It’s ACC tournament time!

Evey year when Earth reaches this part of its orbit around the sun, another globe reaches its pinnacle: Basketball at the annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament.  The Atlantic Coast Conference held its first men’s basketball tournament in 1954 at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, making this year its 58th occurrence. And while some may think the ACC and its annual affair has lost its luster, (note that the linked-to article is illustrated by a Morton photograph) it will still generate excitement for many—especially those in our spot on the planet where UNC and Duke might just have another chance to battle each other on the neutral court inside Greensboro Coliseum.

Although Hugh Morton photographed basketball games well before 1954, he seems to have photographed his first ACC tournament in 1958. No negatives prior to the 1958 tournament have surfaced after processing.  The photograph above depicts UNC coach Frank McGuire during an ACC Tournament game that year, and the pinback button is one of only two official photographer’s passes for the ACC tournament in the Morton collection. (The other pass is for 1969.) Want to see more ACC Tournament photographs by Morton? Follow the link to view more than 300 scanned thus far in the online image collection . . . and see if you can find the photograph of a “jump ball” being tossed by a North Carolina governor!

Happy Birthday, Dean Smith

Yesterday marked the 80th birthday of UNC’s legendary basketball coach, Dean Smith. (Sorry, coach, I know you are a stickler for being on time but I’ve been sick and away from the office, so this is a belated greeting!).

The Hugh Morton Collection of Photographs and Films currently has 197 images of Smith online—either for your virtual photographic reminiscence of or initial introduction to a beloved Tar Heel—including the image above depicting Coach Smith signaling for the “four corners” offense during a game in the early 1990s. And while you’re visiting A View to Hugh, please take a moment to read Art Chansky’s essay, “The Tar Heels’ ‘White House Photographer,'” on Hugh Morton’s Tar Heel sports photography, which features an anecdote or two about and a few photographs of Coach Dean Smith.

All nine series now available!

It’s been a while since I announced an update to the finding aid for the Hugh Morton collection . . . but that’s because I’ve been saving up until I could reveal ALL of the remaining series at once. (Not intentionally, actually — it just kind of worked out that way). So yes, this means that almost all* of the Morton collection is now open and available for research!

Of greatest interest to many will be the Sports Series (series 6), which contains the absolute gold mine that is Hugh Morton’s UNC basketball photography. Morton took an amazing 30,000 photographs of UNC basketball, dating from the beginning of his time as a UNC undergrad in 1939 through the early 2000s (see left). We worked hard and very carefully to process this portion of the collection, knowing how popular these would be. Along the way, we digitized about 1300 of them, which (in case you need a reminder) are available online in the Hugh Morton digital collection. (Big props to our volunteer Jack Hilliard, who did the vast majority of the description/identification for these — talk about a “citizen archivist“!).

But let’s not overlook the other sports (football, golf, and hang gliding, to name a few), or series 7 through 9 — World War II (7);  Places, Non-North Carolina and Unidentified (8); and Documents & Objects (9). Go to the newly updated finding aid for detailed descriptions of these materials.

*Yes, unfortunately, we’re not quite done yet. There’s still a good deal of cleaning up left to do, inserting stray items into series, adding the film, video, and audio materials, the oversize prints, etc. Not at all helpful is the fact that as I was doing a “victory lap” around the stacks the other day, I came upon a previously overlooked (and quite large) box of negatives — a tangled mess of hundreds of rolls of film, representing lots of different subjects and time periods. SIGH. Wish me luck.

Laugh, think, cry

We’ve been looking through a LOT of basketball photos recently, and I couldn’t help but notice some fantastic Morton shots of the great Jim Valvano, who died of bone cancer 17 years ago this week. In addition to being an extremely talented, entertaining, and exuberant college basketball coach (most notably at North Carolina State University), in his battle with cancer, Valvano gave us a wonderful model of courage, dignity and humor and the face of tragedy. Probably his best-known quote, below, was delivered at the ESPY awards shortly before his death — I challenge you to watch the video of the speech and not do all three things!

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

Words to live by. (An interesting and related side note is this article I just happened to see on today about technology and changing cultural attitudes towards end-of-life).

Here’s Jimmy V making “Bones” McKinney laugh:

Morton took the image below at the January 4, 1986 UNC victory over NC State, the “last game in Carmichael.” After the game, Valvano grabbed the ball and shot a layup so he could jokingly claim to have made the “last basket in Carmichael.” (Of course, as Thad Williamson reports, the Heels played in Carmichael again just last month in the NIT).

