Friday, September 17, 2004

Overnight Heroes

It was an extraordinary season. One of the things that sticks out in my mind was how we captured the imagination of the people in the state of North Carolina. They had never experienced anything like this before, and we were a bunch of kids from New York who came down to play basketball.... It made us, in a sense, kind of heroes in the state of North Carolina.

~ Tommy Kearns

Sure he had classes the next day. Sure he wanted to go to dental school after graduation. But how could Joe Quigg be studying in his room into the wee hours of the night? How could he concentrate with everything that had happened in the previous 24 hours? The game-winning foul shots he had sunk. The crucial steal he had made while guarding the most dominant player college basketball followers had seen. The thousands of adoring fans that had carried him off the plane upon his return earlier that afternoon. The standing ovation he had received when he walked into the Carolina Theater with his date a few hours before.

It was March 1957, and the magnitude of what had recently unfolded wasn’t completely evident. At first glance this is your typical David versus Goliath story. After all it is the Final Four and it is Kansas, a college with a basketball tradition almost as eminent as its starting center Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain. But on closer inspection Frank McGuire’s North Carolina team looks capable of toppling tradition, even against a superbly coordinated giant in the Final Four that changed the Atlantic Coast Conference and Tar Heel basketball for good.

It was a season that had such a great effect on so many people that Carolina leading-scorer Lennie Rosenbluth says, “it was just meant to be.” When he reflects back on the 1957 squad, the first thing that comes to his mind is “tremendous teamwork,” which makes perfect sense. After all, you don’t win every game without chemistry. The players also exuded the same positive attitude as their head coach Frank McGuire, whose anxiety over the thought of losing intensified with each game. But it was the players, the ones who had to outscore their opponents, who were abnormally calm throughout the year, especially in tense situations.

“We figured we’d win every game we played,” said Joel Fleishman, the team manager. “That seemed to be the trend, the confidence level. But it was more than that.... You know how you just have that feeling.”

UNC: Then and Now

There was no Dean Dome. There wasn’t even Carmichael Auditorium. Woollen Gym was the place to be, or at least it became that way. McGuire’s office was a single room behind the ticket office in Woollen Gym. There was no secretary, just two coaches, an equipment manager, head manager, trainer, and players. In the fall of 1956, there were 6,971 students enrolled at UNC, of which 878 were graduate students. Since then, the student population has nearly quadrupled.

“The campus was mainly around the South Building,” said UNC guard Bob Cunningham. “Keenan Stadium was nothing but a football field building enclosed in pine trees and there was not a building anywhere in sight. That’s where most guys took their dates if they got lucky enough.”

Many guys, especially underclassmen, were not lucky. Freshmen and sophomores had a tough time finding a date for two reasons: females could not attend UNC until they transferred junior year (nursing school students and local residents were the exceptions), so there were seven guys for every girl on campus; and the girls weren’t interested in younger guys. So many of the first and second year guys dated girls from Greensboro College or Saint Mary’s in Raleigh.

In Chapel Hill, Franklin Street wasn’t the party spot it is today. There was Jeff’s Confectionery, a goodie shop, but no bar culture existed. The social scene was at the fraternity houses, which is why UNC players Cunningham, Pete Brennan and Quigg joined Sigma Nu, and Tommy Kearns became a Zeta Psi. McGuire, however, did not allow any of his freshmen players pledge a fraternity because he knew the consequences. So the players joined their sophomore year. Rosenbluth was the only starter that didn’t join a fraternity. He thought it wouldn’t be fair to be connected with one group.

Rosenbluth was the only Jewish player on a predominantly Catholic team from New York. He and his teammates didn’t let their upbringing separate them from their Southern classmates. Baptists and Methodists were the most common religious denominations in North Carolina. Catholics were looked upon as different or strange. Of course, as American culture has shown, if you can play ball, many prejudices are forgotten – McGuire and his Catholic “Noo Yawk” players were warmly accepted in Chapel Hill. For some of the players, becoming acclimated to the South was not a problem. For others, it was more difficult.

“I think it was a dramatic lifestyle change going down to Chapel Hill,” Kearns said. “And it was more dramatic back then, believe me, than now because color lines were clearly defined then.”

