(OT) 30 For 30

Submitted by Noahdb on March 12th, 2013 at 11:20 AM

This is non-MIchigan related, so I apologize in advance. 

The next installment of ESPN's 30 For 30 airs on Sunday at 9 p.m. There has been some discussion of the series here, so I thought people might be interested. I got to see an advance screening of the next episode last night and thought it was terrific.

The title is "Survive and Advance" and the focus is on Jim Valvano and the 1983 NC State team that won the national championship after one miracle after another. This was a team that lost its leader to a broken foot for several weeks during the middle of the season. At one point, they were 9-7. They went 8-3 down the stretch but had to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA tournament. 

They were trailing in every single game in the ACC tournament and had to rally to win at the last second each time. After getting into the tournament, they had to come from behind and win at the buzzer in three of their first four games. And then they had to do it again in the NCAA finals. 

The odds were so spectacularly against them....it really was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The only other prolonged run I can think of against such long odds (in a sports setting) was the 2004 Red Sox coming from an 0-3 defecit and beating the Yankees in four straight (with two come-from-behind wins and then Schilling's effort in Game Six). 

The 30-on-30 focuses on Derrick Whittenburg (he of the broken foot). The opening scene is him getting dressed for the funeral of his teammate, Lorenzo Charles. For you young whippersnappers, Whittenburg fired the last second shot in the championship game. It was woefully short and Lorenzo Charles grabbed it and dunked it for the winning points. 

Whittenburg told his teammates after the funeral that he wanted them to all get together once a year. The only time they seemed to be seeing each other was at a funeral and he didn't want that to continue. 

The documentary weaves Jim Valvano's fight with cancer into the story. They don't pull any punches either. 

I got to watch the screening in Reynolds Coliseum, NC State's homecourt from the 40s until 2000. There were lots of red eyes and people wiping away tears after the screening. (You'll laugh, you'll cry...). 

Anyone finds sports to be compelling will enjoy this one. Sunday night...9 p.m. in the east.


Bo Knows

March 12th, 2013 at 11:26 AM ^

Thanks for the heads up.  This is something I normally wouldn't care much to watch, but after your description I will gladly end my St. Paddy's festivities in time for this.


March 12th, 2013 at 11:30 AM ^

One of the frustrating things about "tournament style" anything is that the "hot team" sometimes wins, even if they're not that great for most of the season.  NC State needed the tourney wins get the NCAA bid, for example.  It just de-emphasizes the regular season.  It still irks me that the 18-1 New England Patriots finished second in the NFL to the 14-6 New York Giants (those records may be a little off, but they were something like that).

I value MLB, NHL, and NBA champions more than the declared champions for college basketball because the former teams actually have to play multiple series to win.


March 12th, 2013 at 11:46 AM ^

That's sports. We raised a banner last year without winning a tournament. There is plenty of emphasis in lots of sports on regular season titles, and plenty on tournaments. the NHL's president's trophy used to be worth more to teams than the stanley cup.

That B1G banner that was raised at Crisler sure made folks happy. Value what you want, but both seasons and tournaments have their places


March 12th, 2013 at 12:01 PM ^


"Tournament style" may not be the perfect solution to determine the best team, but it is the best solution.

One more thing, I really don't understand the whole "I don't like a playoff b/c it makes the regular season less important."  That is almost like saying, "I don't like the regular season b/c it makes exhibitions less important."


March 12th, 2013 at 12:18 PM ^

while I share your frustration, it is great when your team is the benificiary like Michigan was a few years back.  The NCAA streak for hockey would likely have ended at 19 (I believe) if not for Michigan's 2 starting goalies going down to injury only to have a walkon named Hunwick stand on his head for 6 weeks and lead Michigan to the Mason Cup and to a couple wins in the NCAA tourney that year.  No doubt it does stink when you get knocked out in a tournament like this but the alternative is to have nothing and you would not have some great stories like Hunwick.  Strangely enough we need the same luck this year in order to continue the streak and I'm hoping for some magic again!

Don't get me wrong, I share your frustration about the regular season not meaning as much but this system odes have its upside and rarely does something like NC State winning it all happen (well, I guess UConn a couple years back but 2 in over 30 years is still somewhat rare). 

BTW, the NHL is more and more prone to low bids doing well as a couple years back the 7 and 8 seeds played each other for the Eastern Conference title and then just last year the #8 seeded Kings won it all.  So even that kind of system is vulnerable. 


