When last they met here

Indiana's Dan Dakich guards UNC's Michael Jordan during the 1984 NCAA East Regional Semifinal in Atlanta, Georgia. Indiana head coach Bob Knight watches the action in the background. In those days UNC wore Converse shoes. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the author.)

Indiana’s Dan Dakich guards UNC’s Michael Jordan during the 1984 NCAA East Regional Semifinal in Atlanta, Georgia. Indiana head coach Bob Knight watches the action in the background. In those days UNC wore Converse shoes. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the author.)

It was his last college game.  An upset that still rankles a quarter-century later, like a large pebble in his Air Jordans.

—Mike Lopresti, sportswriter, March 3, 2009

This coming Friday night, the UNC Tar Heels will face the Indiana Hoosiers’ in the East Regional Semifinal of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The two schools last met in the East Regional semifinal round thirty-two years ago today on March 22, 1984 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Michael Jordan played his last game as a Tar Heel that day, because the Hoosiers emerged with a 72-68 victory.

According to sportswriter Mike Lopresti, who wrote an article in 2009 titled “After 25 years, Jordan still frustrated by loss to Hoosiers in tourney,” Indiana head coach Bobby Knight made a few strategic changes that led to their upset win over the number one seed UNC: “He ditched his beloved motion offense and spread the floor, to better combat Dean Smith’s trapping defenses . . . and . . . put a blue-collar defender named Dan Dakich on Jordan. Dakich was ordered to deny Jordan the backdoor cut, the post-up and offensive rebounds. Fail at any, and he was on the bench.  Dakich learned of his assignment a few hours before the game. Already ill, he went back to his room and threw up.”

Jordan fouled twice early in the game and it was he who spent unexpected minutes on the bench.  Jordan told Lopresti in an interview: “When I got back in the second half, I felt like I was trying to cram 40 minutes into 20 minutes,” he said. “I could never find any sync in my game.”

A post last week listed all the NCAA basketball tournaments photographed by Hugh Morton.  The list did not include 1984.  Once I heard that these two teams would play against each there once again, I immediately flashed on a photograph I’ve had on my office door for several years until very recently:

Michael Jordan takes a jump shot during the 1984 NCAA East Regional semifinal. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the author.)

Michael Jordan takes a jump shot during the 1984 NCAA East Regional semifinal. (Hugh Morton photograph, cropped by the author.)

I lived in Indiana for fourteen years before moving to North Carolina to work in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, so it was a fitting photograph—my new state rising above my old state.  What stuck in my mind’s eye, though, was the 1984 banner in the lower right corner.  That’s when I knew I could add another tournament to Morton’s list.  Checking the finding aid revealed that he also photographed the opening rounds played in Charlotte.

In the Morton collection there is one roll of 35mm black-and-white film and second roll of color transparencies.  The latter are mostly substandard as Morton missed focused on most of his exposures.  Only one color image is online; the description, however, did not mention that the game was in the NCAA tournament so it did not turn up in my search.

Today we (that is, our scanning technician) scanned the roll of black-and-white negatives and present three of Morton’s better photographs from the game.

Matt Doherty dribbles toward the lane while Indiana forward Mike Giomi defends. Tar Heel guard Buzz Peterson looks on, (Photograph by Hugh Morton, cropped by the author.)

Matt Doherty dribbles toward the lane while Indiana forward Mike Giomi defends. Tar Heel guard Buzz Peterson looks on, (Photograph by Hugh Morton, cropped by the author.)

2 thoughts on “When last they met here

  1. I blame the outcome of this game on Ronald Reagan. The game was scheduled for Monday…but they postponed after Reagan was shot that afternoon. The game was played the following day, but the Heels were just not dialed in. I will always believe that they would have peaked (and won) had the game been played as scheduled.

  2. Hi Catherine.
    My title for this post may have created some confusion. By “here” I meant the East Regional semifinal, not Philadelphia as a place. President Reagan was indeed shot the day UNC faced Indiana in Philadelphia, but that was three years earlier on the afternoon of the national championship game played on March 30th, 1981.

    According to the New York Times, “Following word that the President had left the operating room and was beginning recovery, [a] nine-man committee voted unanimously to go ahead with the game. Because of this meeting, the game’s start was delayed seven minutes, from 8:23 P.M. until 8:30.”

    The 63-50 Indiana victory was UNC’s third straight loss in a national championship game. After reading some stories about the game, it looks like Isaiah Thomas’ 23 points had a lot to do with the defeat, too. Also from the NYT, when coach Dean Smith was asked how he felt about getting so close yet again without winning, Smith said, ”We can be like Penn State football, No. 2 all the time.”

    My apologies for blurring the meaning of “here” for these two games.

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