In 1957, there were three black students enrolled at UNC. Blacks sat in the back of the buses. They had separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, churches, parks, and schools. In 1956, the N.C. General Assembly adopted a series of constitutional amendments called the Pearsall Plan, designed to diffuse racial tension by slowing desegregation in the state’s public schools. Allowing blacks into mainstream white society was unfathomable then.

“It’s hard for people in general, but especially students who weren’t alive then, to have any conception of how inflammatory this issue was,” said Harry Watson, UNC-CH professor of North Carolina history. “White people were convinced that the heavens would absolutely fall, the Earth would open up, civilization as we knew it would be totally destroyed, and every bad thing you could imagine would sweep over the country.”

However, times were changing. In a few years Civil Rights marches would sweep through the North Carolina streets. While there was no formal rule banning blacks from ACC competition, there was an unwritten rule that it was a white conference. In 1966, Charles Scott became the first black basketball player in the ACC, and he earned All-America honors in his final two years at Carolina. After he graduated, a significant number of blacks began enrolling at UNC.

But times were different then. Televisions were a new media outlet for the public. Americans who had televisions watched their black and white screens and, if lucky, had three channels to choose from. A few UNC basketball home games were televised, but there was no sound. In order to hear the telecast, viewers had to turn on their radios.

Yup, it was 1957. People were singing Hound Dog and Too Much. McDonald’s franchises had been in existence for less than two years. Dwight Eisenhower had just been elected for his second term as president. And the drinking age was 18.

Carolina adopted an “Ivy League” style of dress. Jeans were out of the question for male or female students. A tweed sport jacket, a button-down shirt, khaki pants, and cordovan loafers was the typical outfit for men, whether to class, or a football or basketball game. Instead of slacks, women wore dresses that hung below the knees.

At games fans wore suits and ties, and security didn’t exist. Neither did long shorts nor Nikes. UNC players wore matching sneakers – white Converse “Chuck Taylor” All-Stars, their matching socks pulled up high.

There was no shot clock or three-point line. There was no weight training or plyometric drills – a sharp contrast to modern-day philosophy. It was believed that lifting weights would deter a player’s shooting. There is some validity to that old school of thought. Many players don’t spend as much time practicing shooting as they did in Quigg’s era; thus, modern teams don’t have many pure shooters. In 1957, UNC didn’t have that problem. Not a fastbreak team, Carolina frequently scored more than 80 points per game without a three-point line. And considering McGuire rarely subbed his starters, it’s evident UNC did not have any conditioning problems.

Of course there were some old schools of thought that were different or just non-productive. In contrast to the Dean Smith era, players never raised their fists to signal that they were tired. If you were tired, you weren’t a man. Also, players went through long stretches in practice without water, which has been proven scientifically harmful to athletes.

A sign of the times, players were allowed to smoke cigarettes. Cunningham and teammate Ken Rosemond smoked occasionally. Quigg and Rosenbluth smoked a few packs a week. In fact, Quigg was the campus representative for Marlboro, giving some of the players free samples. One night before a game, the players were in a hotel room, playing cards and smoking. For McGuire, it was no big mystery. He knew what was going on. As Rosenbluth recalls, “He came into the room and he said, ‘Oh, pardon me, wrong room,’ and walked out, never said a word about it.”

Again, things were different then. The team rode in three station wagons for away games, one of which was the smoking car, driven by non-smoker Joel Fleishman, usually with Quigg, Rosemond, Rosenbluth, and another passenger.

Brennan was the only player who owned a car. His sophomore year, he brought his old, beat-up Buick to campus, but toward the end of that year, it broke down. So he left the Buick in front of his residence, Cobb dormitory, with a sign on it that said, “Please do not touch. I’m going to fix it up in September.” Brennan left it there all summer and when he returned in the fall of 1956, he didn’t have enough money to fix it so there it stayed. Of course, none of the players had gas money anyway. Nobody seemed to bother his idle Buick as it became a good luck charm for Brennan and the team that season.

Since 1957, social trends have changed dramatically and many colleges have transformed into multi-million dollar institutions. But the basket is still 10 feet high and the ball is still round. So is it fair to rank that ‘57 team against other great UNC teams?

“How one team would do against another, I don’t think you could make those kinds of comparisons,” Kearns said.

