WRAL: Small town Raleigh marveled at 74 Wolfpack

A great retrospective done by Dane Huffman at WRAL.com. Click here.

Then came in 1974 – and Raleigh became the epicenter of a story that would change college basketball. Duke was amazing in 1992, and North Carolina was phenomenal in ’82. But State was unique, in its talent and its time. The fading films and black and white photos still evoke an amazing team that remains the ACC’s best.

David Thompson, of course, was surreal. Everyone remembers his ability to leap and grab Monte Towe’s alley-oops, but when you see him on film again you’re stunned at how quickly and accurately he shoots. Give him a three-point line and a chance to dunk and he’d be unbelievable. He remains, hands down, the most talented player to grace an ACC court.

Thompson’s impact extended beyond the court. Polite and thoughtful, he was admired by whites still adjusting to watching blacks on their ACC teams. The love Thompson and his teammates shared was an important symbol in a society still learning to sit side by side.

As a complement to WRAL’s entry I felt as though this previous entry would be of high interest to our readers.

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63 Responses to WRAL: Small town Raleigh marveled at 74 Wolfpack

  1. Trip 07/15/2008 at 5:07 AM #

    Wish I could have been alive during our national championships… It always sounds so great to read about them.

  2. vtpackfan 07/15/2008 at 7:33 AM #

    Consider yourself in the minority. Most current undergrads and recent alumni look at it as a “fluke” that we some how came out on top in the past, whether it was the ACC or larger.

    It is no wonder why Sendek is still in many young Wolfpackers mind the coach of “the good years”.

  3. howlie 07/15/2008 at 7:41 AM #

    There’s no mention of the intimidating pine trees around the arena…

    Is this sports journalism?

  4. Pack92 07/16/2008 at 7:15 AM #

    What people fail to remember, and the article fails to mention, is that flukes don’t go undefeated the year before winning national championships. Kudos on a great article and especially the emphasis on the amazing ability of David Thompson. MJ was great but simply not in his league while in college.

  5. RAWFS 07/16/2008 at 7:19 AM #

    I was 12 when NC State beat UCLA. As it happened, there was an MS Bike-a-thon that day at Meredith College. I rode 50 miles on my rickety ten-speed to raise money (that, plus riding over from Quail Hollow to Meredith in the morning.) It ended about the time the game started.

    We watched the game near campus. You could hear the roars and groans coming up and down Hillboro, from the neighborhoods around it, really from everywhere. We were yelling and screaming too. At that age, these were my heros that walked on water, the guys that didn’t lose, and the ones I was counting on the most to carry the day.

    They eventually did, and the celebration was ON. I got my first kiss that day from a college girl (whose name I have never forgotten) in the melee after the game. Now not only was I beside myself because our boys had done it, I was stone cold IN LOVE. I laugh every time I think about that part of it nowadays. What a rube I was. But I was 12, and it was, well, heaven.

    Someone took me home in the back of their pickup truck and my neighbor took us that night to see “Billy Jack” up at the theater at Colony Shopping Center. While we were waiting to buy our tickets, a guy and two girls ran by buck naked – streaking was all the rage – and it was the quadruple triple bonus of seeing boobies in person.

    The next day, Norm Sloan kept saying that the job wasn’t finished that State still needed to beat Marquette, that State had won nothing…yet. We all thought we had already won the National Championship. Beating Marquette was a foregone conclusion.

    What a weekend. In 1983, it repeated itself over and over, but this was a different time and Raleigh was a different place. EVERY Wolfpack fan should get that feeling once in their lives — never losing to UNC, always coming through and at the end of the day, the greatest team in school history winning it all.

  6. choppack1 07/16/2008 at 7:37 AM #

    Really nice article by Huffman. It’s hard to imagine the place and the team he talked about in that article. Even by the time I’d moved to Raleigh and before I went to NC State, the town was a lot different than the one he describes.

    It sounds like NC State and Raleigh were more closely connected at this time. Now, we seem to be a nuisance and our leaders are more interested in giving the governor’s wife a cake job than keeping us from being a commuter school.

  7. Noah 07/16/2008 at 8:00 AM #

    I hope you guys enjoyed it. Because you will never see it again. Not saying that NCSU might not have a good team every once in awhile (sun…dog’s butt), but just you’ll never see a player like DT in college ever again.

    College basketball was once a very special thing. I can’t even watch anymore. It’s like watching Unitas in a Chargers uni…or Willie Mays stumbling around the outfield for the Mets.

  8. rtpack24 07/16/2008 at 8:37 AM #

    73 and 74 undefeated in ACC play for the season and tourney. No other team has ever come close to this record. 73 team was probably better than 74. DT by far the greatest ACC player and one of if not the best college player ever. We did it before so why can we not do it again?

  9. choppack1 07/16/2008 at 8:46 AM #

    Noah – I guess you’re saying, staring in 1979, after Magic went pro early – the college game began losing it’s stars way too early. I guess you’ll also never see a kid for 4 years who is so fundamentally sound and unspoiled by hype, street agents, AAU coaches, etc.