March Madness (on V2H, at least)

P081_NTBR2_002047_25Let’s face it — us fans of Tar Heel men’s basketball need something to distract us from the season currently underway.

Since we’re unlikely to experience any actual March Madness this year, we’ll have to create our own on “A View to Hugh.”

How about a refresher course in Carolina basketball glories past, courtesy Art Chansky and Hugh Morton? That’s right, our latest Worth 1,000 Words essay, entitled The Tar Heels’ ‘White House Photographer’ is now available!

Chansky, well-known as the chief chronicler of Carolina Basketball, is the author of such books as March To the Top (1982), Return To the Top (1983), and his latest, entitled Light Blue Reign: How a City Slicker, a Quiet Kansan, and a Mountain Man Built College Basketball’s Longest-lasting Dynasty (2009). We’re thrilled to have him as part of Worth 1,000 Words.

We hope our latest essay makes you fans feel a bit better . . . while Coach Smith and James Worthy might look upset in the above photo, they’d actually just won the national championship! It’s only a matter of time before the Heels are “on top” once again.

MJ inducted into Naismith HOF

Michael Jordan slam dunk against UVA

Though you wouldn’t know it from looking at today’s Daily Tar Heel, Hugh Morton took this legendary photo of the legendary Michael Jordan. It’s maybe Morton’s best-known (and least-credited) image, and appears on p. 191 of Hugh Morton’s North Carolina. As Morton tells it,

Michael Jordan was airborne in Carmichael Auditorium against Virginia, and this is my most published action shot of him at Carolina. I told him ahead of time that I hoped he would have a good game, and as he brushed by after making this basket he asked, “Was that good enough?”

Good enough and then some! Some say Jordan was the best that ever played. Certainly good enough to insure his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame today, just as soon as he became eligible.

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.

Black History at UNC: Charles Scott

Charles Scott, Los Angeles, 2/14/1986

In honor of Black History Month, I’m highlighting an important figure in ACC athletics history: Charles Scott, who in 1966 became the first black scholarship athlete at UNC-Chapel Hill. While he was NOT the first black player in the ACC, as is sometimes reported (including in Hugh Morton’s North Carolina on page 172),  Scott had a huge impact as the Conference’s first well-known, charismatic, and all-around great African-American player.

Scott had an exceptional career at UNC, leading his team to ACC Championships and two consecutive final four appearances. He played on the 1968 Olympic Team, and after graduation had a decade-long professional run — first with the now-defunct ABA, then with several NBA teams including the Celtics and the Lakers.

UNC's Charles Scott (33) puts up a shot against Wake Forest, late 1960s

But as a 2001 interview in the Chapel Hill News reveals, it was not all triumph and accolades for Scott, especially during his UNC years. The late 1960s were highly tumultuous times, and breaking the color barrier proved to be solitary work. Scott says:

At that time, no matter how comfortable I felt with my teammates, they still had to deal with the fact that they never had been around black people, either. I still couldn’t go anywhere with their friends because their friends were still brought up in a South that was very separate…There was a lot of loneliness on my part and a lot of times I questioned myself why I was here.

When the highly deserving Scott was passed over in his junior AND senior years for ACC Player of the Year in favor of a white player, many blamed persistent racism.

Legendary coach Dean Smith played a big part in easing Scott’s UNC experience, as described in detail in an ESPN column by Richard Lapchick and in Barry Jacobs’ 2008 book Across the Line. Hugh Morton reports (on page 193 of HM’s NC) that when Scott spoke at the ceremony honoring Smith with the UNC System’s University Award, he said, “When they introduce Coach Smith’s family, why don’t they mention my name? My father died when I was twelve years old, and Dean Smith is the only father I ever had.”

UNC's Charles Scott (33) on a fast break against Wake Forest, late 1960s

Morton shot Charlie Scott both on and off the court, such as when he paid Scott a visit in Los Angeles in 1986 (when the portrait at the beginning of this post was taken). These photos are powerful and lasting documents of one of the great pioneers in sports history.

Courtside Morton(s)

Tonight the University of North Carolina Tar Heel men play a game of basketball against UC-Santa Barbara.

My image scanning and processing this month has consisted of mostly basketball photographs,  and  according to a rough estimation they outnumber the usual celluloid suspects — bears, battleships, and pageant queens — by a significant margin. Therefore I have many pictures to choose from, and I feel slightly overwhelmed by all the options, all of which are excellent.

Thanks to a long tradition of basketball movies, I have been given the impression that basketball is about more than slam dunks and court-side gesticulations. Hugh Morton’s photos do not dispel this perception: in the collection there are a host of photographs from locker rooms, press conferences, dinner parties, and airplanes.