The legacy of Michael Jordan and Dean Smith has left such an impression in Chapel Hill that the 1957 team is not as well known as it once was or should be in a basketball-obsessed town. Does today’s generation really know about that team?

“They don’t have a clue about our club,” Rosenbluth said. “Let me tell you, our club was good.”

Coaches and Players

The 1956-57 UNC Championship Team.
Front Row (left to right): Roy Searcy, Gehrmann Holland, Danny Lotz, Ken Rosemond, Bob Cunningham, Tommy Kearns.
Back Row (left to right): Head Coach Frank McGuire, Manager Joel Fleishman, Bob Young, Lennie Rosenbluth, Joe Quigg, Pete Brennan, Assistant Coach Buck Freeman, Trainer John Lacey.

Lennie isn’t lying. Most of the players on the 1957 UNC team were Irish Catholics, with the exception of Rosenbluth and Protestants Fleishman and Danny Lotz. Their parents were poor immigrants seeking work and a better life for their families. Because of their roots, basketball was only a part of the players’ lives, not life itself.

“Professional ball was there, but it was not that big a deal, even though some of them went to the pros,” Fleishman said. “But their goal was the opportunity to get out of the City and get an education and get a degree.”

In New York, players filled the courts year-round. There was no off-season. Carolina forward Danny Lotz, like many of his teammates, returned to New York after each spring semester, where he played in two summer leagues. He worked construction all day, then hurried to the Bronx for a 6 o’clock game. By 7:30, if he knew his team was winning, he’d drive to Brooklyn and play in another league from 8 to 10.

With that dedication, it’s easy to understand why McGuire always looked for New York talent. He recruited so many players from the metropolitan area (all the starters on the 1957 team were from New York City), journalists coined it the underground railroad in reverse. At that time high school basketball in North Carolina was a seasonal sport and did not produce the top prospects that New York did. Like Dean Smith, McGuire recruited the nation’s best players. So keeping egos in check and creating team unity, says Kearns, was one of McGuire’s special gifts.

Frank McGuire was born in Greenwich Village on Nov. 13, 1913. The 13th child of Anna and Robert McGuire, he was raised in a tough Irish-Italian neighborhood in Manhattan. Robert, a policeman, died when Frank was 2 years old; Anna couldn’t work because she had to take care of Frank and his siblings, who all got jobs to support the family when they were old enough to work. When he wasn’t working, he was playing some sport, in particular basketball.

McGuire’s active childhood paid off as he started on the baseball, basketball, and football teams at St. Xavier, an all-boys military school with a strong academic reputation. In college, McGuire pitched for St. John’s and was a guard on the basketball team coached by James “Buck” Freeman. McGuire was captain of both teams his senior year.

Shortly after taking over the head coaching position at his alma mater in 1948, McGuire helped St. John’s become a national power. He also brought integrity, recruiting Solly Walker, the first black player at St. John’s. In 1952, his team lost in the national championship game to Kansas, who had a rather notable bench warmer, Dean Smith.

McGuire was such a significant figure to top New York players that some, such as Kearns, would have gone with him no matter where the location. After leaving St. John’s following the ‘52 season, McGuire was going to either UNC or Alabama – a decision that profoundly affected UNC and ACC basketball.

But why would a coach who valued New York players as much as they valued him leave the Big Apple? McGuire’s young son, Frankie, who had cerebral palsy, was the main reason. McGuire and his then-wife, Pat, felt it was too difficult raising young Frankie in a large city. Another factor may have been the state of college basketball in New York. Many of the top programs had been caught in point-fixing scandals in the early ‘50s. McGuire also had ties to Carolina. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he volunteered to join the Navy and was stationed in Chapel Hill. There he met Ben Carnevale, who later coached basketball at UNC, and Jim Tatum, who became the UNC football coach. The UNC vice president, William Carmichael, shared a similar background with McGuire – he had lived in New York, had played basketball at Carolina and was Catholic. So after head coach Tom Scott was fired, it wasn’t a difficult decision to find a successor. Carmichael, along with UNC athletic director Chuck Erickson, asked McGuire to take over the Tar Heel basketball program. Carmichael had seen McGuire’s St. John’s team defeat North Carolina State 60-49 on the road in the 1952 Eastern Regional. Carmichael knew McGuire was a top candidate to help end the 15-game losing streak the Tar Heels had against the Wolfpack. That losing streak began when Everett Case took the helm at N.C. State in 1946.

