GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Anyone living in North Carolina in 1974 probably remembers the weekend, and it’s one longtime NC State University fans will never forget – the Wolfpack played the mighty UCLA Bruins in the NCAA Final Four at the Greensboro Coliseum and went on to win the national championship two days later.
For the first time since 1974, members of that NC State team will celebrate their championship where they won it – the Greensboro Coliseum arena, the Greensboro Sports Council announced.
Founded in 2008, The Fred Barakat Sports Dinner, presented by the Greensboro Sports Council, was renamed in 2010 in memory of the late associate commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference. This year’s event is set for Wednesday, April 26 on the Greensboro Coliseum arena floor.
Players David Thompson, Monte Towe and Tommy Burleson will return to the Greensboro Coliseum floor to share memories of a magical basketball weekend that ended UCLA’s run of seven-straight NCAA championships and put the Wolfpack on top of the college basketball world. Norm Sloan’s assistant coach, Eddie Biedenbach, will serve as the event emcee.
During the national semifinals on March 23, 1974, the Wolfpack stunned UCLA 80-77 in double overtime in a game widely considered one of the greatest NCAA basketball games ever played. The Wolfpack came into the weekend with a 29-1 record so their win wasn’t exactly an upset. Their only loss that season, however, came at the hands of the Bruins and three-time national player of the year, Bill Walton. Two days after knocking off UCLA, the Wolfpack defeated Marquette 76-64 to win the national title behind 21 points from Thompson.
A native of Shelby, N.C., Thompson was nicknamed “skywalker” because of his vertical leap. He and teammate Monte Towe “invented” the ally-oop pass that is now a staple of the modern game. Thompson went onto an NBA career that included the Denver Nuggets and the Seattle Supersonics. He was enshrined in the basketball hall of fame in 1996 and is one of only five players in NBA history to score 70 points or more points in a game.
At more than seven feet tall, Burleson was a towering presence under the basket for the Wolfpack. Burleson was known throughout his amateur and professional career as a prolific shot blocker; the Newland, N.C. native played on the 1972 United States Olympic team that lost a controversial gold-medal game to the Soviet Union. After college, Burleson went onto an eight-year NBA career with the Seattle Supersonics, the Kansas City Kings and the Atlanta Hawks. In 2002, he was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference 50th anniversary men’s basketball team honoring the 50 greatest players in ACC history.
Towe is a native of Marion, Ind. and was the starting point guard on the national championship team. After NC State, he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets where he played for two seasons before returning to his alma mater as an assistant to coach Norm Sloan. After multiple stops as an assistant coach, Towe was named head coach at the University of New Orleans before turning to NC State in 2006 as an assistant to coach Sidney Lowe. In 2011, he moved to Middle Tennessee State University as an assistant coach. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
A Pittsburgh native, Biedenbach played for three hall-of-fame coaches during his career: Press Maravich, Everett Case and Norm Sloan. When NC State named its all-time men’s basketball teams, Biedenbach was voted the 1960s player of the decade. After a brief professional career, Biedenbach began a coaching career that would take him to NC State as an assistant coach and later to head coaching jobs at Davidson College and UNC-Asheville. He is a member of the NC State Athletic, Big South Conference, UNC-Asheville and Pittsburgh East Boros Sports Halls of Fame.
“The 1974 team from NC State was one of the special teams that have ever been in the ACC,” Biedenbach said. “They had great players, great success, a lot of charisma and perhaps the best player in ACC history in eliminating big men; David Thompson was really spectacular as was Tommy Burleson who is another North Carolina product that made all of us at NC State proud.
“The Greensboro Coliseum has always been special for tournament time. Everett Case was all about the ACC Tournament and then the national tournament, and then the same for Norm Sloan who played for him. I was the same coming out Pennsylvania; Press Maravich recruited me, and tournament basketball was what you prepared for all year. To get a remembrance of that team and what they meant to North Carolina and ACC basketball is really special. I was very fortunate to be a part of it, and it’s always great to have people remember that.
“Last year, they put the 1974 team into the NC State Hall of Fame, and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame remembered them. We got together at those two times, but this will be the first time we’ve been back to the Greensboro Coliseum, and with all the things going on in sports today, this event will be a special time for all of us, particularly in Greensboro.”
Barakat joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1981 as the supervisor of men’s basketball officials. He was later named assistant commissioner and was then promoted to associate commissioner, director of men’s basketball. For 16 years he served as the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament director along with his other basketball responsibilities that included scheduling, managing the league’s television partners and officiating. He passed away in 2010.
The Fred Barakat Sports Dinner highlights significant figures in or related to the Atlantic Coast Conference or one of its sports. Previous featured guests at the event are former ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan, ESPN college basketball analyst and Duke Alumnus Jay Bilas, CBS Sports college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg, ESPN College basketball analyst Dick Vitale, Duke University Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski, CBS Sports golf analyst Gary McCord as well as roundtable discussions featuring “Legends of the ACC” with Duke’s Mike Gminski, North Carolina’s Phil Ford, NC State’s Derrick Whittenburg and Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress and “Coaches of the ACC” featuring Wake Forest’s Dave Odom, Maryland’s Gary Williams, Georgia Tech’s Bobby Cremins and NC State’s Les Robinson.
Open to the general public, the Fred Barakat Sports Dinner is the Sports Council’s only major fundraising event. Proceeds from this year’s dinner will support a new community initiative that will be announced during the event. Individual tickets, $95, tables of 10, $850 and sponsorships are available through the Greensboro Sports Council; please visit: www.greensborosportscouncil.com or contact Leslie Johnson at email@example.com or (336) 433-7261.