UNC vs. Villanova: 1982 and 1985

This Saturday night, the #1 seeded UNC Men’s Tar Heels face the #3 Villanova Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament Final Four. I imagine here in Chapel Hill more than a few TVs and radios will be tuned to the 8:47 p.m. live broadcast.

While we wait for the outcome to unfold in Detroit, perhaps instead of imagining every possible permutation of player match-up, we should explore the historical, photo-documented precedents of Saturday’s game.
In the Morton collection two (and maybe more — I haven’t yet seen any photographs from the 1991 or 2005 tournament games) significant meetings of UNC and Villanova are captured. Both were in the regional semi-finals (Elite 8): one in 1982, the other in 1985.

There is much talk in the sports media about how Villanova is reaching the Final Four for the first time since 1985, and how they arrived in that year only after defeating North Carolina 56-44 in Birmingham. It was a disappointing and unexpected loss for the Tar Heels, and the hangdog expression of forward Dave Popson, sitting in the locker room after the game, gives every indication of this.

The one benefit of that ’85 UNC loss was that it created a notable NCAA tournament “Cinderella Story,”  due in part to charismatic Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino, who took the #8 ranked Wildcats to the championship with the ingenious idea that a team had to “play to win instead of playing not to lose.” Here is a Morton picture in which some of that charisma is on display:

This picture is not from the 1985 game, but instead dates from around 1987. We know this because Jay Wright, the assistant coach of Villanova beginning in 1987, can be seen at the right of the frame holding a clipboard. If you watch tomorrow, you might be surprised by how little now-Head Coach Jay (Robot?) Wright has aged in those two decades.

Let’s forget about this 1985 loss, however, and focus on the general pattern which still shines favor on UNC, as their overall tournament record against Villanova is 3-1. Here’s an inspiring picture from one of these three wins:

With Michael Jordan, James Worthy and other standout players on the 1981-1982 team, UNC was difficult to overcome, and they of course ended up winning the tournament (the 70-60 Regional semi-final victory over Villanova was just a step along the way). The jubliation in the face of Jim Braddock is unmistakable, as is the strand of net hanging out of James Worthy’s mouth.

I imagine the Carolina coaches and players will be too busy practicing drills and eating healthy, vitamin-rich meals to read this blog entry, but I hope for all the Heels fans out there that this post provides some inspiration for your cheering and well-wishing tomorrow night.

8 thoughts on “UNC vs. Villanova: 1982 and 1985

  1. I really did enjoy this post, David. I always have fun looking back at Carolina’s storied basketball past. Last night’s UNC win over Villanova set up a championship showdown with Michigan State, which brings to mind another final four game between the two schools.

    On Friday night, March 22, 1957, Coach Frank McGuire took his 30-0 Tar Heels into the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri, for a National Semi-Final game with Michigan State. A crowd of 10,500 saw the Tar Heels beat the Spartans 74-70 in triple overtime, setting up a title game with Kansas. The following night Carolina beat Kansas 54-53 and once again it was triple overtime.

    There should be Hugh Morton pictures from those historic games in the Morton collection.

    Thanks to the efforts of TV sports producer C.D. Chesley, folks back in North Carolina were able to see both games on TV. The TV picture was black and white and grainy, but Tar Heel fans loved it. Chesley would become a favorite Morton photo subject, and in his 1988 book “Making A Difference in North Carolina,” Hugh Morton devoted an entire chapter to his friend Castleman D. Chesley (Pages 88-95). Starting in 1958, The C.D. Chesley Company would telecast ACC basketball on a regular schedule.

    At halftime of that final game in Kansas City, Greensboro’s WFMY-TV Sports Director Charlie Harville interviewed Governor Luther Hodges, another Morton photo favorite.