When McGuire arrived, UNC was a football school. Still, the pieces were almost in place, and as the first big sign of progress, Carolina beat State in Raleigh, ending the streak on his first try. During games McGuire, always immaculately dressed, demonstrated a sense of calm confidence. That is because he did most of his coaching during practice.

“If you did something wrong and he was going to take you out, he didn’t take you out right away,” Rosenbluth said. “He waited until you did something good. Then he would take you out.”

As Cunningham remarked, “He knew when to give you a kick in the butt and when to pat you on the back.”

Often, his players did not make mental mistakes because they were taught how to use the game clock in their favor. He also didn’t call out set plays. They ran patterns. McGuire practiced different game scenarios until they became second nature to the players. That way, he never had to use a timeout or instruct his players what to do in crunch time. Each player knew where the others were on the court and knew their tendencies in certain situations.

“In the end, Coach McGuire always preached the idea that the ball is a piece of gold, and you don’t throw gold away,” Rosenbluth said.

Preparing for individual teams was also a priority for McGuire. On Feb. 26, 1957, at Wake Forest, Quigg did not play because he had the flu. In his place, McGuire started Ken Rosemond as a third guard instead of the taller reserves, Lotz or Bob Young, because he expected the Deacons to press the entire game, which they did. The Wake Forest fans were upset because UNC’s smaller lineup broke the press with ease, and they claimed that someone from UNC had been watching the Deacons practice.

McGuire was a charismatic speaker who had a good sense of humor. Many of his players saw him as a father figure. He often captivated them with war stories or anecdotes about his life where he had to be tough or “be a man.” For instance, McGuire and his best friend Jack LaRocca had been in the City together, and two sailors tried to start a fight with them. McGuire told his team that he had hit one of them in the jaw so hard that his sailor’s hat went three stories in the air.

McGuire had a tender side as well. In 1953, Jim Exum, a UNC freshman, was elbowed in the eye while trying out as a walk-on. Exum’s glasses shattered, trapping glass in his eye and briefly blinding him. McGuire hadn’t seen the play, but when Exum explained, McGuire got in his car and drove the young man to the infirmary. He stayed there until he knew Exum was going to be all right. Exum never made the team, but it didn’t matter to McGuire (Exum went on to become chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, and now practices law in Greensboro).

While McGuire was more of an emotional leader, Freeman, McGuire’s assistant, taught fundamentals. They had remained friends since Freeman coached McGuire at St. John’s. An intimidating figure who wore his white hair slicked back, Freeman didn’t tolerate any nonsense off the court, and unlike McGuire, he didn’t want players drinking. One weekend night during the ‘57 season, Brennan and Quigg went to Jeff’s Confectionery to buy some beer, and as they walked out with a six-pack in a paper bag, Freeman stood on the sidewalk looking at them.

“What do you got in there?” he asked, and began cursing and vocalizing his displeasure with the two starters.

So Brennan and Quigg went around the corner and put the beers in the bushes and went home. When they got back to their room they thought, “Hell, we already got caught. We ought to go get the beer and drink it.” They were too late. When they walked back to the bushes, the beer was gone.

But discipline and coaching only go so far. You need guys to put the ball in the hoop, and to win big games. You need a clutch performer. Rosenbluth was that player.

“He hit shots when we needed them and in dire moments,” Kearns said. “I think in the back of all our minds we knew that we had somebody that’s referred to now as a go-to guy. He was the guy if push came to shove and we needed a couple points, Lennie would get them for us.”

Rosenbluth, who had a few cold streaks, believed the best way to solve the problem was to keep shooting. And most of the time it worked because he was the best of a good-shooting team.

“It might sound strange, but when I shot the ball, if it didn’t go in, I was surprised it didn’t go in,” Rosenbluth said.

