Lorenzo Charles (left) and Head Coach Jimmy Valvano (right) lifted up by players as they get dibs to choose which strip club they are going to celebrate at. (Photo Credit: NCAA)
Throughout the 100 Days of Hoops, we’ve looked at some of the greatest memories on an NBA basketball court but today, we’re taking you back to school.
The 1982-83 North Carolina State Wolfpack deserve a place in this project, not only for the unlikely season in which the program ended up winning the national championship but for the method in which they played the game.
The Wolfpack loved to run, run and run some more. They loved to get ahead on fast breaks and get the most out of their possessions. The fans loved it too, giving the team the nickname the “Cardiac Pack” or “Cardiac Kids” due to the team’s postseason run where six of the eight tournament wins came down to the final possession. Head coach Jimmy Valvano, in his third season as coach, set the tone for the players and quickly earned the team’s respect thanks to his fiery antics.
On the court, the players trusted Thurl Bailey (16.4 PPG) and Derek Whittenburg (15.7 PPG). Both of these players were critical on the final possession of the 1983 college basketball season and obviously proved to be the best players for NC State during the run.
The ESPN 30 for 30 about this team is worth watching, and if you watched that you already know what happens. Let’s fast forward to the championship game. NC State was going on to play against the Houston Cougars, known for their air, they were nicknamed “Phi Slamma Jamma”. Wolfpack coach Jimmy Valvano said in a press conference the night before they were going to slow the tempo down, but when the game began it was clear he said this to deceive the Houston Cougars.
The National Championship game took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque has an elevation of 5,100 feet. As we know, athletes are often tested when they play in a high-altitude city and that’s what happened to Houston star Hakeem Olajuwon. Because of Olajuwon’s fatigue, Houston coach Guy Lewis took the approach to slow the game down in the second half. This troubled Houston as NC State loved to foul and force opponents to miss free throws. It didn’t seem too good for Houston as they weren’t a great free throw shooting team.
With the game tied at 52 and a minute remaining, Derek Whittenburg fouls freshman Alvin Franklin for a one-and-one attempt. Franklin misses the free throw and NC State’s Cozell Mcqueen and Thurl Bailey both grab for the ball, Bailey lets go as he sees McQueen but the ball goes towards out of bounds, McQueen saves the ball to Whittenburg who brings it up court as Head Coach Valvano calls time out with 44 seconds remaining. At this point in college basketball, there was no shot clock, so teams could hold onto the ball as long as they wanted to and that’s exactly how NC State played out these final seconds.
A classic finish etched in history. The Cardiac Kids will always be remembered as the Team of Destiny.