May 2, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. - The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame is in its third year of recognizing some of the greatest sports moments in the history of the state.
And this year, as the Raleigh-based organization celebrates its 50th anniversary with a two-day event to induct 11 new members in the class of 2013 at the NC History Museum and the Raleigh Convention Center, the two moments to be honored both involve NC State basketball.
The first date is July 1, 1946, the day an Indiana-born Navy Lieutenant Commander named Everett Case began his new job as the head basketball coach of NC State College's Red Terrors. He began an era of unprecedented success, morphing the Terrors into the Wolfpack and winning nine conference titles in his first 10 seasons, six in the Southern Conference and the first three in the newly formed ACC.
Case, still the winningest basketball coach in NC State history with a 377-134 record, began the state of North Carolina's love affair with college basketball, eventually producing two national titles at NC State, four at North Carolina and three at Duke.
Former Wolfpack player Lou Pucillo, who played and coached for Case, accepted on the late coach's behalf, just as he did in 1964 when Case was inducted into the NC Sports Hall of Fame's second class. Case, beginning his fight against the cancer that eventually forced him to retire later that season, was unable to attend the induction ceremony, then held in Charlotte, because of his illness.
"I had the pleasure of being around Coach Case from 1955 until his death in 1966, as a player, as an assistant coach and as a friend," Pucillo said. "It means a great deal to me to be able to represent Coach Case as they honor him again."
The second moment was March 9, 1974, the day Norm Sloan's second-ranked Wolfpack met third-ranked Maryland in the most memorable ACC Tournament championship game of all time.
At the time, only the winner of the league tournament could go to the 25-team NCAA Tournament, never mind that both the Pack, Terps and North Carolina were all ranked in the top five of the national polls in the entire season.
Maryland beat the Tar Heels by 20 points in the semifinals, while the Wolfpack beat Virginia by 21, setting the stage for yet another installment of the league's most intense rivalry. The Pack, led by All-Americans David Thompson and Tommy Burleson, had beaten Lefty Driesell's team 10-straight times heading into the game, including a pair of Super Bowl Sunday contests that introduced a national television audience to the excitement of ACC basketball.
The intensity of the title game began a few days before the tournament started, when the ACC media announced its all-conference team, putting Maryland's Len Elmore ahead of NC State's Tommy Burleson on the first team.
The only player better than the high-flying Thompson in college basketball at the time was an inspired Burleson, who set out to prove the sportswriters wrong. He had perhaps the greatest single-game performance in ACC Tournament history, scoring 38 point and grabbing 13 rebounds against Elmore.
But it was hardly a lopsided game. The Terps shot 61 percent from the field, while the Wolfpack shot 55 percent in the over time game. The teams combined for 29 turnovers, but the legendary game was played at such a high level would-be historians remember that there were fewer than 10.
The game was tied at the end of regulation. Maryland took an early lead in the overtime and the tempo slowed considerably.
The Terps led by two points when senior point guard Monte Towe stole the ball and fed Thompson for a layup. Maryland, with All-American guard John Lucas suffering from leg cramps, committed two turnovers and missed the front end of a one-and-one. Towe ended the game with a pair of quick-release free throws to give the Wolfpack a 103-100 victory and the league's only berth into the NCAA.
"The game was played at such a high intensity for 45 minutes," said Art Musselman, who was one of Sloan's three assistants. "There were world-class athletes going up and down the court through injuries and leg cramps. It was the highest level possible.
"I've never seen a game like it."
Largely because of this game, the NCAA's basketball committee changed the rule, allowing more than one team per conference beginning in 1975 and expanding the field to 32 teams. It eventually increased to 48, 56 and 64 until it reached the current total of 68 teams in America's second most popular sporting event after the Super Bowl.
In the nearly 40 years since the Pack and the Terps left everything on the floor in the most pressure-packed game in ACC history, there has yet to be a better game.