During that season, UNC won four close games against Wake Forest. In the fourth game against the Deacons, which happened to be in the ACC semifinals, Rosenbluth came to the rescue. In the closing seconds, he planted his foot on the dotted line and drilled a game-winning hook shot over Wendell Carr, who was whistled for a foul. Rosenbluth converted the foul shot in a 61-59 Carolina win, although many Wake Forest fans claimed Rosenbluth committed an offensive foul by lowering his shoulder. After that game Wake Forest coach Bones McKinney said something to the effect of, “The Catholics and the Baptists were battling it out, but it took a Jew to win the game.”

Rosenbluth did not exactly have the typical journey of a National Player of the Year. Growing up in a Bronx neighborhood where most of the boys played basketball, Rosenbluth competed against successful collegiate players and future pros. One of those players was Hy Gotkin, nephew of Harry Gotkin, McGuire’s close friend and primary talent scout in New York. Attending James Monroe High School, Rosenbluth played in a limited number of games because of a coaches’ strike in the City’s public league.

N.C. State head coach Everett Case saw Rosenbluth play as a junior and invited him down to Raleigh for a tryout. Back then open tryouts were legal. So that April, Rosenbluth was one of over a hundred players in the old Frank Thompson Gymnasium. Being out of shape and adjusting to the southern heat hindered Rosenbluth from displaying his talent. Case said he was sorry, but he couldn’t offer Rosenbluth a scholarship. After he heard about Lennie’s disappointment, Harry Gotkin, talked to the skilled 6-5, 175-pound boy from the Bronx. By then, McGuire was well known in the New York area, so it didn’t take much for Gotkin to convince Rosenbluth to be McGuire’s first major recruit. It came down to Alabama and UNC, and McGuire chose Chapel Hill. Rosenbluth followed. Before he could attend UNC, however, Rosenbluth needed some math classes in order to be eligible. He spent a year at Staunton Military Academy in Staunton, Va.

During Rosenbluth’s first game in Woollen Gym as a member of the UNC freshman team, there was practically no one in the stands. In fact, the team had to find a custodian to unlock the doors before the game. Things changed in a hurry. Fans began to fill the gym in order to see the skinny kid from the Bronx who was averaging 40 points a game. By the end of that 1954 season, the 5,500-seat gym was packed for the freshman games. Half of the fans did not stay to watch the varsity play, which always followed the freshman games. By his senior year, fans saw him average 28 points per game.

The days when empty seats at a UNC basketball game were as common as taken seats were gone by the 1957 season. Whether students had tickets to a particular game depended on their last names. Students with last names beginning with A through M received tickets one game and students with N through Z received tickets to another game.

By the time the 1957 season began, Rosenbluth was engaged so he spent much of his free time with his fiancee. But he wasn’t a loner. He lived in a dormitory all four years (one year he roomed with the team manager). As a player who liked the student-body and hated explaining to his classmates why UNC lost, Rosenbluth held team meetings every week during his senior year. He felt the only way the team would lose was if there was dissension among teammates. That was no small task considering the other four starters were the top players out of New York City and each carried a big ego.

At those meetings Rosenbluth would ask, “Is anything bothering you? Do you feel I’m shooting too much?” And because they respected him as a player and a team leader, there were never any problems.

Joining Rosenbluth in the starting five was McGuire’s best recruiting class: Kearns, Cunningham, Quigg and Brennan. Before Kearns arrived at Chapel Hill, he developed a reputation as a winner. When asked if he has any particular childhood memories that stick out, Kearns says “winning championships.” The son of a policeman, he grew up in a working-class neighborhood in the Bronx, honing his point guard skills on the playgrounds. In eighth grade, his Catholic school won the New York City Championship. On scholarship at St. Ann’s in Manhattan, Kearns helped his team win the Catholic High School National Championship. St. Ann’s was a hoops factory. Back then basketball practice began two days after Labor Day. Kearns’s high school coach, “Looie” Carnesecca, became a Hall of Famer after leaving to coach at St. John’s University. Over time, St. Ann’s has changed – basketball practices now begin a few months later and the school’s name has become Archbishop Molloy – but the talent remains. Other greats included York Larese and Kenny Smith, who both starred at UNC, along with Georgia Tech phenom Kenny Anderson. Besides playing on talented teams, Kearns remembers a City all-star game in which he played at Madison Square Garden. Seniors from the Bronx and Manhattan played seniors from Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. At 5-11, Kearns was a true point guard, quick enough to break any press and a good passer and shooter. He showed he was a clutch performer, making the final shot in an overtime win and earning the MVP award. Kearns brought a certain arrogance to UNC, which McGuire, like all great coaches, was able to deal with specifically in order to unify the team. While Kearns did not spend a lot of time with his teammates away from the court, he was well liked, and gelled with them in uniform.

