Now Playing: The Champions League match between Barcelona and Arsenal. Go Gunners.
It was in 1995. I was working the sports beat out of Gastonia. I carried a pen – and a laptop. My name was Murray.
Actually, I wasn’t just working the sports beat. I was the sports editor. That’s how I ended up in Greensboro that year covering the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with my friend and colleague Andy Jasner. I hadn’t wanted the sports editor job. It just kinda happened, for a lot of reasons not worth going into at this point. I had always resisted working in sports because I enjoyed watching them. So I didn’t want to make my play my work.
But the fact is, I did work in them for a brief time, which got me into press boxes for NFL, NASCAR and big-time basketball games. Interviewed Shaquille O’Neal (or at least was part of a group interview with him). Couldn’t believe how such a huge guy – and believe me, the television screen doesn’t do him any justice – could be so soft-spoken. Interviewed most of the Panthers from the first two years.
Of all the guys I interviewed, most were nice enough, tolerant even of dumb questions. The only real butthole I ever interviewed was John McEnroe, for an advance story on a senior tennis match that I didn’t give a damn about and I don’t think Johnny Mac did, either.
Anyway, I drove up the Friday morning of the tournament. I’d chosen not to attend the Les Robinson Invitational the night before, when the Pack lost to the dookies (it was the year Coach Krfouidfdgahgla;sdfsdl;kfjd took off because of “bad back”). Andy was already there. He is the biggest college hoops fan I’ve ever known besides myself. But where I have a blind spot with coach Krouiers;fgsl;kghi, he has one with Bob Huggins, at the time coach of Cincinnati and now at West Va. I was with Andy at a Cincinnati game earlier that year and he muttered under his breath constantly. He still can’t stand him (of course I still can’t stand coach Krodiufsadfhgsodi.
There were three memorable things about the tourney.
Thing No. 1: It was the year Randolph Childress went off for Wake Forest. He was really spectacular. What was really funny about Wake were the press conferences after their wins. The coach at the time was Dave Odom, a really nice guy who never got the credit he deserved at Wake. The veteran reporters hated it when someone would ask Odom a question at the press conferences. Because he would never shut up. At any rate, Childress, spectacular as he was, didn’t win unanimous most valuable player. One sportswriter voted against him. (But what do you expect from a group that thinks this year’s regular-season champions don’t have a first-team All-ACC player?)
Thing No. 2: It was the year that Dean Smith and Rick Barnes went nose to nose. Smith got angry during the late stages of UNC’s win over Clemson when the Tigers’ Iker Iturbe roughed up Jerry Stackhouse. Coach yelled at Iturbe and Barnes yelled Coach and they ended up screaming at one another. I wrote a column about it, and guess who I criticized. That’s right, Coach Smith. He ain’t perfect, after all, and never claimed to be.
Thing No. 3: And this is my most memorable thing about the tourney. Sportswriters get to eat good. There always personal pan pizzas on hand as well as Haagen-Dazs bars and other stuff. There was ham and turkey and chicken and other good stuff. Much better than NFL press-box food, which was pretty much the same every week – bad barbecue and OK fried chicken.
So when I say I had my fill of the ACC Tournament, know that I’m not talking about the games. Just about the food.