- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
ACC Final, State-Virginia. Othell Wilson drains a three-pointer to cut the Wolfpack lead to 79-78 with 20 seconds left. Virginia lets 14 seconds elapse before fouling State's best free-throw shooter, Whittenburg, who nails the one-and-one. Needing a three-pointer to tie, the Cavs' slowest player, Doug Newburgh, dribbles up court. State wins 81-78.
NCAA West Sub-Regional, State-Pepperdine. In the first overtime the Wolfpack is behind 59-55 and the other guys have the ball. But in the last 29 seconds State fouls Dane Suttle, an 84% free-throw shooter, not once but twice. Suttle misses both one-and-one chances. State wins in double OT, 69-67.
NCAA West Regional, State-Virginia. Whittenburg hits from 25 feet to tie the game at 61 with 1:26 left. State immediately fouls Wilson. He makes the first but misses the second. UVA 62-61. A year before in Raleigh, same situation, State had played for the last shot and Whittenburg had missed. This time State takes the first available shot at :23. Whittenburg drives and feeds Charles, who is fouled. He makes both. State 63-62. In Sampson's last college sequence, Valvano has the Pack sandwich Ralph with a 1-3 defense and a chaser on Wilson. Both are harassed, and Tim Mullen, who has played only six minutes and taken not a single shot, ends up having to shoot. Mullen barely finds iron. Wilson's rebound is followed by a panicky half-pass, half-prayer air ball. State wins 63-62. Goodnight, sweet prince. "I'm not gonna let the great player beat me," says V. "If Ralph beats me, I don't sleep for six years. If Mullen beats me, I sleep like a baby. Only Mullen ain't gonna make that shot. No way. No question."
NCAA Final, State-Houston. The rout. The laugher. Phi Slamma Jamma can mail it in. One guy writes (Valvano's favorite): "Rain would make it perfect. It always rains at an execution." Only V remembers that Houston lost to a Virginia team that was playing without Sampson. V knows Houston can't shoot free throws. V says stuff like "We'll hide the ball till Tuesday" and "even Angelina is taking Houston and giving the seven." But V knows he's ready. Houston's the Big-timer, remember. But V's the Rat. You kiddin'? This is a lock.
What happened was that the Houston bench simply wasn't ready for this visceral, even intellectual, approach to the fray by the attack Rat down at the opposite end. The Phi Slams had prepared for a day. The Rat had prepared all his rodent career. Everyone remembers how Houston held when it should have run—ahead 42-35 after a 17-2 spurt. But Houston also shot when it should have held, and that may have been equally damaging. With his team ahead 52-50 at 1:59, Akeem Olajuwon forced one up from the baseline, enabling Whittenburg to answer again from somewhere on the outskirts of Santa Fe. It was 52-52, and V was in heaven, or the vicinity of déjà vu.
At 1:05 State fouled Houston freshman Alvin Franklin, who hadn't been on the line all night. Franklin's free throw never had a chance. McQueen rebounded, and State called time with 44 seconds to go. The Pack held, Whitt shot the golden knuckler, Charles slammed and, just like that, V became a genius looking for somebody to hug.
Yeah, well, O.K., so V's got the TV stuff and the newspaper column and the radio talk shows.... Somebody called in the other night and wanted to know who's going to the Super Bowl and V said his uncle, Bruno, he's got tickets. So he's got the Coach V clothes line and the bank ads and the health spa endorsements.... V says he'd love to work out but every time he steps into the whirlpool he breaks out in a rash.... And so he did the clinics and seminars for Hardee's hamburgers and the shills for Mountain Dew and the speeches for IBM and Encyclopaedia Britannica and the personal appearances and his fee's gone up to $3,500 a shot. So what? The guy does so much charity work for free some lady came in the other day from the committee to aid teenage pregnancies or something and V said wait, I had nothing to do with her. I was robbing the liquor store at the time, and anyway, she told me she was 22.
Everybody gets on V for selling himself and compares him to Deano low-profiling it over in Chapel Hill, pushing his nuclear freeze bit. Well, yeah, V says, I know, I know, Deano is really hurting over there in his motor home, barely surviving on hot dogs and beans, but hey, wait, V's gonna have more impact because when everybody gets nuked we're gonna need us a little Mountain Dew with our char-broiled burgers. No question.
And anyway, if V isn't the embodiment of the American Dream.... Grandpa over from Naples on the boat to Ellis Island.... Grandson grows up to live in the castle on the golf course and meet the President.... Which reminds V that when Ronnie asked him if it was Val-vah-no or Val-vane-o, V asked Ronnie is it Ree-gun or Ray-gun? V also met his alltime guy, Sinatra, posed with him even, and Frankie said, "Hey, Paisan, you've made all Italians happy." Him, V. Yeah.
And V's worked for all this, being away from the gorgeous Pam and the three gorgeous daughters all the time. Why, he looked up the other day and his oldest daughter, Nicole, was 14 and he didn't even know who Rick (sic) Springsteen was. Aw, so what, V says, Rick couldn't carry Dion's jockstrap anyway. Of course Pam never liked the limelight either. She always wanted to go out with just a few couples, and V wanted a crowd of 100 and now she feels as if she's "sharing him with America." Like V's as big as Michael Jackson or something. So maybe he is and, well, is V the American Dream or what? Raking in the half million a year, with the silver sports car and the Mark VI Continental and the beach house. No question whatsoever.