At Campbell, Pete
bet Wake Forest's All-America big man, Len Chappell, that he could make 24 of
25 free throws, with 20 of them hitting nothing but the net. He collected his
winnings in Pepsis. In getting the better of Chappell, Pete had done something
the rest of the ACC could not. It wasn't the only time, either. "I remember
we played H-O-R-S-E for an hour," says Chappell. "He shot me out of the
"He was the
hardest-working athlete I've ever been around," says Lefty Driesell, then
the coach at Davidson. "It'd be 110 degrees, and he'd be dribbling or
throwing the ball against a cement wall hours at a time."
Driesell told him, "you're working too hard."
"I'm gonna be
a millionaire, coach," Pete replied. The boy kept going, throwing all those
fancy passes against the wall.
never seen Oscar Robertson throw nothing but a plain old chest pass," said
pay you a million to throw a plain old chest pass."
While still at
Clemson, Press developed ulcers. Basketball was literally bleeding him. His
physician prescribed tranquilizers and advised Press not to take the game home
"How can I do
that?" Press asked. The real cure, at least to his way of thinking, was
Pete. This Pistol had the magic bullet: a cure for all his regrets. Pete was
Press's ticket to basketball heaven. Still, some couldn't help but wonder
whether Pete would become a kind of human sacrifice. As John Wooden had warned
Press, "You're putting too much pressure on one boy."
By 1965 Press had
become the head coach at a bona fide basketball school, North Carolina State.
There, he guided an undermanned Wolfpack team to an ACC championship and a
ticket to the NCAA tournament, where its first opponent would be Princeton, a
team made famous by its star, Bill Bradley. A first team All-America, Bradley
had won a gold medal in Rome, where he was captain of the U.S. Olympic team,
and a Rhodes scholarship. The AP, UPI and Basketball Writers Association would
all name him college basketball's player of the year. In three varsity seasons
he had averaged more than 30 points a game. But even more significant was the
manner in which he scored. "We knew," recalls '65 Wolfpack star Pete
Coker, "that a different style was being created in places like New York,
Washington and Philly." A new game was developing; segregation could no
longer keep it secret. But Bradley represented a triumph, however perishable,
of the old style.
Here, then, was a
Great White Hope. And more. Bradley personified the ideal collegiate athlete.
His game was modest, practiced, even Protestant. Not only did he belong to the
Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but he also taught Sunday school. Bradley,
for whom khakis and white shirts were a standard-issue uniform, had made an art
of conformity. "We were mesmerized by [him]," says Les Robinson, one of
Press's seniors, recalling the Wolfpack's deflating rout by the Ivy Leaguers,
66--48, including 27 points from Bradley. "Press showed me film of the game
the next day.... We weren't guarding him like we guarded other guys. That's
what killed Press, that we were in awe of him."