March 12th, 2013 at 1:39 PM ^

It's that weird dissonance with sports fans.

They want to know who the best team is, and generally want to create a fair system which will ultimately decide who the best team was for that given season (e.g. NBA playoffs, MLB playoffs).

However, when it comes down to it, they'd rather watch playoff systems wherein the best team rarely wins, because single elimination tournament style playoffs are much more exciting than finding out who really is the best team (e.g. NCAA tournameny, NFL playoffs).


March 12th, 2013 at 1:17 PM ^

My favorite Jimmy V. quote:

  "Be in a position to win."

He coached his teams, who were frequently underdogs, to do everything they had to to hang around and stay close until the final 2 minutes.  After that, anything can happen.  

It served him well.



March 12th, 2013 at 11:57 AM ^


I'm guessing the feelgood vibe probably doesn't allow for a frank discussion of how Jimmy V ran a dirty program...

Then you would be wrong. They absolutely talked about the problems.  Whittenburg talked about how in 1983, Valvano was a presence in the daily lives of the players. When he came in 1987 to be an assistant coach, things were radically different. Valvano was in demand as an entertainer and was not around much.
It's important to remember that the book that started the trouble was a complete joke. Peter Golenback was NOT an investigative journalist. He wrote fan-books for 12 year olds. He wrote the annual yearbooks that little kids buy.

Valvano, by his own admission, recruited people to NC State that didn't have any business in school. The worst of those was Chris Washburn...but I know Washburn well. He's not a bad guy. He's not smart (at all), but he's not a bad guy. The two guys that were the biggest problems were Kelsey Weems and Charles Shackleford. 
By 1988, NC State was a constant presence in the NCAA tournament. They had rosters filled with NBA talent and in the previous 15 years, they had won two national titles and four ACC titles. There were a lot of guys hanging around the program that didn't belong there. 
To say Valvano "ran a dirty program" is misleading. He was an absentee landlord. And he deserved (and received) criticism for that. But at the end of the day, after an exhaustive investigation that involved not only the NCAA but the SBI (because of allegations of point-shaving), they found that athletes sold tickets and shoes...which is against the rules. 
They found no evidence of *any* academic fraud. They found no evidence of point-shaving. They found no evidence of a slush-fund used for recruits. All of the allegations that Golenback made in his book were not only unsubstantiated, they were proven to just be flat-out wrong. Golenback got dates wrong. He got scores wrong. He got names wrong. He said 25,000 people showed up for a game in a building that holds HALF of that. It was a ridiculous book fueled by a guy who wanted to make a name for himself using two sources that had a personal grudge against Jim Valvano. 
The book was dropped by two publishers before basically being self-published by an outfit called "Pocket Books."
The lead investigator for the NCAA was interviewed at length during this documentary. You'd probably be interested in what he has to say....pay particular attention to the letter he wrote to Valvano after the investigation was complete. 


March 12th, 2013 at 1:07 PM ^

I'm not sure we can take yours as an unbias view.  And you could call Steve Fisher an "Absentee Landlord"...but you'd be hard pressed to find too many around here to say he didn't run a dirty program. And much like Fisher he was forced to resign (which you kind of leave out from the NCAA's "findings.") Golenbock's (not back) wasn't 100% accurate (I mean, it'd be hard to prove mob ties and threats) but it wasn't a complete fiction either. NC State was a slimy program, and everyone would remember Valvano a lot differently if he hadn't died young and made a great speech replayed on tv a ton of times.  A good documentary would show both sides.  This sounds well done, like the Fab Five one was, but hardly a middle of the road view.

Still good to bring it up. After the Tourney selection talk on Sunday I'll keep watching right through this. Should make for a good open thread.


March 12th, 2013 at 11:39 AM ^

The Houston team they beat was absurdly good. Two of the top 50 NBA players ever (Drexler and Akeem), a third (Michael Young) who was a first-round pick of the Celtics, and two more (Larry Michaeux and Alvin Franklin) who got a cup of coffee in the NBA.

Dave Rose, the current BYU coach, was the defensive stopper on that team. And the guy that was probably the most athletic was Benny Anders. No one knows what happened to him. He was booted out of school after bringing a gun to practice and....just disappeared. 

They destroyed Louisville in one of the most entertaining (and terrifying) games ever played. That Louisville team had Rodney McCray (#3 pick overall to Houston), Scooter McCray (played with Seattle), Lancaster Gordon, Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson...