Kearns and his backcourt mate Cunningham knew each other before coming to UNC, living near each other in New York and playing a lot of basketball. The son of Irish immigrants, Cunningham lived in an apartment in West Harlem. He attended All Hallows in the South Bronx, the same high school of former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins. Cunningham played forward, but he often faced the basket and was able to score off the dribble or shooting outside. Although he had just committed to UNC as a rising junior, his basketball career almost ended. Goofing around with some buddies, he accidently fell through a plate-glass window. He spent three weeks in the hospital with severed tendons and more than a hundred stitches in his right hand.

“They weren’t sure if they were going to be able to save my hand or not, but thank God they did,” he said. “If they hadn’t, my life would have been a lot different. There’s not a lot of people out looking for one-handed basketball players.”

McGuire, who was the only college coach that visited the Cunningham family in West Harlem after the injury, assured Cunningham and his parents that his scholarship was still intact even though his basketball future was uncertain.

“I’ve always recruited parents as much as I have their sons, because I like players who have strong family ties,” McGuire told authors Don Barton and Bob Fulton in Frank McGuire: The Life and Times of a Basketball Legend. “It says something about them as a person, and it’s important that they be good people as well as good basketball players.”

Cunningham’s strength, flexibility and touch were never the same. But at the time he was a tall guard at 6-4, and the fact that he was used to pressing fullcourt constantly at All Hallows made Cunningham an integral part of the UNC backcourt. The friendly atmosphere in Chapel Hill and the potential for a solid basketball team were the main reasons he chose UNC.

Just a short subway ride away was Carolina’s starting frontcourt, Joe Quigg and Pete Brennan. Growing up in an Irish-Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, Quigg had a humble upbringing. Both of his parents worked. He had traveled the subway for various basketball leagues and games, but never very far. At age 16, Harry Gotkin invited Quigg to a steakhouse. Having never gone to a restaurant, Quigg was nervous, so he went to the library to leaf through etiquette books. Following his high school years at St. Francis, Quigg chose UNC because of McGuire, but his interest in dental school also made Chapel Hill appealing. When McGuire was on a recruiting visit to the Quigg residence, he told Quigg’s mother he would make sure Joe went to church and that he wouldn’t marry a Protestant girl. Enough said. Quigg graduated halfway through his senior year and enrolled at UNC for the 1954 spring semester. He played on the freshman team and traveled with the varsity, fascinated by McGuire’s gripping game-time speeches.

The following fall, Quigg roomed with Brennan and played on the freshman team and sat out in the spring so he would have three years of varsity eligibility with his class. Since grammar school, Brennan and Quigg had played against one another in Brooklyn. By high school, they were each other’s biggest rival, and close friends as well. Until Quigg left early for college, he was the top scorer in New York City. Upon Quigg’s departure, Brennan earned that honor at St. Augustine. Influenced by Quigg and McGuire, Brennan chose UNC over Notre Dame. A consistent performer, Brennan averaged double figures in scoring and rebounding during the 1957 season. That year some people, players included, thought his old Buick brought the team good luck. Later that season Brennan hit one of the most clutch shots in school history….

Yet another pair of big men from New York, Danny Lotz and Bob Young were the first substitutes McGuire used. Young joined the team the second semester because of disciplinary reasons. Ken Rosemond was the primary guard used off the bench. Gehrmann Holland and Roy Searcy, both native North Carolinians, didn’t see much action on the court. Rosemond was from North Carolina as well.

McGuire’s roster changed throughout the season. At the time, a player could enter college early, during the spring semester, and lose a semester of eligibility, which is what happened to Tony Radovich, whose eligibility was used up after the first semester that year. Billy Hathaway, who was nearly seven feet tall, flunked out after the first semester as did Stan Groll. Harvey Salz was never academically eligible that season. Then there was Jimmy Kelly, a guy who would have played on the junior varsity team if there was one back then. Instead, he wasn’t on the team, but was eligible just in case they needed an extra player. He began practicing and traveling with the team during the 1957 NCAA tournament. But often to the chagrin of the benchwarmers, McGuire used his talented substitutes sparingly, often telling them to feed Rosenbluth and not to shoot.

