1982–83 NC State Wolfpack men's basketball team

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1982–83 North Carolina State Wolfpack men's basketball
National Champions
ACC Tournament Champions
Conference Atlantic Coast Conference
Coaches No. 14
AP No. 16
1982–83 record 26–10 (8–6 ACC)
Head coach Jim Valvano
Assistant coach Tom Abatemarco
Assistant coach Ray Martin
Assistant coach Ed McLean
Captain Thurl Bailey
Sidney Lowe
Dereck Whittenburg
Home arena Reynolds Coliseum
« 1981–82 1983–84 »

The 1982–83 North Carolina State Wolfpack men's basketball team represented North Carolina State University. The Wolfpack were a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The team went 26–10 on the year, winning the ACC Tournament and eventually the national championship.

Cinderella run[edit]

The Wolfpack entered the season ranked in the Top 20 and entered conference play ranked #19 in the nation. Their first conference game was against Virginia, ranked #2 in the country and undefeated against the Wolfpack's senior class. NC State took a lead early behind the shooting of guard and senior captain Dereck Whittenburg, but lost the game after Whittenburg suffered a broken foot. The loss dropped the Wolfpack to 7-3 and they struggled without Whittenburg, going 10-7 the rest or the way. NC State entered the ACC Tournament in Atlanta likely needing to win it to get in; at the time the NCAA invited 52 teams to their tournament and with ten losses it would be difficult to get an at-large bid. They did just that, winning three games in the tournament to claim the title. In the process, NC State defeated their in-state rival North Carolina, the defending national champions, and managed to finally defeat #2 Virginia to claim the title.

Placed in the West Region and playing in the sub-regional at Gill Coliseum on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis, the Wolfpack's first game was against Pepperdine, whom they managed to beat in double overtime. They then faced the #6 team in the country, UNLV, and handed them only their third loss of the season. They advanced to the West regional in Ogden, Utah, held at Dee Events Center at Weber State College. NC State beat the #10 seed, Utah of nearby Salt Lake City, and then won the region by defeating ACC rival Virginia, the bracket's top seed, for a second time in four matchups.

At the Final Four in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Wolfpack finished off their run to the championship game by defeating Georgia in the semifinals on Saturday, which set up a matchup with top-ranked and heavily-favored Houston on Monday night at The Pit.

Fouling strategy[edit]

Head coach Jim Valvano was noted for employing a then-little used strategy late in games. The NCAA had yet to adopt a shot clock for college basketball, and as the games wore on some teams were just content to keep possession of the ball late in games to protect a lead, passing the ball around until the clock hit zero. Valvano would instruct his players to intentionally foul opposing players, thus putting them on the free-throw line. While this strategy was risky, as it allowed NC State's opponents a chance to increase their lead, it enabled the Wolfpack to extend the game as each foul stopped the clock and the team could also capitalize if the opponents missed their free throws. They used this to great effect in the ACC tournament, including against rival North Carolina and Virginia, and employed it again in four of their six NCAA victories. Nowhere was the strategy more widely seen, however, than in the national championship game.

National championship game[edit]

In the final game on April 4 in Albuquerque, NC State led at halftime by a score of 33–25. Houston was hampered by foul trouble that plagued star Clyde Drexler, who picked up three fouls within the first few minutes. Drexler begged to remain in the game, but was forced to come out after Wolfpack sophomore guard Terry Gannon drew a charging foul on him. The foul was controversial as replays showed that Gannon appeared to grab Drexler's legs as he went down, and Drexler believed the foul should have gone against Gannon and not him (Gannon later said that Drexler never forgot the call; in the ESPN documentary about the team, he told his teammates that years later, by which time he had become a sports journalist, Gannon saw Drexler in the locker room at the 1991 NBA All-Star Game and once Drexler found out who he was he instantly cursed him out over the foul).

In the second half, the Cougars came out with a second wind and established control of the game, outscoring the Wolfpack 17-2 in the first ten minutes of the half to give themselves a 42-35 lead.

However, things were not all good for Houston. Albuquerque is located in the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico and has an elevation of 5,100-foot (1,550 m). Thus, as is the case with other high-altitude cities, athletes are tested by the effects of the elevation as well as their own physical capabilities. Akeem Olajuwon, the Cougars' star center, was plagued by altitude-induced fatigue during the second half despite leading the team in scoring and rebounds and required oxygen to continue playing. With Olajuwon on the bench, Houston head coach Guy Lewis decided that in order to protect the lead and the health of his big man at the same time, the Cougars needed to start slowing the game down.