Ridiculous talent. Look up that game on YouTube. The dunks in that game....


March 12th, 2013 at 11:56 AM ^

The first time I was allowed to stay up and watch the entire National Championship game.  I relived that last second heave for months after on the playground.  Even if Gordon Hayward hits the shot to beat Duke, the NC State win would still potentially be the best finish ever.

Space Coyote

March 12th, 2013 at 11:58 AM ^

Everything about Jimmy V has been a bit tainted for me. His speech is great, his will to "never give up" wonderful. When you look at just that (as ESPN and most media outlets like to do) it is an amazing story.

But the guy was a cheater. That always hurt his story to me, that he didn't do things the right way. I'm not saying people should look at him in a negative light only, I just wish they made him more human and showed his flaws too, but it all gets swept under the rug. Oh well, maybe for most people that's for the best.


March 12th, 2013 at 12:53 PM ^

My dad was prez of the Rutgers Sigma Alpha Mu chapter at Rutgers and asked Jimmy V to attend one of his events as an MC or something and Jimmy agreed if my dad would write a paper for him.  My dad agreed and the deal was done.  


Cool story bro.


March 12th, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

The 1983 NCAA Finals was the first college basketball final I ever watched as a kid.  I remember nobody giving NC State a chance in hell against Phi Slamma Jamma and then Lorenzo Charles delivered a prayer.  That was a lot of fun.

Maize and Blue in OH

March 12th, 2013 at 2:16 PM ^

there were 2 huge reasons NC State had a great chance to win:

1) This was pre-shot clock, so they could slow the game down and stall even more than Wisconsin does today negating Houston's talent advantage; and

2) All non-shooting fouls in the bonus were 1 & 1s and Houston was a terrible free throw shooting team which ended up missing many front ends.

This game and others like it during the era lead to both the shot clock and the double bonus and college basketball is better because of it.


March 12th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

Kinda off topic here but I just want to ask: Shouldn't ESPN come up with a better name for their documentary series than 30 for 30? The 30th anniversary of ESPN was four years ago, and it seems like they are way over 30 movies by now.


March 12th, 2013 at 1:29 PM ^

The name may have been originally intended to also be a clever counting device, but after awhile, it's just a brand name; not a counting device.  I think the "30 for 30" series has garnered enough recognition that changing it to be a counting device is silly.


March 12th, 2013 at 1:42 PM ^

 "Be in a position to win."

When the NC State broadcast team came out of the timeout with 44 seconds left, Wally Ausley's line was, "All Jim Valvano has ever asked of his team is that they be in a position to win at the end of a game."

I don't know how many of you ever heard his call of the final few seconds, but it was really terrific. After the winning points, he said, "Lorenzo Charles slams it in! A missed a shot from 35 feet, Lorenzo Charles grabbed it, stuffed it back in...the Cinderalla Team has done it! The glass slipper fits! The Wolfpack has won the national championship!"

That's good writing. 

Valvano mentioned the "position to win" in his postgame with Brent Musberger. "When you put yourself in a position to win, good things happen to you."


March 12th, 2013 at 2:11 PM ^

Wasn't the original title for this "When march went mad"? I like the title "survive and advance" too though. My high school coach once said that to my team about the playoffs and the expression always stuck with me.


March 12th, 2013 at 2:22 PM ^

I'm not sure we can take yours as an unbias view.  


And you could call Steve Fisher an "Absentee Landlord"...but you'd be hard pressed to find too many around here to say he didn't run a dirty program.

You could call Steve Fisher a lot of things. It doesn't make it accurate. The college sports landscape is a binary world. There are multiple types of "bad programs."

To the best of my knowledge, Steve Fisher and Jim Valvano were not involved with any NCAA violations. To the best of my knowledge, they did not condone, did not enable or support any violations. To the best of my knowledge, they did not allow others to do this either. The only involvement Fisher had in the scandal was that when he found out that Martin was trying to give money to Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock, he forced them to return it but didn't tell the compliance office.

I'm not trying to condone what happened to either program. I just think there is a difference between what someone like Jerry Tarkanian did and what someone like Valvano (or Steve Fisher) did. If you saw the HBO piece on UCLA and John Wooden, there was a similar scenario with one booster providing illegal benefits. 

Golenbock's (not back) wasn't 100% accurate (I mean, it'd be hard to prove mob ties and threats) but it wasn't a complete fiction either.

