exception of that loss, it had been a wonderful season, proof of what Press
could do at a basketball school. He was voted the ACC's coach of the year, but
the most convincing evidence of his aptitude--and his outrageous aspiration for
changing the game--wasn't an award but a performance. It had taken place
earlier that season, over the Christmas break, at Reynolds Coliseum. Only a
half-dozen guys were there, but Bill Bradley himself inspired only a fraction
of the awe they felt that day.
The game was
three-on-three. There were four N.C. State starters: Coker, Larry Lakins, Larry
Worsley and Tommy Mattocks. There was Robinson. Pete made six. He was 17.
"We loved to
play against Pete," Lakins would recall. "He was the coach's son. Coach
worked our tails off. That was our only retaliation." They bellied him.
They shoved him. They hit him. "We were beating the s--- out of him that
day," says Coker.
But none of that
punishment made a difference. Whatever Pete threw up came down through the net.
There were jump shots, hook shots, set shots, bank shots, left- and righthanded
shots, driving shots and shots that seemed to come all the way from Guilford
County. The game went on for hours as each player took his turn trying to guard
Pete. None of them could.
By then Robinson
had an idea of how good the kid was; they would play one-on-one most Saturdays.
But he had never seen Pete as he was that day: the way he taunted starters on
an ACC championship team, teasing them with that high yo-yo dribble. And then,
as soon as one of them leaned or lunged, he was embarrassed; Pete was gone.
hypnotically economical. Pete was his stylistic antithesis. Everything about
this boy's game was funky and flagrant. He went behind the back, over the back,
between his legs, between your legs. Then there was that pass with English on
it, the one that bounced off the floor at an absurd angle. Years later a
basketball writer would liken the ball's movement to something that came off a
pool hustler's cue. But the sense of timing suggested an accomplished
As the game wound
down, toward the end of its third hour, Pete invented a shot. He was fading to
a corner. The stairs down to the dressing room were just beyond the court.
"Going down," Pete called as he threw up a high, arcing hook shot. He
didn't even break his stride, didn't stop to watch it swish though the net. He
just kept going, right on down to the locker room.
Robinson ambled over to the bench and sat, speechless, shaking their heads.
Finally, Coker spoke: "Les, you ever see anything like that?"
his head no.
"I think he might be ... "