McGuire began to lose his mass support in 1959 when he pulled his starters in the final of the ACC tournament and let season co-champion State rout the Tar Heels 80-56. With State on probation, Carolina was already assured of an NCAA tournament berth. McGuire said, "The game didn't mean anything." In 1961, this time with his own champion Tar Heels on probation, McGuire again thumbed his nose at Case by declining to play in the ACC tournament at all. It was his final act as coach. McGuire left Chapel Hill that spring.
Into the 1960s the scandals forced cutbacks in the athletic programs at State and Carolina. There was a rush to fill the vacuum. Bones McKinney, who had been a famous player at both state schools, took over as coach down the road at Wake Forest and constructed a fine team on the burly shoulders of Len Chappell. Vic Bubas, who had been a player and assistant under Case, switched to Duke. He brought in Art Heyman and Jeff Mullins and finished in the top 10 six years in a row. Later Dean Smith, who had resurrected the sport at Chapel Hill, had a run of three straight Eastern championships. McGuire resurfaced at South Carolina with John Roche and other New York characters right out of A Clockwork Orange
. Lefty Driesell came into Maryland recruiting his heart out, and he got McMillen away from Smith in the recruiting cause c�l�bre of the decade. Sloan, another player under Case at N.C. State, hurried back to his alma mater. In 1968 he beat Duke 12-10 and then nudged his way past Smith and Driesell by landing Burleson and Thompson. The battles were joined all over again.
Today with more and better players, regal indoor stadiums, vast recruiting budgets and promotional brochures that publicize everything but the players' favorite uppers, the ACC is more brutal than ever. Very few head coaches leave the ACC to work elsewhere. "It would be like going to the minors," says McKinney.
Animosities linger. Clemson's Tates Locke once told his players of Driesell, "Just get me to the last two minutes even and I'll outcoach this SOB from there." Smith and Driesell should not be invited to the same party. Smith and Sloan should not be invited to the same city.
"We aren't little boys running around sticking our tongues out," says one coach. But too often the pressures, stakes, egos and conceits of trying to stay ahead make them act like boys.
Solid citizens are not immune to such feelings. One of N.C. State's leading contributors regularly calls a Raleigh radio talk show and publicly refers to Smith as Nickel Nose. "I have to laugh," says Smith. "I didn't think State guys were that clever." Around the league Sloan's past transgressions into the realm of fury are cited and he is called Stormy Normy, the Human Panic.
Graduates of the four North Carolina schools live, work and play next door to each other. When a man's team loses at night, he loses at the office the next morning. Even children become pawns.
Last Christmas Eve, as Sloan was leaving candlelight services, he was stopped by a State alumnus who introduced him to a 9-year-old boy, an ardent Carolina fan. Peace and love were in the air. Silent Night could be heard from inside the church. As Sloan reached out his hand the boy shrank back in horror. "Ugh," he said, "I don't even want to touch you."
It is into this atmosphere that the national tournament will come next March. If anything has a chance to pull the ACC together in common bond, probably it is the prospect of one of its teams defeating UCLA. Maybe Maryland can do it. Perhaps North Carolina can. Inevitably, N.C. State has the best chance.
As Burleson says, the Wolfpack can succeed if he plays Bill Walton "medium" and David Thompson has a "super" game. Towe says anytime you have Thompson on your side you have an advantage, that against UCLA David will be terrific.