I've mentioned in other threads that I used to be a reporter. I did a ton of investigative work on the NC State program and on Golenback's book. I got to know Chris Washburn well and have tried to talk him into doing a book together. (Washburn is doing fine, btw. He's clean and sober and runs a BBQ joint in Hickory, NC. He's got a great story to tell someday.)

Have you read the book? It wasn't complete fiction the way the movie "Blue Chips" is complete fiction. But there are literally HUNDREDS of mistakes in the book. MISTAKES, not incorrect facts...but mistakes. 

Golenback had three sources for much of the book. One was a former team manager named John Simonds. The other two were former players. Each of the three sources only cooperated when they were paid for their stories. Each of the sources had a personal beef with Valvano. 

The allegations are that there was a slush fund with "millions of dollars in cash" in it for buying recruits. He actually said "millions." The dirtiest coach in the SEC would find that allegation mind-boggling. For one thing, unless you're Todd Bozeman, coaches don't pay players. Boosters pay players. Secondly, has anyone seen $1 million in cash? It's a CRAP load of money. "Millions" means at least twice that....where the hell would you put it? And why wouldn't you just put it in a bank??

None of the other allegations that he made about academic fraud or point-shaving were supported in any way, shape, or form. The program was investigated by the SBI. People were subpoened. The SBI cleared everyone.

One of the allegations was that Cozell McQueen was illiterate. McQueen was a center on the 1983 team (he's the one who gets the rebound on the last Houston miss). McQueen actually confronted Golenback later and asked him why he'd say such a thing. Golenback didn't even have the courage to look him in the eyes. He just slunk out of the room. 

One of the games that was supposed to have been fixed was a game against Tampa in 1987. Except....NC State wasn't very good that year and Tampa was a DII team. Jim Valvano had the flu and didn't make the trip. There was no record anywhere of there even being a betting line for this game. Who was supposed to be fixing the game? Also...you don't LOSE games when you shave points, you just don't cover. 

But...anyway...we're getting off track. The director of this 30-for-30, btw, is the guy who did the Marcus Dupree piece.

Bando Calrissian

March 12th, 2013 at 2:53 PM ^

"To the best of my knowledge, Steve Fisher and Jim Valvano were not involved with any NCAA violations. To the best of my knowledge, they did not condone, did not enable or support any violations. To the best of my knowledge, they did not allow others to do this either."

This is demonstrably false.  Steve Fisher was implicated for providing Ed Martin complimentary tickets, both directly and by forging Perry Watson's initials on request forms.  He personally allowed access to a booster he knew to be providing improper benefits to his players, and accepted Martin's overtures himself.

Plainly, any claim that Steve Fisher was ignorant of what was going on, that he didn't condone or support Ed Martin hanging around his players, coaching staff, university officials, and their family members, or that he didn't allow others to also provide Ed Martin that same access (like Ed Martin's longtime friend Perry Watson), is absolute hogwash and total revisionism.


March 12th, 2013 at 5:08 PM ^

"journalistic investigation" when you can't get the name of the author correct, repeatedly (with correction).

Were they the dirtiest program of all time? No, of course not. Just because someone else does it worse doesn't make it ok. If it was nothing and he really wasn't involved, again, why was he forced to resign? You dodged that part.

And yeah, I think Wooden turned a blind eye to his players knowingly getting money. Because Bill Walton was never subtle. Which makes him a hypocrite.


March 12th, 2013 at 2:33 PM ^

This game and others like it during the era lead to both the shot clock and the double bonus and college basketball is better because of it.

The game that REALLY ushered in the shot-clock was the 1982 ACC tournament finals. It was #1 vs. #2, Ralph Sampson vs. James Worthy and hosted nationally on NBC.

I was at that game (in Greensboro Coliseum)....and it was awful. It was the most boring game I'd ever seen and I kept asking my mom when it would be over. 

Dean Smith took the air out of the ball and it was like watching paint dry. 

The ACC was in negotiations for their own pay-per-view network (which would eventually be called "Season Ticket"). Remember that the Big East was basically created specifically for television (the USA Network put it together). Ted Turner was also getting involved around this time. In 1983, he sponsored a made-for-TV matchup between Georgetown and UVa (Ewing vs. Sampson). 