Once again, this enabled the Wolfpack to return to their standby strategy of extending the game. Houston's free throw shooting was very suspect entering the game, which worked greatly in NC State's favor as they were able to rally back and even the score at 52 in the final two minutes. On what would be the last Houston possession, Valvano called for his players to back off and let freshman guard Alvin Franklin bring the ball up the court. The Wolfpack defenders would let the Cougars employ their slowdown strategy of passing it around. Once the ball got back to Franklin, whenever that happened, he was to be fouled immediately. With 1:05 left, the freshman was fouled by senior guard and team captain Dereck Whittenburg, sending him to the line for a one-and-one. The idea to foul Franklin sprung from the enormity of the moment; NC State believed that the relatively inexperienced Franklin could not withstand the pressure of going to the line with the championship at stake and knowing that fifty million viewers were tuned in to watch the game. The theory proved correct as Franklin failed to convert and the Wolfpack grabbed the rebound. Valvano called timeout with 44 seconds left and drew up a play for senior guard Whittenburg during the timeout which called for the team to pass the ball around and take most of the remaining time off the clock, with Whittenburg receiving the ball with ten seconds left so he could take the last shot.

Houston needed a defensive stop so they could get another chance to close out the game. Lewis decided to move from the man-to-man defense his team had been running the whole game to a half court zone trap defense. The Wolfpack, who were not expecting the defensive adjustment, were forced to deviate and began passing the ball around just to keep the Cougars from stealing it. Houston nearly got the turnover it was looking for when Whittenburg made an errant pass to Gannon that Drexler nearly came away with before the sophomore regained control of the ball. The ball eventually wound up in the hands of guard Sidney Lowe, who gave it to forward and fellow senior Thurl Bailey in the corner.

Trying to keep the ball moving, as he had been double teamed as soon as he received the pass, Bailey looked back toward Whittenburg, who was approximately thirty feet away from the hoop near midcourt. Bailey threw what Whittenburg would later call a "poor fundamental" overhanded pass which Houston's Benny Anders, guarding Whittenburg on the play, was in position to steal. At this point, Whittenburg harkened back to his high school days with Morgan Wootten at DeMatha Catholic High School, where he was taught to catch the basketball with both hands every time he possessed it. By doing this, he was able to defend against Anders trying to steal the ball, as he only went for it with one hand. If Whittenburg had not done that, Anders would have had an uncontested breakaway toward the other end and would likely have gotten the winning score; at the time, college basketball games were played with a running clock from beginning to end (this is no longer the case) and the Wolfpack would likely not have had enough time to even inbound the ball. As it was, though, Anders merely knocked the ball out of Whittenburg's hands momentarily and the senior guard easily regained control.

The clock, meanwhile, had ticked down to five seconds and Whittenburg was about thirty-five feet from the goal. Once he regained control, Whittenburg turned and launched the ball toward the basket. While the shot was in line with the basket, Whittenburg did not get enough on it to carry it all the way to the hoop and was falling short of the basket. At the foot of the goal stood Olajuwon and Wolfpack center Lorenzo Charles, who watched Whittenburg's air ball. Olajuwon hesitated briefly, as he was in position to grab the ball and likely force overtime but did not want to jump too soon and be called for goaltending. Charles took advantage of the hesitation and went up for the errant shot. With two seconds left on the clock Charles took the ball and drove it through the hoop with two hands for the decisive score and gave the Wolfpack its first national championship since 1974.

30 for 30[edit]

The team's story was chronicled in Survive and Advance, an entry in the ESPN 30 for 30 series. Dereck Whittenburg produced the film and was one of several players who appeared in it, alongside his teammates Thurl Bailey, Sidney Lowe, Terry Gannon, Cozell McQueen, and Ernie Myers. Valvano's widow, Pam Valvano Strasser, also appears in the documentary as do several of his assistants. Hakeem Olajuwon, David Rose, and Reid Gettys of the defeated Houston squad also appear to offer their take on their loss, as do then-North Carolina assistant Roy Williams and then-Pepperdine coach Jim Harrick, whose teams were defeated in the ACC and NCAA tournaments by the Wolfpack. Mike Krzyzewski is also featured prominently in the film, describing how his relationship with Valvano (who started at NC State the same year Krzyzewski took over at Duke) evolved over the years from an adversarial one to one where the two men became close friends.