  10. Ed89 07/16/2008 at 8:57 AM #

    Noah will eat crow when we win the ACC Championship in 2010. I’m saying it now!! On another note, haven’t seen the new schedule discussed but here’s a link:


  11. burnbarn 07/16/2008 at 9:01 AM #

    “Beating Marquette was a foregone conclusion.”

    Except for UNC in ’77!!!!

  12. Noah 07/16/2008 at 9:11 AM #

    Noah – I guess you’re saying, staring in 1979, after Magic went pro early – the college game began losing it’s stars way too early. I guess you’ll also never see a kid for 4 years who is so fundamentally sound and unspoiled by hype, street agents, AAU coaches, etc.

    Ya ever see a film of a landslide or some structural collapse? Typically, you see a couple of early spills…and then it starts to speed up and at some point, you cross a threshold and boom! It all just falls down.

    Magic went pro and Moses and Bill Willoughby and Darrell Dawkins had all gone pro out of high school. But for me, it seemed like it was Shawn Kemp and then Kevin Garnett who REALLY opened the floodgates.

    Kemp was drafted in the late teens, but was already about 20 years old. When Garnett went in the lottery, it was on. Another one was Antonio McDyess. No one had ever heard of him, but he had a couple of good games in the NCAA tournament and suddenly, you no longer needed a body of work to impress the NBA, you just needed to impress them at the right time.

    It happens in every endeavor. “Walk the Line” was on this weekend on F/X. Does anyone think they’ll ever pay $2 for a ticket at some local hillbilly rec. center and ever see a concert featuring a lineup a billionth as good as the tour with the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Pressley?

    In the late 60s and early 70s, Bill Graham used to put together lineups of bands like Jethro Tull, Miles Davis (when he had the Bitches Brew band) and the Grateful Dead or Jimi Hendrix or J. Geils…all on the same bill. For $5. And people complained that the tickets were too much.

    Throughout the 70s in Hollywood, you had studios handing a ton of money to young directors like George Lucas, Steven Speilburg, Francis Ford Coppola, Marty Scorcese, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Hal Ashby, and Michael Cimino and giving them 100 percent free reign to do whatever they wanted. And they turned out hundreds of the greatest movies you ever saw.

    And then Cimino made Heaven’s Gate (the worst movie you ever saw) and people financing the films suddenly realized they had a lot to lose and they only wanted to finance “summer blockbusters” like Jaws. They weren’t interested in making pet projects like “The Conversation” (made in between Godfathers I & II).

    So…success ultimately ends up destroying all sort of endeavors. It’s not all bad. Football has largely been able to fend off the worst sort of vampires. A combination of good rules, long-range vision, and an iron-clad grip on the sport by the financeers has resulted in a pretty good product. There’s more football on TV than at any other time in the history of the world. Hell, I remember back in the bad old days when ESPN was not allowed to show live games. They’d have a great game like Auburn-Alabama and it would be shown on Sunday mornings.

    But it’s a shame seeing what basketball has ultimately become.

  13. highstick 07/16/2008 at 9:31 AM #

    I was fortunate enough to have been in Raleigh at the time and had just graduated from State in December 72. It was great to see that talent grow…the skinny Tommy Burleson that sat in front of me in a class, meeting DT his freshman year and not knowing who he was until the stories about “picking quarters on the top of the backboard” started, and seeing the entire City of Raleigh supporting those guys.

    You’re right, it probably will never be the same, but I sure would like to put some more banners in the roof of the RBC.

  14. wufdog 07/16/2008 at 10:48 AM #

    I was born in 3/74. My folks were new to the area and Thompson and Towe really caught my dad’s attention. My dad is unable to discuss my birth without mentioning the 74 wolfpack. He has been a pack fan ever since and so have I. The 74 run was admirible and very differnt, in a good way from 83. I cannot wait until the next nat’l championship run(optimism) and seeing how it will play out in it’s own unique way.

  15. EverettBeez 07/16/2008 at 10:57 AM #

    We moved to Raleigh in 72, 3 blocks from campus. Everyone in my neighborhood still called it “The College”. I was in 3rd grade when we won the Championship, and for years and years I thought it was that saturday afternoon when we beat UCLA – I was in bed for the real title game. After the UCLA win, we could hear the traffic on Hillsborough, so my dad took us up there in the car. 45 min’s to go from Brooks down to Gardner, 1 block. lol. Great memories.

  16. wufpaxno1 07/16/2008 at 11:08 AM #

    RAWFS, you really took me down memory lane. I too was 12 back in 74, my big sis’ was at State, and my dad was an avid ACC basketball fan (Albeit, a Wake Forest Grad) and so I got to go to almost every ACC Tourney back then and followed State through many of the NCAA tourney games as well. Thompson was from Shelby, Cleveland County, NC which was one of the Counties in the district my dad represented in the legislature. I still have a large framed rug of the Demon Deacon Head with David Thompson’s signature across it that he signed while at my Dads office.
    My sister’s roommate dated Monty Towe for a while and I got to meet many of the guys on the team. Talking about being in awe, Burleson, Rivers, Spence, Towe, and Thompson; those were some great times. We used to stay at the Old Albert Pick Hotel in Greensboro for the Tourney which is where the team stayed as well. Talk about a lasting impression, try getting on the same elevator with Tommy Burleson when you are a lanky 12 year old. I still think of those days every time I drive by that place, even if it has changed names 10 plus times, has been knocked down and completely rebuilt.

