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Both the women's and the men's teams at Iowa are ranked in the Top 20, but no matter how successful they are on the court, their memories of this season will be forever shrouded in black. On Thanks-giving Day, Bill Stringer, the 47-year-old husband of women's coach Vivian Stringer and an exercise physiologist with the school's athletic department, died of a heart attack. Then on Jan. 19 Chris Street, a 6' 8" junior forward on the men's team, was killed in an auto accident. "These kinds of things tear the guts out of an organization," says athletic director Bob Bowlsby.
The grief has extended throughout the state. The Iowa House of Representatives observed a moment of silence for Street, and the flags in Indianola, Iowa, his hometown, flew at half staff. Several players from rival Iowa State have written Street's uniform number, 40, on the backs of their sneakers, and the entire Cyclone team is wearing black ribbons or armbands in his memory. Iowa State forward Morgan Wheat, who played against Street in high school, changed his number from 00 to 40 before the Cyclones' 81-74 upset of Oklahoma last Saturday.
Street, who was averaging 14.5 points and was one of the top rebounders in the Big Ten, was driving back to campus with his girlfriend, Kimberly Sue Vinton, after a team meal, when his car crashed into a snowplow. Vinton was released from the hospital on Sunday. Street was buried wearing his gold Hawk-eye uniform, the one reserved for special games, and his warmup suit.
Coaches Clem Haskins of Minnesota and Bill Foster of Northwestern were among the 2,500 mourners at Street's funeral last Friday in Indianola, and coaches Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, Bob Knight of Indiana, Gene Keady of Purdue and Lou Henson of Illinois, who lost his 35-year-old son, Lou Jr., in an auto accident on Nov. 20, each praised Street's talent, competitiveness and character. Says Stringer, who returned to coaching on Jan. 2 after missing five games following her husband's death: "We feel a great sense of loss. We hurt for his family, friends and teammates. While all this is so difficult to understand, we must go on. We will support each other as best we can and let the healing begin. Through it all, we will remember Chris Street."
Only 25 miles separate North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus from North Carolina State's campus in Raleigh, but this season, at least in basketball terms, the two schools are worlds apart. While the Tar Heels are playing better than anyone expected, the Wolfpack is suffering through a season no one could have predicted.
Last week North Carolina brought previously undefeated Virginia back to earth with an easy victory in Chapel Hill and then on the road beat Seton Hall, which was ranked No. 10 at the time, to improve to 16-1 and 5-0 in the ACC. It's hard to argue with point guard Derrick Phelps when he says, "I don't think anyone can beat us the way we're playing right now."
Sophomore guard Donald Williams has erased the memories of a disappointing freshman year by giving the Tar Heels the outside shooting threat many observers thought they would lack after losing Hubert Davis to the NBA. Senior forward George Lynch has been performing like an All-America, and junior center Eric Montross, who benefited from playing against the Dream Team last summer, has improved so much that he has had to deny rumors that he plans to enter the NBA draft. It's hard to conceive of an underrated team from Chapel Hill, but that's what this one may be.
North Carolina routed N.C. State 100-67 in early January—the kind of loss that has become familiar to the Wolfpack, which was 4-9 overall and 0-5 in the ACC as of Sunday. N.C. State is down to an eight-man roster after having lost players in almost every way imaginable. Junior forward Bryant Feggins was shot in the right shoulder after an argument with a man last April, and the resulting nerve damage has sidelined him for the season. Reserve forward Tony Robinson committed suicide during the preseason. Forward Charles Kornegay and guard Donnie Seale, both starters, and reserve Jamie Knox were all suspended for academic reasons, and guard Migjen Bakalli, the team's best three-point shooter, is out for the season after breaking a bone in his right foot against Davidson on Jan. 11.