In addition to the 1982-83 team's season (and their 30-year reunion, which is marked by the absence of the recently deceased Lorenzo Charles), Valvano's career after that season is a major focal point, as is his battle with cancer and the emotional impact it had on his players and coaches. In addition to Valvano's famous speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards, his appearance at Reynolds Coliseum for the tenth anniversary celebration honoring the team is featured as it was the last time many of his players got to see him before his passing.


Time, TV
Rank# Opponent# Result Record Site
City, State
November 29*
No. 16 Western Carolina W 103–66  1–0
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
December 3*
No. 18 North Carolina A&T W 100–70  2–0
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
December 8*
No. 18 East Carolina W 57–49  3–0
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
December 11*
No. 18 Michigan State W 45–41  4–0
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
December 21*
No. 15 at No. 14 Louisville L 52–57  4–1
Freedom Hall 
Louisville, KY
December 28*
No. 17 vs. No. 20 West Virginia W 67–59  5–1
Brendan Byrne Arena 
East Rutherford, NJ
January 3*
No. 17 Farleigh Dickinson W 111–76  6–1
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
January 7
No. 16 at Clemson W 76–70  7–1
Littlejohn Coliseum 
Clemson, SC
January 9*
No. 16 No. 15 Missouri L 42–49  7–2
Hearnes Center 
Columbia, MO
January 12
No. 19 No. 2 Virginia L 80–88  7–3
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
January 15
No. 19 Georgia Tech W 81–61  8–3
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
January 19
at No. 3 North Carolina L 81–99  8–4
Carmichael Auditorium 
Chapel Hill, NC
January 22
at Wake Forest L 73–91  8–5
Winston-Salem Memorial Coliseum 
Winston-Salem, NC
January 23*
No. 6 Memphis State L 53–57  8–6
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
January 26
Duke W 94–79  9–6
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
January 29
at Maryland L 81–86  9–7
Cole Field House 
College Park, MD
February 2
at Georgia Tech W 74–64  10–7
Alexander Memorial Coliseum 
Atlanta, GA
February 4*
vs. Furman
North-South Doubleheader
W 51–48  11–7
Charlotte Coliseum 
Charlotte, NC
February 5*
vs. The Citadel
North-South Doubleheader
W 57–47  12–7
Charlotte Coliseum 
Charlotte, NC
February 9
Clemson W 90–83  13–7
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
February 12*
Notre Dame L 42–43  13–8
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
February 16*
UNC Wilmington W 90–69  14–8
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
February 19
No. 3 North Carolina W 70–63  15–8
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
February 23
at Duke W 96–79  16–8
Cameron Indoor Stadium 
Durham, NC
February 27
at No. 3 Virginia L 75–86  16–9
University Hall 
Charlottesville, VA
March 3
Maryland L 58–67  16–10
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
March 5
Wake Forest W 130–89  17–10
Reynolds Coliseum 
Raleigh, NC
March 11*
vs. Wake Forest
ACC Tournament
W 71–70  18–10
The Omni 
Atlanta, GA
March 12*
vs. No. 5 North Carolina
ACC Tournament
W 91–84 OT 19–10
The Omni 
Atlanta, GA
March 13*
vs. No. 2 Virginia
ACC Tournament
W 81–78  20–10
The Omni 
Atlanta, GA
March 18*
No. 16 vs. Pepperdine
NCAA Tournament
W 69–67  21–10
Gill Coliseum 
Corvallis, OR
March 20*
No. 16 vs. No. 6 UNLV
NCAA Tournament
W 71–70  22–10
Gill Coliseum 
Corvallis, OR
March 24*
No. 16 vs. Utah
NCAA Tournament
W 75–56  23–10
Dee Events Center 
Ogden, UT
March 26*
No. 16 vs. No. 4 Virginia
NCAA Tournament
W 63–62  24–10
Dee Events Center 
Ogden, UT
April 2*
No. 16 vs. No. 18 Georgia
NCAA Tournament
W 67–60  25–10
The Pit 
Albuquerque, NM
April 4*
No. 16 vs. No. 1 Houston
NCAA Tournament
W 54–52  26–10
The Pit 
Albuquerque, NM
*Non-conference game. #Rankings from AP Poll. (#) Tournament seedings in parentheses.


Team players drafted into the NBA[edit]

Year Round Pick Player NBA Club
1983 1 7 Thurl Bailey Utah Jazz
1983 2 25 Sidney Lowe Chicago Bulls
1983 3 51 Dereck Whittenburg Phoenix Suns
1984 2 41 Lorenzo Charles Atlanta Hawks
1984 4 91 Cozell McQueen Milwaukee Bucks