  17. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 11:18 AM #

    I’ve just clicked onto this thread, I’ve only read part the article and not a single post either, but already I’m wondering the source, Dane Huffman is it?

    I mean, how could any credible journalist forget about the first unc championship? You know, the one back before they had even thought about having a championship.

  18. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 11:45 AM #

    “but just you’ll never see a player like DT in college ever again.”

    Noah, now that is something that you and I agree on totally. All of the reasons you listed above do put the possibility of ever seeing anything close to another David Thompson at below zero. But I’d argue that even if nothing had changed, there was no three point shot, no dunking, everyone stayed in school and no one left early for the NBA, that the chance would still be at below zero.

    Highlights DO NOT do him justice. You’d just have to have lived through it and watched every game to begin understand how great this guy really was. There has never been, and there will never be, another totally complete package of BB skills, basketball IQ, packaged in a body containing the most awesome athletic abilities that a normal human couldn’t begin to imagine. He was a step above all others and I’m just glad I was around then to see him play the game.

  19. Noah 07/16/2008 at 12:05 PM #

    Julius Erving, in his prime, was close. Jordan, in his prime, was as good as DT.

    Erving was not quite as good an outside shooter. But he was an outstanding mid-range shooter and was probably the best ever at using the glass. Erving was also three inches taller and a much better rebounder than DT. Erving put up absolutely incredible rebounding numbers during the prime of his career.

    Jordan made himself a great shooter and of course, he was as good a defender as there was during his better days.

    Jordan’s the best player in the history of the game…but Erving made plays I’ve never seen another human make.

    We’ve all seen the clip of Erving driving the baseline and going under the basket (in the air) and flipping the ball up and off the backboard and in while he’s basically hovering out of bounds. That may be the single-best play I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s got another six or seven plays that are equally jaw-dropping.

    DT’s best play was probably his block on Walton.

  20. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 12:08 PM #

    This is my favorite NC State subject of all and I got too pumped up to even finish reading the article before I pecked out that last ^post. Anyway, it’s funny that the writer said that a friend of his missed the the final victory because he left to shoot BB when the Pack was down so bad in OT. The same thing happened with my neighborhood friend, but when I ran over to his house screaming and yelling, he was just sitting in his Dad’s truck, stareing straight ahead with tears in his eyes. He didn’t believe me when I told him they had come back and WON THE GAME!!! and he still kicks himself to this day for ever giving up on the David Thompson led Wolfpack of NC State University.

  21. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 12:23 PM #

    Noah, no doubt that those guys you listed are about as close as it gets *on the professional level*, but I’m talking about FRESH out of highschool, and the four years after that. DT was so polished and so much further advanced that he could dominate any player, at any position on the BB court, at anytime he pleased.

    There are players who stand out from back then, as well as today, but NOBODY was ever as skilled and athletic, and in EVERY facet of the game, as David Thompson was in college.

  22. choppack1 07/16/2008 at 12:53 PM #

    Guys – you really shouldn’t do this. When you talk about this – I picture a college community. You know- everyone in the immediate surrounding area w/ an “as 1” feeling – true community…I wonder what students at State feel now?

    I was there when we had begun going down that road to commuter – but we weren’t there yet. We still had Reynolds Coliseum, Wolfstock, and the Lawn Party. You know – those things which let you know that not only were you at college, but you were at NC State.

  23. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 12:57 PM #

    Noah, I saw Dr J’s hanging, swooping, shot from three feet behind the backboard, IN TRAFFIC, right when it happened on TV, and it was as unbelievable an individual BB play as any I’ve ever seen. But Erving struggled with outside shooting and then FINALLY developed a decent stroke later in his PROFESSIONAL career. Of course Erving’s rebounding is better, he was three inches taller, he played the position, whereas at 6’4″ DT played mainly combo/guard in the pros. Jordan’s *PROFESSIONAL* career is admittedly about as good as it gets. But no matter what ANYONE says today, he was NOT EVEN IN THE SAME LEAGUE AS DAVID THOMPSON when LEGITIMATELY comparing their college careers.

  24. Noah 07/16/2008 at 1:21 PM #

    Erving was 6-7…which is not big for an NBA forward. I’m not arguing that he was the same at DT, I’m saying his abilities were a little different and he was just as spectacular.

  25. redfred2 07/16/2008 at 1:25 PM #

    No Noah, he was not as impressive as DT, and for the same reason you listed, HE WAS 6’7″, and he was NOT as good, all around, as David Thompson was.

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