For those of you in the newer generation that don’t remember a time when State was one of the premier programs of both the ACC and nation, and may be content with our rightful place in the shadow of our Triangle neighbors (because that’s the way it’s always been), here’s a look back to a time when State basketball took a backseat to no one (thanks to SFN member NCStatePride for finding this).
“Trees will tapdance, elephants will drive in the Indianapolis 500, and Orson Wells will skip lunch before North Carolina State finds a way to beat Houston.”
In April 1983, State had won its ninth ACC title and then its second national title inside a decade, which was on pace with Carolina and well ahead of Duke. Keep that in mind the next time anyone tries to tell you State basketball can’t return to what it once was.
The following is a posting from NCStatePride that was written simultaneously with the above post to give an editorial for our younger fans. Enjoy.
Trees will tap dance, elephants will drive the Indianapolis 500, and Orsen Wells will skip lunch before North Carolina State finds a way to beat Houston. â€“Washington Post, April 4, 1983
Jimmy Valvano gave a speech to the North Carolina General Assembly after their 54-52 victory over Houston on April 4, 1983.Â At the time, Jimmy Valvano regaled the General Assembly with stories and jokes about his 1983 squadâ€™s unlikely appearance in the Championship game.
Jimmy Valvano would develop a reputation as being charming and charismatic.Â David Letterman is remembered as stating that Jimmy Valvano was the only man he felt could walk onto his stage and take control of an interview. At one point he interrupts Letterman, who wants to move on with his show and hit a commercial break, and Valvano talks him down, dismisses the show to a commercial break, and convinces the audience that rather than letting him off stage, they really want to hear to end of his story.
In January of 1983, NC State was 9-7 and Valvano recalls having a vision in the locker room that the Wolfpack would go the rest of the season, win the ACC Title, and the National Championship, and finally get to meet the President of the United States.Â A sports reporter was overheard saying:
Itâ€™s going to be a snowy day in April when that happens.
The average temperature in April in North Carolina was 71 degrees during the day.
As we all know, Valvano went on a 7-3 run to finish out the regular season a solid 17-10, finishing on two losses to UVA and Maryland, but finally marking the season with a stunning 130-89 victory over Wake Forest.
Before the beginning of post-season play, Derek Whittenburg warned the press:
â€œWatch Out.Â We ainâ€™t dead yet.Â Dead teams donâ€™t score 130 points and shoot 60 percent for the game.â€
Itâ€™s worth noting that with a 17-10 season, NC State won the ACC and NCAA titles (9 games) beating six teams by barely two baskets.Â NC State never won pretty, but they survived and advanced.Â Itâ€™s easy to get worn down by what NC State has had to suffer for the past several years.Â When NC State was put under probation and Jimmy Valvano forced to leave, much to the dismay of the fan base, our rivals on Tobacco Road didnâ€™t wait around for us to get our house in order.Â They did what any good program is supposed to do.Â They did what you would expect them to do: they continued to win.Â What NC State failed to do is rebuild.Â There are volumes upon volumes of articles, forum posts, and blogs discussing what NC Stateâ€™s problems are and why we had them, but the fact is that NC State has had nothing to keep its fan base energized.
Personally, I, NCStatePride, grew up in the last 80â€™s and 90â€™s, attending NC State in fall of 2004.Â I grew up listening to people talk about how amazing Carolina is and how unstoppable Duke is.Â Hey, you canâ€™t blame them for speaking the truth.Â They are good programs.Â What has been heart wrenching is hearing the whole world tell you that the team you feel loyal to is a has-been.Â In a recent discussion on StateFansNationâ€™s forums, I recent joked that if NC State were a car, it would be a Buick Grand Nationalâ€¦ a fine machine that in its day was a powerhouse, but is barely even recognizable today and really only admired by those who are interested in relics.Â That is where NC State is.Â We admire NC State for its history and for the machine we see underneath the facts, but in the end we are just admiring a relic of what power use to be.
So do we just give up on it?Â The facts are the facts and the numbers are what they are.Â As many people are convinced these days, if itâ€™s not in the numbers, itâ€™s not there.Â When NC State has found itself â€œrelevantâ€ in the last 20 years, it was either due to making the Sweet Sixteen or upsetting a highly ranked rival, that use to be an equal, and reading the commentary in the paper the following morning stating that NC State really pulled off the impossible.Â I wish I could remember when the â€œimpossibleâ€ being achieved was a National Championship.
Hope and Dreamsâ€¦
But despite what the â€œfactsâ€ are, NC State has what other Universities donâ€™t have: the spirit of the greats that came before us.Â We have the hope that Jimmy Valvano brought to the hardwood each and every single night.Â We have the fighting chance of knowing that on any given night, if the players and coaches just believe hard enough, they have already won the game.
We have the distinct advantage over everyone else, Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, and anyone else we faceâ€¦ that we are NC State and if we have a dream, we have a hope.Â And if we have a hope, we have a chance.
Jimmy Valvano left us so much more than titles and records.Â Jimmy Valvano left us the sheer will to go on.Â He left us the motivation to keep pushing on and never accept where we are currently standing.Â Even when the media and our rivals are keeping us down, Valvano taught us that we should never give upâ€¦ donâ€™t ever give up.Â Because of what Jimmy Valvano left, we can look at our Wolfpack and despite what the numbers are, we can know that there is still a chance and if we give up on that chance, we are giving up on what makes us powerful, what makes our opponents fear us, and what has brought victory in countless games in the pastâ€¦ our hopes and our dreams.
By the wayâ€¦
On Monday, April 18th, 1983, snow began to fall on the hallowed grounds of NC Stateâ€¦