“Lennie can outscore any person that I’ve ever seen play,” Lotz said. “It wasn’t sort of a fun thing for me for the four years. But we won. And (McGuire) didn’t substitute a whole lot so that made it tough.”

McGuire’s substitution method was a lot different, for example, than Dean Smith. Perhaps it was their different player backgrounds. McGuire was a team captain for St. John’s. Smith spent most of his time at Kansas on the bench. Therefore, Smith knew the feeling of sitting through long stretches of game time. McGuire did not, and rarely substituted. That, perhaps, is a reason the starters gelled so well. They had played so many minutes together that their faith in each other, especially in close games, was never in doubt.

“We were never pressured,” Rosenbluth said. “People don’t understand that. They say, ‘Well, my god, the pressure had to be tremendous.’ We were never pressured. It was understood that someone was going to win it for us.”

The pivotal game of the season occurred against Maryland on Feb. 5 in College Park. Going into the contest, UNC was 16-0 and faced a strong defensive team before more than 12,000 fans, the largest crowd at an ACC game to that date. All across North Carolina, people listened to the play-by-play on the radio. With under a minute to play, Maryland was ahead by four points when McGuire called a timeout. It was the only time during the season that Fleishman closed the score book because he thought UNC had been beaten; he must have heard McGuire in the huddle telling his team to be gracious losers. (Longtime Tar Heel broadcaster Woody Durham remembers listening to the end of that game in his hometown of Albemarle, N.C. Durham and his high school classmates were watching the local varsity boy’s game when someone entered the gym and said UNC was about to lose to Maryland. So almost everyone except the players, coaches and referees left the gym on that cold winter night to listen to the UNC-Maryland game on their car radios.) McGuire’s words infuriated the UNC players that night. They pressured Maryland in the closing seconds, tying the game on baskets by Cunningham and Kearns. In overtime, UNC extended their winning streak in a 65-61 victory.

Early in the season, UNC wanted to be competitive on Tobacco Road against Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest. At the time, the only ACC team that qualified for the NCAA tournament was the conference champion. And in the minds of some, the ACC title was more prestigious than the national title; the conference trophy was even taller than the national championship trophy. However, as the wins piled up, a national title became the new goal. Throughout the season, Rosenbluth reminded McGuire how many games they had left in order to keep the winning streak intact.

“I said, ‘Coach, relax. We’re going to win it all.’ And he used to get mad.”

In contrast to McGuire, Kansas Coach Dick Harp seldom showed much emotion and wasn’t one for motivational speeches. His forte was teaching his players the game. By the 1957 season, Harp had a sophomore by the name of Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain. The most dominant player in the nation, Chamberlain was such a force that the rules were changed just for him. By the time he left college basketball after two varsity seasons at Kansas: dunking by foul shooters was no longer allowed after a missed attempt; offensive goaltending became illegal; and inbounding a pass from the baseline over the backboard for an easy basket was outlawed. North Carolinians had never seen Chamberlain, who had attended Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, play before the 1957 Final Four, but they certainly knew who he was.

“You didn’t get to see him on television, but you could read about him and I think the imagination is sometimes more (powerful) than reality,” Quigg said.

Quigg and Rosenbluth did not have to use their imaginations. They saw Chamberlain play at a resort in the Catskill Mountains, N.Y., the previous summer. The players, including scholarship players from the Northeast, received room and board in one of the hotels and worked as waiters and bus boys. They also worked on their games. Friday was game night. They played against each other or against teams from New York City. If the seven-footer had any weaknesses, it was foul shooting. However, Chamberlain shot a better percentage from the foul line in college than he did in the pros.

Final Four

Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., had no locker rooms for the teams. Well, some might have called them lockers, but there were no showers and only enough room to draw up plays for team meetings. So the UNC players dressed in their hotel a few blocks from the gym and took a bus to the game.

