Feb. 14, 2013
Link to info about the film
The ticket request for this event is at capacity and we are no longer taking reservations. For fans without a ticket, there will be a stand-by line at Reynolds Coliseum in the case that seats become available.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jonathan Hock remembers when he was a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania how he would take long, improbable shots on the basketball court and yell a single word as he lofted the ball through the air.
For years after he graduated, whenever Hock played pick-up basketball games during his time as an award-winning director and producer for NFL Films or shot a Nerf ball at the flimsy rim in his cluttered office as an independent filmmaker, the same word would fly from his lips as the ball flew from his hands.
The Billy Packer-mimicking shout-out was in honor of the greatest airball in the history of the NCAA basketball tournament, a desperation heave from 27 feet away that NC State guard Dereck Whittenburg took out of zone-press necessity against top-ranked Houston in the final moments of the 1983 championship game.
For Hock, yelling the former Wolfpack standout's name was synonymous with wishing for the impossible.
So when Whittenburg, a long-time member of the board of directors for the V Foundation and a current basketball analyst at ESPN, approached him about directing the story of NC State's unlikely and miraculous run to the school's national title, Hock knew it was a film he had to make. The two had worked together before, when Hock helped Whittenburg, then the head coach at Fordham, set up a basketball show about his team.
On March 11, their documentary, "Survive and Advance," will be screened in Reynolds Coliseum, a week before it is aired nationally on ESPN on Selection Sunday, as part of the cable sports network's acclaimed 30-for-30 series.
Showtime is 7 p.m. for those that have reserved earlier though GoPack.com, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and parking will be on a first-come, first-served basis in the Reynolds Coliseum Deck.
The collaborative effort has been nearly two years in the making. Whittenburg first approached Hock in the summer of 2011, just days before Lorenzo Charles, the power forward who caught Whittenburg's missed shot and stuffed it home to win the national title for coach Jim Valvano and the Wolfpack, died in a bus crash in Raleigh.
Charles' death, only a week after the funeral of former Wolfpack assistant Ed McLean, was a jolting reality for Whittenburg and his remaining teammates, who had already said good-bye to two other members of the Cardiac Pack - Valvano died of cancer in 1993 and former teammate Quinton Leonard, the fourth senior on the '83 squad, died of a heart attack in 2006.
Hock, producer Jim Podhoretz and Whittenburg began production of the film, arranging interviews with all the key figures from the team. They traipsed all over the country to talk to the opposing coaches and players, including Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina's Roy Williams and former Virginia All-American Ralph Sampson.
They had an informal reunion of the team at the Player's Retreat restaurant off Hillsborough Street last August, and, with cameras rolling, let them tell story after story about the season, their coach and the notoriety they all shared because of that moment.
Coupled with individual interviews and game footage, Hock told the story of the team and its remarkable title run through Whittenburg's eyes, focusing on the bond between he and point guard Sidney Lowe and forward Thurl Bailey, the well-known senior trio that was driven by Valvano to win the national title.
"The fact of the '83 championship is not news to anyone, especially in North Carolina," Hock said. "But there is something unfamiliar about the story in the current days of college basketball. You would never have three such talented players together any more because they wouldn't stay four years.
"I think what makes the story so compelling even today is how impossible it all was."
Even Whittenburg, who lived through every rollercoaster moment of the season, had the same realization all over again as he watched a rough cut of the film a few weeks ago.
"Man," he told Hock and Podhoretz, "we were so lucky."
As Valvano always said, luck is the by-product of hard work and good planning. On the day he was hired to be the Wolfpack coach, when Lowe, Whittenburg and Bailey had just finished their freshman season, he told them that he planned to win a national title and they were welcome to be a part of it.
From that point forward, it became the ultimate goal of the program, not just the coach or any of the individual players.
"To me, that's an element that is completely lacking in college basketball today," Hock said. "I think one of the main things that makes the story so amazing is that it is something that is no longer possible in the college game. That makes it extra special to look back on it today."
Whittenburg always knew his experiences of the '83 season - the broken foot against Virginia, the possible end of his playing career, the quick return to the lineup despite not being 100 percent recovered - but he didn't know all of the stories of his teammates. So even he got more than just an education about how to make a documentary.
"What I've learned throughout this process is that we overcame so much more than I ever imagined," Whittenburg said. "If you could take two inches off the story, we probably won't be talking about it 30 years later. A bounce here, a bounce there. A play here in the middle of a game.
"This is just a story you couldn't script."
And those unscripted remembrances are the heart of the two-hour documentary.