In order to address these issues, some conferences decided to experiment with rules changes. The ACC brought in a 17'9 three-point line and a 35-second shot clock for league games. Non-conference opponents had the choice of playing with ACC rules or not (most elected not to). I think there were a couple of conferences that used an international three-point line.

It worked....ratings went up. The coaches didn't like the rules changes (Lefty Driesel hated them) so they voted them down the following year (the NCAA would put the three-point line back for the 1986-87 season). 

"Season Ticket" flopped. There were very few people willing to pay for something that they were getting for free previously. They weren't showing ADDITIONAL games...they were taking games away from the broadcast schedule and making people pay for them. 

Also...as far as the 1983 game is concerned, NC State didn't slow the game down...Houston did. NC State came out gunning and opened up an eight-point lead. Houston slowed the game down in the second-half once Akeem got winded (they addressed this in the documentary). That allowed State to come back.


March 12th, 2013 at 3:13 PM ^

The odds were so spectacularly against them....it really was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The only other prolonged run I can think of against such long odds (in a sports setting) was the 2004 Red Sox coming from an 0-3 defecit and beating the Yankees in four straight (with two come-from-behind wins and then Schilling's effort in Game Six).

How about 8th-seeded Villanova winning it all in 1985?


March 12th, 2013 at 3:18 PM ^

Speaking of 30 for 30, Netflix recently added a whole slew of them that they didn't have a couple months back, including Fab Five. I just watched the Magic Johnson one, which is good despite the fact that Johnson is a TERRBILE narrator.


March 12th, 2013 at 3:57 PM ^

I stand corrected on the Steve Fisher stuff. Thanks.


How about 8th-seeded Villanova winning it all in 1985?


Well, NC State was a 50-to-1 shot in 1983. Kansas was the same in 1988. But it was more than that. NC State had to win the ACC tournament first. And they were losing in the final minutes of every single game. In the UNC game, they had to endure Sam Perkins with a 30-footer that was off by a 1/4 of an inch. They had to get Jordan to foul out. They had to get UNC to miss three straight front-ends of one-and-ones. In the championship game, there was a similar rally against Ralph Sampson.

Against Pepperdine, Sidney Lowe (PG) fouled out and they had to get Dane Suttle (an 84 percent free throw shooter) to miss two consecutive front-ends. Against UNLV, Sidney Green mistimed his leap for a rebound and allowed Thurl Bailey to get the rebound and put it back in. 

Against UVa in the Elite Eight, they had to get Othell Wilson to miss a free throw and then for Lorenzo Charles (a 66 percent shooter) to hit both free throws. Then they had to endure a final barrage of shots that all missed. Ralph Sampson tipped in a final shot...but about a second after time ran out.

They should've had to go up against UNC again in the Final Four, but UGa beat them. And then in the finals, Guy Lewis leaves Clyde Drexler in with three fouls -- IN THE FIRST HALF -- and he picks up his fourth! IN THE FIRST HALF!! 

Then Houston gets a big lead and they take the air out of the ball. Then they miss something like five of seven free throws down the stretch and State hits nearly everything they threw up. 

So it was a lot more than just winning the tournament after being a long-shot. HOW they won the tournament was as much of a story as anything. 


March 12th, 2013 at 4:26 PM ^

It truly was an amazing, amazing story.

It would only be MORE amazing say if the head coach Valvano quit the team in the days leading up to the first game of the tournament to take another job.  The AD then selects some no-name assistant to run the team because he was a "North Carolina State Man and a North Carolina State Man is going to coach North Carolina State." Inspired by their AD words this team takes their 6 seed and goes on an improbable run.

In the Final Four Semi this amazing team somehow beats a fellow conference team that had pole-axed them not once but TWICE in the regular season with a miracle tap-in at the buzzer. Then, in the Championship game this team wins it all when their point guard, a season-long 60% FT shooter makes both ends of a 1-1 with three seconds to go in freaking OVERTIME!

Now that would be a story worth telling on 30 for 30 IMO.........


March 13th, 2013 at 3:05 PM ^

Did they really have to win the ACC Tournament?  They were a 6-seed in the NCAAs.  Would they have really not made it in if they'd lost the ACCT?


Yes. They were 17-10 and 7-7 in the ACC. The NCAA tournament was only 48 teams in 1983. They had played a tough non-conference schedule with Lousiville, Memphis State, Missouri, Notre Dame, and Michigan State...but the only one they had beaten was Sparty. Their only quality win was really a win against UNC.