thompson, Monte Towe and Tommy Burleson, campus legends, had State been so high. Campus police, and the administration had by now taken a dim view of the celebrations, and in an effort to keep it from spilling onto Hillsborough, had decided to officially support and sponsor it.
So, a fire ring, and fire wood were provided on the Brickyard, as well as "marshals" to keep order, and us off Hillsborough Street. Again, each victory was an instant celebration, and no game was assumed, or even expected as a win. We held our collective breath for each game, hoping for, but certain that victory was not possible, that the run was up. We defeated Georgia, and were in the final. Unbelievable.
But now, the dark clouds descended. We had to face the all powerful, feared Houston, known as "Phi Slamma Jamma" for their dunking showcases. Houston had romped Louisville, the #2 ranked team. It seemed the Pack was destined for a highly respectable, but disappointing loss in the final game. All the press and experts expected it to be a crushing, and we were prepared for defeat. The game was fairly close, the Pack holding their own, but never able to get the best of Houston. It wasn't looking good. But with 3 point plays, fouls, and luck, State pulled close in the final minutes. And then, in what actually appeared to us as slow motion, Dereck Whittenburg tossed the ball toward the goal, hoping for a last second score to bring the Pack ahead of the tie game. We watched the ball arc, but it looked short. Then, again, with milliseconds slowly ticking by, Lorenzo Charles, deftly grabs the ball in mid-air, and slam dunks a stunned "Phi Slamma Jamma," giving them the ultimate taste of their own medicine. Still in slo-mo, you could see the entire dorm room, everyone levitating in the air at once, having leapt in joy, all at the same time. Then the internal slo-mo ends, and a deafening, awe inspiring roar again emits from the entire NCSU campus. Followed by a thunderous sound of thousands of feet, running to the Brickyard.
To this day, those split seconds of joyous celebration, and crazy nights on the Brickyard remain with me. It was a tough time for study and grades, because each victory was celebrated as if were the last. Each victory was a complete, unexpected surprise, and elevated Dereck Whittenburg, Lorenzo Charles, Cozell McQueen, Sidney Lowe, Thurl Bailey, Terry Gannon, and Ernie Meyers into campus knighthood.