    My friend and former boss at WFMY, Lee Kinard, tells a funny story about that live TV coverage. One of the local sponsors was Guilford Dairy, and the advertising agency wanted to sell ice cream in their live commercials. Of course in those days there were no TV timeouts, so the folks back at WFMY had to just sit and wait for the teams to call a timeout in order to get their live commercials on. Kinard, who had joined the station about a year before, was the “announcer on duty” so he was responsible for the “on camera” part of the commercials. As the crew waited, under the hot TV lights, the ice cream melted. It became a real challenge for the commercial coordinator to keep “unmelted” ice cream on set and ready at a moments notice.

    Well, to say the least, Monday night’s game before 72,000-plus fans at Ford Field, and CBS Sports with it’s High Definition technique, multi-cameras, multi-replay units, and computer automated commercial playbacks will be in sharp contrast to those 1957 efforts by some true TV pioneers…but, come Monday night at 9, I choose to believe that Frank McGuire, Castleman D. Chesley, Charlie Harville, Luther Hodges, and Hugh Morton will be watching from a very special place.

  2. Here is some additional information about the Morton images in this post:

    Image #1 (Dave Popson #35)
    Location: Birmingham-Jefferson Coliseum, Birmingham, Alabama (NCAA Southeast Regional)
    Date: March 24, 1985

    Image #2 (Rollie Massimino and Jay Wright)
    *Possible Location: Lahaina Civic Center, Maui, Hawaii (Maui Classic)
    Date: November 25, 1989

    *Possible Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York (NCAA East Regional)
    Date: March 17, 1991

    *NOTE: Carolina played Villanova twice during the time that Massimino and Wright were there together (1987-1992)
    Look at the ties Massimino and Wright are wearing…looks like Hawaii to me!

    Image #3: (Jim Braddock #24)
    Location: Reynolds Coliseum, Raleigh, North Carolina (NCAA East Regional)
    Date: March 21, 1982

  3. Hugh and I watched the 1957 semi-finals and finals on TV in the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel. Wilmington did not have TV then, or else didn’t have the right channel. He certainly would have loved to have been in Kansas to photograph the games. Gov. Hodges got there but the Gov. of Kansas didn’t make it because of a big snow storm, which always amused Hugh. We were at Madison Square Gargen when UNC won in the semi-finals and lost to Kansas in the finals and Bones McKinney fouled out in overtime for the first time in his career, if I remember correctly. I’m sure Jack knows. Bones told me once that he was paid $6,000 his first year in pro ball. He was a spectacularly delightful man.

  4. Now that Carolina has won, perhaps there are some Morton photos of Carolina celebrations?

  5. You are correct, Julia, Bones McKinney was truly a North Carolina treasure and had he not fouled out of that 1946 NCAA Championship game, we would probably be celebrating UNC’s 6th NCAA Tournament Championship this week instead of the 5th.

    I guess I just assumed that Hugh went to Kansas City for the 1957 Final Four since there are many great Morton photos of the ’57 team.

    Did many people from the Wilmington area travel to Raleigh in order to see the games on TV? I suspect that you watched the game of WTVD, Channel 11 in Durham. Since Mr. Chesley was able to get only 5 North Carolina TV stations on his network, some areas didn’t get covered, and of course there were no cable systems or satellites in those days.

    Did Hugh take any game pictures off the TV set at the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel?

    Since you were in Raleigh for the Saturday night game, did you and Hugh go over to the Raleigh-Durham Airport on Sunday afternoon for the welcome home festivities?

  6. What a thoroughly enjoyable read David! The the robot comment about the curious case of Jay Wright really tickled my fancy(pants).
    Upon seeing the photos, I became unconsolably nostalgic for the glorious 80s: athletes with diminutive frames and shaggy hair, before we turned the sport into a cash machine played by machines. But I guess we have Michael Jordan to blame for that! Full Circle!
    Where are the Thomas Young’s of yesteryear?

  7. Some recent basketball research indicates that Image #2 in this post was taken at the NCAA East Regional in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY on March 17, 1991.

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