Friday, September 30, 2011

The Long Goodbye

North Carolina State's 110-103 victory over Wake Forest in four overtimes on March 4, 1989, stands as the longest game in ACC history.

The game seemed to be played with a sense of desperation by both teams. There was good reason for that: Dark clouds were gathering around the two head coaches.

Interestingly, Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano and his counterpart with the Demon Deacons, Bob Staak, had history together. Valvano was a young assistant under the legendary Donald "Dee" Rowe at Connecticut in 1970-'71, when Staak was a senior wing player for the Huskies.

In 1989, when the teams met in Greensboro, N.C., Valvano and Staak were in the crosshairs of the NCAA.

Valvano's trouble started in January that year, when word leaked out of a tell-all book about the Wolfpack program based on the recollections of a disgruntled team manager. When Peter Golenbock's "Personal Fouls" eventually hit the streets, it was riddled with factual errors but nonetheless got NCAA officials sniffing around.

Staak was under fire over alleged recruiting violations involving Anthony Tucker, a transfer player from Georgetown.

The setting also gave the game some added excitement. For a majority of the 1980s, Wake Forest had been playing many of its home games at the Greensboro Coliseum, which helped ensure that half of the crowd would probably be cheering for the other team if the Demon Deacons were playing N.C. State, Duke or North Carolina.

The players fed off the energy. Chucky Brown played a mind-boggling 59 minutes and scored a collegiate-high 34 points for N.C. State. Wake Forest was led by forward Chris King, who powered his way to 34 points. Freshman point guard Derrick McQueen, playing a day after a friend died in a car accident, was on the court for 52 minutes for the Demon Deacons and compiled 13 points and seven assists against one turnover.

The Wolfpack's vaunted "Fire and Ice" combination provided the clutch baskets. The cool Rodney Monroe had the play of the game. With two seconds remaining in regulation and Wake Forest clinging to a 77-74 lead, N.C. State's Kelsey Weems was fouled on a three-pointer. Because a player only got two free throws back then, Weems made the first and missed the second on purpose. Monroe was on the right block and curled around the back of the Wake Forest player designated to box him out. The rebound bounced right to Monroe, who hit a short fadeaway to force overtime.

The fiery Chris Corchiani (10 points, 10 assists) hit the big basket for the Wolfpack in the waning seconds of the first overtime, slicing into the lane for a runner that tied the game at 84. Monroe answered again in the second overtime, tying the game on a jumper with 45 seconds remaining. He finished with 26 points despite a 10-for-29 shooting night.

Fatigue made the game ragged in the third and fourth overtimes, with the Wolfpack having just enough to pull away.

The victory clinched a share of the ACC regular-season title for Valvano and N.C. State. Because of the NCAA investigation, the coach was stripped of his athletic director duties in the off-season. The Wolfpack was later banned from the 1990 NCAA Tournament, and Valvano soon resigned under pressure.

Staak didn't last much longer than the four-overtime game. The NCAA dropped the investigation of Tucker's recruitment, but Staak's 45-69 record (including 9-52 in the ACC) at the school was too much for him to overcome.

Even the crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum couldn't fully savor the epic game. They were forced to disperse quickly because the four overtimes had delayed a MEAC tournament game in the building.

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