Slow and low: Remembering ACC's 12-10 game
Posted May 15
In these parts, college basketball news is always “in season.” So as we continue the countdown until the start of a new season, here are a few notes and reflections to help while away the long hours of “the offseason.”
Biedenbach’s biggest basket
It was a long, well-rounded dossier that landed NC State’s Eddie Biedenbach into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame last weekend. Biedenbach coached UNC-Asheville to 256 wins plus three NCAA Tournament appearances, was a top assistant on NC State’s 1974 NCAA Championship team, and, as a player, helped Norm Sloan re-build the basketball program made famous by Everett Case.
But I’ll always think first of Biedenbach as the star of the ACC’s most infamous game.
Fans today now find this hard to believe, but in the years before the shot clock, some teams liked to hold the ball. Interminably. The 1968 ACC Tournament semifinals between State and Duke produced a score of 12-10. Really. Luckily the teams picked up the tempo in the second half. It was 4-2 at intermission!
'We couldn’t press'
Vic Bubas’ Duke Blue Devils liked to play a zone defense around their huge air craft carrier of a center Mike Lewis. Lewis, who came to the ACC from Missoula, Montana, was a lightning rod for slowdown games. Carolina played a 21-20 game against Duke and Lewis in 1966. So Bubas was well acquainted with the strategy, but chose not to try to force teams to speed up play. As he told me in an interview in 1973, “Unbeknownst to the team, we had experimented with pressing defenses. The truth of the matter is, we couldn’t have pressed a team of grandmothers.”
So Sloan, who was once of teammate of Bubas’ under Case at NC State, decided to put the game in the hands of a guy named Bill Kretzer.
Sloan hoped that giving the ball to his biggest player might lead Lewis to come out and defend him, in which case State would then attack the basket. But Lewis stayed home, prompting the slowdown.
Kretzer couldn’t see very well – he actually had to get teammates to read the scoreboard for him – yet he spent most of the 12-10 game dribbling. And dribbling.
'Make something happen'
State trailed 8-6 inside three minutes when Sloan called Biedenbach over for a conference. He could do this without creating a double team because Kretzer was still out at mid-court dribbling.
Little 5’6 Tony Barone was shadowing Biedenbach and followed him into the huddle.
“Make something happen,” Sloan told Biedenbach. The player asked whether they should call timeout to design a play in private so Barone couldn’t hear the strategy. Sloan responded with an emphatic no.
“If we call timeout, they’ll take that midget out and put somebody in to guard you,” he said.
Shortly after, Biedenbach made the tying basket, and State went on to the 12-10 win. Biedenbach was State’s leading scorer with four points and the only player in the contest to make two field goals.
'This game has all the thrill'
The “Mouth of the South,” Bill Currie, had the duty of trying to call play-by-play in the 12-10 game. Not content just to say “Kretzer’s still dribbling,” or “He throws the ball over to Williford, and now he’s holding it,” Currie decided to start interviewing people in the crowd. Perhaps inspired by comments of some of the unhappy fans forced to watch this ultimate slowdown, Currie finally uttered one of the ACC’s most famous quotes: “This game has all the thrill of artificial insemination.”
Campbell and John Wooden
I recently made a trip to Campbell to attend my niece’s graduation. Many folks are unaware of the role Campbell played in growing the game of basketball in North Carolina.
Fred McCall, the man who put Campbell basketball on the map, developed a rebounding machine, “the McCall rebounder,” that many of us used to improve our skills.
McCall, along with Bones McKinney, founded a summer basketball school at Campbell in the late 50s. Believed to be the first in the country, this school taught basketball skills to North Carolina youngsters long before the proliferation of camps we see today. Most importantly, the legendary John Wooden became a frequent visitor to the Campbell Basketball School.
Wooden, who harbored a deep respect for McCall, flew cross-country numerous times to lecture at Campbell. (My colleague Tom Suiter in fact conducted his very first career interview with Coach Wooden one summer in Buies Creek!) The appreciative university gave Wooden an honorary doctorate degree in 1973. I had the honor of emceeing Wooden’s last appearance in Buies Creek, shortly after the Camels made their one appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 1992.
Wooden, then in his mid-80s, addressed several hundred athletes at the school’s all-sports banquet. His speech was immaculately written and delivered. The opportunity to share the stage with Coach Wooden is an experience I will always cherish.
The Oak Hill All Stars
How’s this for an NBA all-star team: Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Jerry Stackhouse, Ron Mercer and Rajon Rondo, with Ty Lawson coming off the bench. Every one of these players prepared for college and the NBA at Oak Hill Academy. Steve Smith, now in his 29th year of coaching in the remote location of Mouth of Wilson, Va., counts 28 former players who have gone on to the NBA.
Smith has become well-acquainted with coaches like Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and John Calipari. He has developed a high regard for all three, although he notes they have different approaches to recruiting.
Here’s something I found interesting. Smith says in the 80s and 90s, he handled all the recruiting contacts for a player. But not anymore. “Now they all have someone to handle recruiting for them,” he observes, “and I stay out of it.” Sometimes it’s a family member who helps Smith’s players through the recruiting process. Sometimes it’s a friend of the family or an AAU coach. “I don’t think this is always a good thing,” Smith observes. “It’s just how it is.”
Manning and Wake Forest
After spending 16 years in the NBA and 16 more years playing or coaching in the Midwest, Danny Manning is now back in the Triad for the first time since the early 80s when he led Greensboro Page to the NCHSAA 4A Championship as a junior. As the new basketball coach at Wake Forest, Manning has seen at least one familiar face. Deacon radio analyst Mark Freidinger, an assistant on Larry Brown’s staff at Kansas in the 80s, spent a couple of years working with Manning during his college playing days.
Manning as a coach has built a reputation as a strong recruiter who is skilled at developing big men. He will need to succeed in both areas at Wake Forest.