It’s a saying that’s thrown around by commentators, coaches and fans every March, when the NCAA basketball tournament kicks off. Survive and advance.
Teams can shake off poor shooting, too many turnovers or down-to-the-wire nail-biters. As long as a team wins, it survives for another day. And no team did that better than the 1983 Wolfpack. Of course it was the coach of that team, Jim Valvano, who coined the phrase to describe his team’s special knack for late-game heroics.
On this day in 1983, Lorenzo Charles’ out-of-nowhere jam with time expiring gave NC State’s men’s basketball team its second men’s basketball championship in nine years with a win over heavily favored Houston, 54-52.
Known as “the Cardiac Pack,” the team spent that March keeping its fans on the edge of their seats. Four of the Pack’s six NCAA tournament games went down to the final ticks.
NC State struggled to beat Pepperdine in the first round, escaping with a 69-67 victory in two overtimes. Thurl Bailey’s putback gave State a win over UNLV, 71-70, in the second round. Virginia missed buckets at the end of the exciting Elite Eight contest, giving State a 63-62 win.
And the final game on that Monday night didn’t break pattern, as Charles put in Dereck Whittenburg’s miracle 30-footer to answer fans’ prayers.
Recently, in a letter to the editor in The N&O, Jim Valvano’s brother, Bob, wrote that after that title, John Wooden wrote the Wolfpack’s coach a note, which he framed and kept at his office until he died of cancer in 1993.
Bob Valvano went on to write of this year’s team and its coach, Mark Gottfried. ” I am sure Jim would be thrilled,” Bob Valvano wrote, “that much of Gottfried’s success comes on foundations of one of his coaching heroes.”