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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

'83: Should we just move on already?

As I was riding into work today I was listening to 850 The Buzz, as I'm apt to do, and the topic of conversation centered around the '83 Championship.

This year, of course, is the 25th Anniversary of said title. Tonight, WRAL plans to run a special at 7:30 on the title run and all the magical moments that surrounded it.

It was a special time for my university, and it's one we--as State fans--always will treasure. But I think I have to agree with the hosts, Adam Gold and Joe Ovies: It's time to move on.

We've been living in the past for too long. When I started at State, '83 was just over a decade away. Now it's a quarter-century. I was at Technician when we put together a 15th Anniversary piece, and I remember thinking then that 15 years was a long damn time away. Now it's a decade longer.

We need to focus on the here-and-now, because that's all we have to show to potential recruits. We can point to some trophies in a glass case--so can San Francisco and Oklahoma State. But kids today know nothing of our past success, unless they just so happened to grow up State fans with parents who shared it with them as a child.

Cold reality: In a year or so, a college freshman will have been born in the 90's. Given that our last real solid team--with Corchiani and Monroe--was the 1990-1991 squad, the entirety of these kids' lives will have been lived AFTER our last great team. Even scarier: The kids born during the year of our last ACC title, 1987, are beginning to graduate college this year.

It sucks, because it means I'm old.

It also sucks because it means there's no legitimate reason a top-flight recruit should know of State ever having been a great program. No more so than they should think the same way of Houston. We haven't posted any measure of real, tangible success (read:titles) in their lifetimes.

All we have are old trophies and great memories, but those can't recruit for us anymore. We have to sell what we have, not what we had.

Unfortunately, we're competing against programs in the area that have tremendous built-in recruiting advantages. Duke and Carolina don't have to recruit at all, really--they choose. I could sign three McDonald's All-Americas with my eyes closed at one of those two programs. The hype for the Duke-Carolina games seems to get bigger each year, and has turned into its own self-hyping phenomenon. Are we surprised that the two top programs in the league by a good margin are Duke and Carolina, and have been for a decade?

All that success builds the recruiting pool for these two schools across the country. Hell, one of the top point guard prospects in the country, John Wall, is right in Carolina's backyard in Cary, and despite his own admission that he grew up a Carolina fan, he wasn't offered because they ALREADY have too many top-flight PGs on their roster! When you have the luxury of not offering the best talent in the country because there's no room on your squad, a trained monkey could coach your team to 20-win seasons year-in and year-out. (Which makes you wonder about Matt Doherty...)

All of this is to say: we've got a tough fight ahead of us, and it's not made any easier by where we're located. But, we've got to shed this anchor of the '83 championship, because all it's doing is weighing us down at the moment. The more we scream about past titles and miracles and magic, the more desperate we appear to the outside world--including recruits.

Sure, show them the trophy case. Make your point about returning to that level of greatness. But if Sidney's wise--and we're wise as a fanbase--the '83 and '74 championships will be near the end of the recruiting tour, not near the beginning.


  1. Corchiani and Monroe were the last great State team? but, but, but what about those 5 straight NCAA tournament appearances (with 1 Sweet 16!)? What about that year we led the ACC in FT %? What about all those BCA tournament championships! What about...

    hmm, you might be right.

  2. I didn't agree with this until a few nights ago, when the wife saw a commercial for WRAL's special about the '83 team and said something to the affect of, "boy, you really haven't been very good in a long time." She said it with a tone of, "boy, you guys really are pathetic, latching on to something that happened a LONG time ago." And, she's right. That was a long time ago, now. We shouldn't forget it, as is still inspires me and thousands others. But perhaps we should just let it go.