UNC men's basketball team returning from 1982 NCAA Championship win

Here is an optimistic photograph, to begin with: a very backstage shot of a very sleepy men’s basketball team returning home on an airplane after their 1982 NCAA championship victory in New Orleans. (Note the young Michael Jordan two rows back on the left, and that looks like James Worthy in the front right, cuddling with his pillow).

Here is another off-court shot, of a very despondent, soda-drinking player in the locker room. The man, presumably a coach, assistant coach, or general father figure, is trying to encourage him in vain.

UNC men's basketball player being consoled in locker room

Moving on in the basketball summary, here is a highlight from the collection of on-court photographs. After seeing this, I wonder if maybe basketball really is just about slam dunks.

UNC basketball's Michael Jordan dunking in a game against Duke, early 1980s

Carolina, in a game against Duke, is trailing slightly (36-42 according to the scoreboard), but I wonder, did this momentous dunk-in-progress by Michael Jordan change things? Was this one of the seminal Carolina-Duke match-ups, or merely another entry in the tally of this legendary rivalry?

My idea on this photo is that, because it was taken in the Greensboro Coliseum, it might be from the ACC tournament on March 10, 1984. If so, then Duke ended up winning, 75 to 77. But I can never be sure, as the photos I process often come to me in the form of loose, undated and unlabeled film negatives, and I have no context for the picture aside from embedded details (nametags and calendars are always welcome!). Can anyone help me identify the particular game?

To close, I have a photo from Hugh’s grandson Jack Morton, who has apparently inherited his Tar Heel photographer’s pass, and is documenting the exploits of current UNC basketballers. More of Jack’s photos from the Nov. 15 Carolina-Penn season opener can be viewed here. It is pretty neat to see the family continuity, isn’t it?

UNC's Deon Thompson and Penn defender in season opener, 11/15/2008

Let me introduce myself…

My name is Amber, and I’m the newest student assistant at work on the Morton collection. One of the projects I’m working on is with what we call the “Machine Prints.” In the 1990s-early 2000s, Hugh Morton sent many of his rolls of film to local drug and grocery stores to be developed.  He would then look through those negatives and decide which ones he wanted to make prints of.  Unfortunately that meant that many negatives were separated from the rest of their roll, and quite often, the prints in an envelope don’t have matching negatives (or any negatives at all!).

Morton did label most of the Machine Print envelopes, but those labels don’t always match the pictures.  The first envelope I opened was of a game in the Dean Dome, but in the middle was a random picture of Prince Charles.  (Apparently it was taken at the Biltmore Estate, where he came to learn more about preserving historic structures—see Hugh Morton’s North Carolina, page 127).

Elizabeth had already done a preliminary sort with general categories such as Basketball, Grandfather Mountain, and Nature, and I then tried to narrow them a little more.  The first one I tackled was basketball and was able to sort those by date.  However, many envelopes were simply labeled “NCAA ’94,” and it was up to me to figure out which teams were playing.

UNC’s Vince Carter dunks against UC Berkeley, 1997

This photo stayed with me as I was going through the many others.  I was amazed at how #15 was defying gravity.  The sheer physics of what he is doing is incomprehensible to me.  This was in a roll labeled “2/98 NC State.”  However, the visitors bench sure doesn’t look red. According to Hugh Morton’s North Carolina, this is Vince Carter and they are playing Cal Berkley (p. 199), which probably would have put it during the Nov. 22, 1997 game at the Dean Dome.  At the June “Photo ID Party,” Fred Kiger said this was Morton’s favorite sports photo he ever took.

This next picture was in an envelope labeled “Groundhog Ice Cream.”  You can see the chocolate smeared on her nose.  But, what is the back story on this?  Is this from Grandfather Mountain?  Some February 2nd tradition?  If anyone knows, please fill me in.  The curiosity is killing me.

Groundhog eating ice cream cone, circa 1990s

I am currently in the middle of going through all the Grandfather Mountain pictures.  What an amazing place.  The sweeping vistas are beautiful, and that Swinging Bridge—I don’t know if I am brave enough to cross it.  I just finished with the Fall pictures and the striking reds and yellows against green grass and bright blue sky are so perfectly captured, and the pictures of bears with different families and local celebrities are a crack-up.

Grandfather Mountain in fall with golf course in foreground, circa 1990s

This has definitely made me want to visit Grandfather soon, to see the places depicted in these pictures and try to capture them with my own camera (although I know they can never be nearly as stunning). Hey, mom and dad, what are we doing for Thanksgiving?  They have golf there!