The 1957 Final Four broadcasted the first nationally televised college basketball games, as thousands of Tar Heel fans tuned in during those two fateful nights in March. But spectators at the games came to see one team: Kansas. One of those Jayhawk fans was Dean Smith, who was the assistant coach under Bob Spear at the Air Force Academy. Spear, McGuire, Naval Academy coach Ben Carnevale and University of Denver coach Hoyt Brawner were all good friends and roomed together each year at the Final Four. That year they stayed in McGuire’s hotel suite. Smith was invited but slept on a roll-away bed in the living room. Having just met McGuire, Smith recalled part of their conversation in his autobiography A Coach’s Life: “‘Whoever heard of anybody named Dean?’ McGuire said. ‘Where I come from, you become a dean. You’re not named Dean.’”

Although Smith and nearly all of the 10,500 fans were cheering on Kansas, there were about 200 die-hard Carolina fans who traveled to Kansas City. Two of them were seniors Jim Exum and his buddy N.P. “Perky” Hayes, who had attended as many UNC home games as possible and most away games while they were in college. Exum’s father had promised him a new car his senior year if he kept his grades up, which is why he drove a new black and white ‘57 Chevrolet Bel-Air. Word spread that Exum and Hayes had tickets and were going to drive to the Final Four. So after they got out of their classes they left from Chapel Hill with three other classmates in the Bel-Air at 2 p.m. on Thursday. They had special permission to miss Friday and Monday classes, and so the odyssey began – 24 straight hours to Kansas City. There weren’t any interstates, just back roads through hundreds of small towns. They switched drivers every few hours while the others slept. They showed up early for the game because two of the five guys did not have tickets. Because they knew some of the UNC team members, the guys without tickets waited until the players showed up and grabbed towels and some buckets and walked in as if they were team members. Security and assigned seating didn’t quite exist then.

In the first game, Chamberlain dominated as Kansas pounded San Francisco on the glass in an easy Jayhawk victory. In the other semifinal game, UNC battled against Michigan State. Kearns had one of his worst games of the season, Quigg fouled out with just two points, and Michigan State’s “Jumping” Johnny Green, a 6-5 sophomore, grabbed 19 rebounds, hounding Rosenbluth on defense. Usually able to use his long arms to shoot over opponents, Rosenbluth rarely pump faked.

“Every time I took a shot he was blocking it,” said Rosenbluth, who tallied 31 points on 11 for 42 shooting.

If it hadn’t been for one of Cunningham’s best scoring games, UNC might have lost in regulation. That and some good fortune. The score was tied when Michigan State guard Jack Quiggle banked in a shot from halfcourt at the end of regulation, but the referees ruled it no basket. The ball had been released after the buzzer, a presage of what soon followed.

With seven seconds left in the first overtime, Michigan State led 64-62 and Green, who shot foul shots underhanded, was at the line for a one-and-one and a chance to ice the game. At that moment Exum had gotten up to leave and thought to himself, “Dammit, we lost the damn game. I’ve driven all the way out here and this is awful.” He had taken only a few steps when he heard a huge roar from the crowd. He turned around and saw Brennan dribbling the ball down court....

“I remember they had a little guard,” Kearns said about the moment Green was at the foul line. “He came over to me and said 30 and one.”

Those words were spoken too soon. Green missed. Brennan snagged the rebound, dribbled the length of the court and sunk a contested 15-footer from the right side of the foul line with three seconds remaining to force a second overtime. Now, nearly 50 years after that clutch play, Brennan says he had no one to pass to, while some of his teammates say they were open. Of course, their recollections are accompanied with smiles and laughter.

In the second overtime, Rosenbluth made the only Tar Heel basket. Green avenged himself with a tip-in on a missed foul shot with seven seconds left, forcing a third overtime. A pair of deep jumpers by Rosenbluth in the third extra period gave UNC the lead for good in a 74-70 win. It was the second time McGuire guided a team to the NCAA title game. (As noted previously, in 1952, his St. John’s team lost to a Kansas club with a rather notable reserve named Dean Smith).

But at this championship game, Kansas versus North Carolina, Smith sat close to the court, next to Carnevale and Spear. By halftime, Smith’s Kansas roots couldn’t permit him to sit next to two coaches cheering for Carolina, so he left his seat.

“I went down and saw a Kansas guy and I said, ