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

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 later in the game Whittenburg went down with a broken foot after landing on a Virginia player's foot following a shot. He would miss the rest of the game and the seventeen that followed, with the Wolfpack losing to Virginia and going 10-7 in the other games.

NC State entered the ACC Tournament in Atlanta with ten losses. The NCAA expanded the men's tournament field from 48 teams to 52 for 1983, meaning that there were four extra spots available for potential qualifiers. Still, with a 64-team field some years away from being implemented, there was not much room for error for the Wolfpack with double-digit losses and their safest bet to reach the tournament was to secure the ACC champion's automatic 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.

On Selection Sunday, NC State found out it would be playing in the West Region of the tournament. They were placed in the sub-regional at Oregon State University's Gill Coliseum, which featured two of the nation's top ten teams in UNLV and UCLA. In addition, a potential rematch with conference rival Virginia, the region's top seed, existed if the Wolfpack could advance to the regional final. It almost did not come to pass, however. NC State, the #6 seed in the region, played #11 seed and West Coast Conference champion Pepperdine for the right to play UNLV. The Wolfpack trailed late but were able to come back and win in double overtime. They continued their winning streak by rallying again to beat UNLV, in turn handing the Runnin' Rebels their third loss of the season.

The regional was held at the Dee Events Center at what is now Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. There, NC State met #10 seed Utah, who had upset #2 seed UCLA and had, like the Wolfpack, needed to win their conference championship as they had 13 losses entering the tournament. This set up a rematch of the ACC tournament final and for the second consecutive time, the Wolfpack defeated Virginia and advanced to the Final Four.

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. Hakeem 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. Thus, he called for his "Locomotion" offensive set to be put into play. This meant that instead of driving to the basket every possession, Houston would pass the ball around to wind down the clock before passing to one of the designated scorers. The move, however, failed for two reasons. One, it deviates from Houston's strength by abandoning their strategy of pushing the ball up the court. Second, it enabled Valvano to go to his fallback option of extending the game by fouling. This was magnified by the fact that Houston was known for having suspect free throw shooters the whole year. As such, the Wolfpack were able to both force the Cougars into mistakes and take advantage of the missed free throws to chip away at Houston's advantage. NC State outscored Houston 17-10 in the eight minutes that followed and tied the game at 52.

On what would be Houston's last possession, Valvano called for his defenders to sit back and let the Cougars advance and pass the ball. The target for this possession was to be freshman guard Alvin Franklin, himself a 63% foul shooter. Senior captain Dereck Whittenburg committed the foul with 1:05 left in regulation, and Franklin went to the line for a one-and-one. The idea, as later stated by Whittenburg and fellow senior Thurl Bailey years later, was to not only put a poor foul shooter on the line but force Franklin, as the youngest starter on the squad, to face the enormity of the moment with a sellout crowd at The Pit and millions of viewers watching at home. Whatever the idea may have ultimately been, it worked as Franklin missed the shot. NC State took the rebound and with 44 seconds on the clock, Valvano called a time out and drew up a final play for his point guard Whittenburg to take the last shot.

Houston, meanwhile, needed a defensive stop to extend the game. Lewis decided to move from the man-to-man defense his team had been running the whole game to a half court trap with Benny Anders as the point man. 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. The ball eventually found its way to Sidney Lowe, who found Bailey standing in the lower left-hand corner of the court and passed it his way so he could take the shot. Bailey, however, wanted no part of Lowe's idea as he had not had a good half shooting the ball and began looking back toward Whittenburg. With a pair of defenders on him, Bailey threw what his teammate later called a "poor fundamental" overhand pass that Anders could easily have stolen.

At that moment Whittenburg harkened back to his high school days with Morgan Wootten at DeMatha Catholic High School in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.. One thing Wootten always taught his players was that when receiving the ball, bring it in with both hands. As Anders went for the ball, Whittenburg was able to put that lesson to use and by getting his other hand on the ball, he was able to get more control of it and prevent Anders from knocking it away. Anders was only able to get his fingertips on the ball, which temporarily stripped the ball from Whittenburg but did not enable him to take it away. Had Anders been able to steal, he would have likely had an uncontested breakaway to the other end of the court where he could have easily dunked the ball and given the Cougars the lead. Since the rules of the day dictated that the entire game be played with a running clock, the Wolfpack would most likely not have been able to get the ball up the court in time for a potential tying shot.

When Whittenburg regained control, five seconds were showing on the clock and he turned to try to get some sort of shot off from his position thirty-five feet from the goal. While the shot was in line with the basket, Whittenburg had not gotten enough on it and the ball was going to come up well short. 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 Championship
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