Writing about that game in Pine Bluff reminds me of my memories of that day. No, it wasn’t about Al McGuire shouting “It’s good!” prematurely. I was there, so I didn’t hear what he said until much later.
I was at the game as a reporter. I drove down from Little Rock that morning, which means I probably got there shortly after the team arrived by plane from Dallas, where we beat SMU and Jon Koncak the previous day. First person I saw there who I knew was Keith Jackson, then a senior at Little Rock Parkview and still a much-sought recruit. I asked him where he was going. He said something noncommittal. A week or so later, I was at his press conference at a Little Rock park where he signed with Oklahoma. Some people in Arkansas still haven’t forgiven him for that, even after all those years as Chuck Barrett’s analyst and sending two sons to play for the Hogs.
Then the game began. I’d seen Jordan hit the game-winner in the '82 NCG against Georgetown. And I knew all about Daugherty and Doherty and Smith and Buzz Peterson and Joe Wolf and Dave Popson. And Steve Hale, the guard from Tulsa that we had recruited like crazy before he signed to play for Dean Smith. And I knew UNC was 21-0 and #1 in the country. I did not know yet that four players from the game would win Olympic gold medals in Los Angeles that summer: Jordan, Perkins, Joe Kleine and Alvin Robertson.
You’d have never known the team had just arrived on a vomit-comet flight from Dallas. We looked sharp from the beginning and had a four-point lead at halftime, which expanded to 10 early in the second half. But that kid wearing #23 who kept sticking his tongue out kept making shots, and he hit one with 1:15 left to give the Heels the lead.
Eddie called time with about 30 seconds left to set the play. Alvin was our best playmaker and it made sense he was going to get the ball from Ricky Norton. He found one of Dudley’s old friends roaming the left baseline. This was the result (notice who was playing zero defense on the play):
The Tar Heel lying on the floor was Steve Hale, the kid from Tulsa we recruited, who had tried to draw a charge on Alvin. His name will come up again in this story.
Carolina called time out, quickly advanced the ball to midcourt and called time again with 3 seconds left. The border on the court was only about a foot wide, and the press table where I was sitting was jammed up against the edge of the court, so much so that when Matt Doherty had to inbound the ball right in front of me, he actually had to stand inside the sideline; I remember the official telling him not to move. At the 6:10 mark of the video linked below, I’m pretty sure that was my head behind Doherty’s right knee.
Doherty flung the ball basically straight down the sideline to Hale, who caught it, turned and shot. Which is when McGuire hollered “It’s good;” I knew what he meant, which was that Hale had gotten the shot away before the horn. But it hit the rim short and bounced over.
When I got back to Little Rock that evening after filing three versions of my game story for UPI, I called my fiancee, who was still in school in Fayetteville. She said you could hear people screaming all over town when Hale’s shot bounced over the hoop.
Oh, one more thing about where I sat that day. For some reason UNC brought a mini-pep band which was right behind me. One of their trombonists was narrowly missing my noggin every time he extended the slide. But ever since then, every time I hear the UNC fight song, I think about getting it at full volume from six inches away about 50 times that day. That’s one fight song I will never forget (maybe that day is part of why my hearing is retreating even faster than my hairline).
Somewhere I think I still have my mimeographed box score from that game. Mimeo, for those too young to remember, was a primitive copy machine where a document was put on a rotating drum and the resulting copies were always in blue. I’m sure I found a facsimile machine (almost as antiquated as mimeos; also utilizing a rotating drum at six minutes per page) somewhere and sent that blue-tinged copy to my regional office in Dallas, after which I talked to the regional sports editor who tried to make sense out of the garbage I’d sent him on my Tandy TRS-80, which bore some resemblance to a computer but not much. But I got some bylined clippings from papers who also used AP, which means they thought my version was better than AP’s (or maybe they just got mine first; that was a definite possibility).