As the Men’s ACC Basketball Tournament settles into the Greensboro Coliseum for a record 27th time, please excuse us while we reminisce.
The only problem, of course, is where to begin.
Is it 1974, when N.C. State outlasts Maryland 103-100, in a tense, beautifully played marathon that has been hailed (for good reason) as The Greatest Game Ever? David Thompson (who could jump so high he once tripped over a teammate’s shoulder), Tom McMillen, John Lucas and Len Elmore duel back and forth for 45 minutes before the littlest guy on the court, a feisty, 5-foot-7 kewpie doll named Monte Towe, seals the overtime win for the Wolfpack with a pair of free throws.
Or 1971, when, in its last ACC Tournament, South Carolina breaks North Carolina’s heart into a thousand and one pieces. Back in the days when jump balls settled tie-ups, the Gamecocks’ 6-3 Kevin Joyce outleaps the Tar Heels’ 6-10 Lee Dedmon, tapping the ball directly to a teammate who lays it in uncontested. Game over, 52-51.
Or 1995, when, in a play everyone knows is coming, but no one can stop, Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress drains a 10-foot jumper to beat North Carolina in overtime 82-80.
Or 2003, when Duke wins its fifth straight ACC Tournament by rallying from 15 points down and beating N.C. State 84-77.
Every one of these classic moments happened in the Greensboro Coliseum. And there are more.
We won’t claim to be objective in singing the praises of our hometown jewel. But clearly this city and the ACC Tournament were made for each other.
As conference leaders consider the sites for the tournament beyond 2022, when the event completes a current rotation that includes Washington next season and Brooklyn after that, it bears reminding them why the ACC not only has a history in Greensboro, but a future here as well. And here are only a few of the reasons:
The arena: Few venues, if any, can match the coliseum’s size, comfort, amenities, staff and sight lines.
The atmosphere: When the ACC Tournament is in Greensboro, it’s in a college basketball town in college basketball country, not a curious interloper in a pro city.
The hospitality: As Jeff Mills reported in his story on Sunday, the warm welcome includes an army of nearly 1,000 volunteers.
The location: Greensboro is in the heart of the heart of the ACC, roughly equidistant from its southern and northernmost tips of the conference.
The traffic: Compared to New York or Atlanta (or even Raleigh or Charlotte), well, there isn’t any.
And did we mention that the ACC was founded in Greensboro and is headquartered here?
By the way, in 1971, when That Other Carolina edged the Tar Heels, it was Tom Owens of the Gamecocks who scored the winning basket.
Owens went on to a pro career with, among other teams, the Carolina Cougars of the old ABA — whose home court was the Greensboro Coliseum. (He was booed for a while, but in time Tobacco Road fans forgave, even if they didn’t forget.)
As for that N.C. State team that beat Maryland in 1974? It went on to outlast Bill Walton and UCLA in the NCAA national semifinals en route to a national championship .... in (you guessed it) Greensboro.