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Vin, Vinny and Vindication
Alexander Wolff
January 18, 1988
Where Vin Del Negro, talented but unguided, once failed, his son, well loved, has persevered and triumphed
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January 18, 1988

Vin, Vinny And Vindication

Where Vin Del Negro, talented but unguided, once failed, his son, well loved, has persevered and triumphed

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"F——you," yelled Vince. Rupp at first pretended not to have heard and turned to one of the officials. "What did he say?" asked the incredulous coach. The ref repeated it faithfully as Vince stormed off toward the locker room with Lickert in pursuit, trying to talk sense to him.

"I came back to the court, but I'd lost the mind game," Vin says. "I was going through the motions. When I got in against Georgia Tech, there were maybe seven minutes left, and I played no more than four of them. We won, but I really got torn up in the brain. I was thinking national TV, a top team, people back home watching. When you're young, you think of those things."

Over the following weeks Vince cut classes and stayed out late drinking. He got in and played well against Tulane and Tennessee, but still he was despondent and losing weight. One night, just before the return game with Georgia Tech, he roused Dick Parsons, his roommate and the Wildcats' captain. Vince told him he'd had enough; he was leaving. "Dick tried to talk me out of it," Vin says. "He told me I'd be back, that I shouldn't be down. I told him, 'Please, take me to the airport and don't tell anyone until the morning. Just let me get out of town.' "

That night Vince airlifted his shaken ego back to Springfield. Years would pass before he picked up a basketball again.

Vinny wants the ball now. Smith's layup has put the Tar Heels ahead by one, and Vinny takes Bolton's inbounds pass knowing what he will do. "Twenty-something seconds in a game like that, nothing's really organized," Vinny will say later. "Everyone was stunned after Smith's shot."

Vinny will look to shoot. Nineteen seconds remain as he forges up the left sideline, over midcourt and past the N.C. State bench, where coach Jim Valvano is "yelling something," Vinny remembers. "Yelling, 'Go to the basket. Shoot.' Or something."

In the fall of 1963, Valvano enrolled at Rutgers, went out for basketball without benefit of a scholarship and, much to his bewilderment, wasn't starting on the freshman team. One blue day Valvano called home. He remembers it as if it happened yesterday: "Eighth floor, Clothier Hall. The pay phone at the end of the corridor. Collect." Rocco Valvano listened as his son told him that he wanted to leave Rutgers and come home to Seaford, N.Y. He wanted to transfer to a nearby college, Hofstra.

"The coach doesn't like my game," Jim said.

"Why do you think that?" Rocco asked.

"Because I'm not starting."

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