Mar 11, 2011
The Atlantic Coast Conference is honoring 12 men who have left a lasting impression on the conference in a ceremony in Greensboro on Saturday. Three of those men represent area schools: Thurl Bailey of NC State, Steve Vacendak of Duke and Bill Guthridge of UNC.
With Bailey at forward, NC State pulled off one of the most improbable runs in NCAA history as a heavy underdog when they shocked the nation by winning the 1983 National Championship.
“Those were four of the best years of my life at NC State,” he said.
Bailey is being honored for his role on that national championship team and is one of 12 legends for the ACC for 2011.
“It’s just an honor to be able to be mentioned and now to be here is just even more so,” said Bailey.
More than his prowess on the court, Thurl Bailey credits his young fiery coach, Jim Valvano, who came to Raleigh from New York and had to convince the players to follow him.
“We were just a bunch of college knuckleheads,” Bailey said. “Coach Norm Sloan had just left and guys were trying to decide what to do in their lives. [Valvano] had a gift of being able to reach you regardless of what your personality was. He started talking about dreaming and national championships. I don’t think there was a day that went by that he didn’t hone in on our ultimate goal. Even through the losses and the victories, until you retire from basketball and you get to the stage where I am now, that’s when you start to appreciate what you learned from a guy like that.”
Steve Vacendak may have played for Duke, but he also made a name for himself playing at NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum. His Blue Devils won the 1966 ACC tournament there and Vacendak was the MVP. He represents Duke as a 2011 ACC legend.
“Oh, this was a wonderful environment,” the former Duke guard said as he walked through Reynolds recently.
“To be selected to be a representative of the legends of the ACC is very significant and personally rewarding,” said Vacendak.
“I think it’s a great honor to be recognized,” said Guthridge.
Guthridge is best known for what he did on the bench as Dean Smith’s long-time assistant. Guthridge succeeded Smith when he retired in 1997 leading the Tar Heels to two Final Fours in three years.
“I had to pinch myself sometimes, being here at North Carolina for 33 years and then retiring here,” said Guthridge.
Guthridge still has an office at the Smith Center; Thurl Bailey just released his latest R&B album and does work with the NBA; and Vacendak is the executive director of a non-profit organization in Raleigh call NC Beautiful.