by Thad Mumau
We have this tradition down here in North Carolina called the ACC. That stands for Atlantic Coast Conference, of course, and the sport is basketball.
But everybody knows that. There are still bowl games to play this time of year, but everybody knows those three letters-A-C-C-mean hoops. Football, after all, is just what the league’s teams do until roundball rolls around.
This state is such a big part of it, with Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest. There was a time, even if younger fans are unaware, that the Big Four pretty much ruled. After all, State’s Everett Case was responsible for bringing big-time college basketball to the South. Carolina hired Frank McGuire to try to keep up, Duke got Vic Bubas and Wake called on Bones McKinney.
Those were the days when every team in the conference played every other team twice during regular season, home-and-home sets on the schedule each season. Not any more. It’s hard to think that old rivals Carolina and Wake don’t even play at each other’s place every year.
When you think ACC, you think great rivalries … Duke-Carolina, Carolina-State, State-Wake. Not Boston College-Pittsburgh, Syracuse-Miami and Louisville-Virginia Tech. And whatever happened to Maryland? The Terps in the Big Ten? C’mon, now.
Did you notice that South Bend, Indiana, has somehow worked its way to the Atlantic Coast? I’m expecting UCLA to join the league any day now. In the good old days (there, I’ve said it), there were only eight schools in the conference, and all eight played on the first day of the ACC Tournament.
Traditions, as much as we love them, change sometimes. Not always for the better. Unless more dollar signs mean improvement, and we know that’s not so.
Long-time followers of the ACC recall the Dixie Classic, which was played in Raleigh every year during the holidays. The finest college basketball tournament ever staged. It could have sold out Yankee Stadium. No one thought it would ever end.
But it did. Hasn’t been held for years. Today, teams travel all over the place to participate in holiday tourneys. Trying to stay sharp for the hot pocket of the ACC schedule in January.
Meanwhile, the older fans-and the younger ones, too-like to pick all-time teams, say who’s best and play the comparison game.
Like, how good would Lennie Rosenbluth be in modern basketball? Or Art Heyman? Could Lou Pucillo hang with the jet streams playing point guard now?
Do you start your Forever ACC Team with David Thompson? Could John Roche play with Chris Paul? Can you imagine Tyler Hansbrough banging bodies with Len Chappell? Is it possible to leave Jeff Mullins off your first five?
Let’s see … who do I want in my backcourt from this bunch? John Lucas, Phil Ford, Rodney Monroe, Charlie Davis, Johnny Dawkins, Mark Price, Barry Parkhill, Bobby Hurley, Kenny Anderson, Roche, Paul, Pucillo and Kenny Smith.
On the wing, choose from D.T., Larry Miller, Grant Hill, Michael Jordan, Heyman, Mullins, Albert King, Walter Davis, Shane Battier and Charlie Scott.
Take a couple of big guys from a batch that includes Christian Laettner, Ronnie Shavlik, Rosenbluth, Chappell, Hansbrough, Tom McMillen, Tim Duncan, Bobby Jones, Len Elmore, Danny Ferry, Ralph Sampson, James Worthy, Dickie Hemric, Elton Brand, Tommy Burleson, Antawn Jamison, Horace Grant, Buck Williams and Sam Perkins.
The list could go on and on because the ACC skies have been filled with bright stars over the league’s 62-year history.
Two of the greatest college coaches (along with John Wooden) of all time, Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith, have brought fame and integrity, as well as national championships, to the conference.
Year in and year out, the ACC has set the standard for excellence in college basketball. Other conferences have had their season in the sun here and there, but all of us of along Tobacco Road know where it’s at. It’s a tradition.
Mumau has been a writer for more than 48 years, covering some of the sports greats, including Michael Jordan, John Wooden, Jack Nicklaus and Dean Smith. He can be reached at email@example.com. Mumau’s book, “Had ‘Em All the Way,” is available at www.amazon.com. It is his seventh book.