  3. Let me get this straight: Because we haven't won a national title in 25 years, or an ACC title in 23 years (and yes, that's a long time), we're supposed to ignore our past successes and fail to celebrate one of the greatest stories in college sports history on a milestone anniversary? WRAL is supposed to ignore it because we haven't won a title since then? That's great – let's further the perception that our basketball program no longer matters. That'll help build it back to respectability.
    We haven't won any titles since current recruits have been born. And? What would you propose Sidney and his staff do? Sell that fact? Criticize Lowe for a disappointing season all you want, but taking him to task for what you perceive to be his recruiting tactics won't fly. The only recruiting class he has fielded has been pretty promising. Hickson is already being talked about as an NBA lottery pick. Smith has everyone abuzz about what a great player he is going to be for us over the next few years. Gonzalez has been thrown to the wolves but is starting to play at a high level, as evidenced by the Duke game.
    If kids today know nothing of our championships, it's up to recruiters to educate them. It is a great selling point, not a detriment. But if those old trophies are our best selling point, guys like Hickson wouldn’t come here. They are but part of an overall recruiting pitch. And a pitch, I might add, that probably includes a passionate fan base. My guess is Lowe didn’t mention how unrealistic that fan base’s expectations are for a coach in his second year with rookie point guards. If there’s one faction Lowe doesn’t want to be taking advice from, it’s our “wise” fan base. He’s doing OK on the recruiting trail as best I can tell.
    North Carolina and Duke win because they have arguably the two best coaches in the game. You’re right in that those schools sell themselves to recruits – but trained monkeys could not coach them to 20 wins. Matt Doherty failed miserably by your own account. Pete Gaudet didn’t do so hot for Duke in 1995. If we’re on a recruit’s list with Duke and Carolina, you can probably forget about them wearing the red and white. That’s a fact we’ve lived with for more than 25 years, and we’ve still managed to win a couple of national crowns, and even 10 ACC titles.
    It has been a disappointing season. We’re all frustrated that we’re not a good team. But if you somehow think that our 1983 championship is holding us back from being better on the court today, you’ve thrown rational out the window.

  4. Kinger,

    I don't think I ever said we should forget about the 83 team and their championship, or pretend it didn't happen. And I'm not taking coach Lowe to task for anything; I frankly have no idea HOW he recruits. I'm sure he does mention '83 quite a bit while on the recruiting trail, but I have no idea to what extent.

    My point is that these titles happened so long ago--in basketball years--that your average prospect has no idea we were once a great program. WE know, and we'll never forget it, but there's a growing disconnect between those of us who lived through the great years and those that didn't.

    We must balance our passion and desire to return to the level we were in the 80's with a realistic look at where we are now.

  5. I wasn't a state fan back in 83, so I don't have the great memories to fall back on. However, as someone who didn't become a state fan until he went to state back in 1990, it's a way for me to experience Wolfpack glory that I never got to experience personally.

    I hope this makes sense; I get the feeling I' not exactly making my point well.

  6. so, mark, you basically became a state fan the year we started to suck royally? thanks, mr jinx.

  7. slackzac fornicates with dead goats.

  8. at least i got to see Valvano coach while i was in school. nani, nani, boo boo.

  9. Fair enough, Curle, but I guess I still just don't see the point here. What exactly are we supposed to "move on" from? Because we celebrate the 25-year anniversary of our last national title, we're somehow stuck on the memory and can't achieve future success because of it? Of course recruits today don't come to N.C. State because we've won two titles. I'd like to think their mindset is that they're coming to help us win the third. I just don't see how the memory of 1983 is holding us back.

    How am I to balance my passion? In '83 we were first, and now we're last in the conference. Should I have middle-of-the-ACC-standings desire?

    Sorry James, not to dwell ;) I just don't see your point!

  10. King,

    I'm not worried about folks like you, who are passionate about the school, have a full understanding of our past and heritage, but are also able to look objectively at the team, players and coaching staffs.

    The guys I'm writing to, I guess, are the loons who flood message boards and talk radio with blasts DEMANDING that State return to its past glory because we're "owed" something by virtue of our two titles. They're the same mouth-breathers that already want to run Sidney out of town because, I guess, 1.9 years is enough time to know if a guy will be a good head coach or not.

    My fear--however irrational it may be--is that these same simpletons can negatively impact our recruiting and overall national perception as a program. That's not to say that the folks across the country are right; however, the best basketball players across the country fall under that umbrella, and with perception=reality so much these days, if aspects of your fanbase point to 1983 and say loudly and obnoxiously "LOOK, LOOK, WE'RE ENTITLED TO XXXX," then we ALL look like idiots. I want us to remember 1983 and everything great that came about from it. But, I don't want folks to cloud their current perception of our program as a result of it. THAT's the anchor effect I'm speaking of.

    We can just settle it out on the courts of Carroll, how 'bout that? ;)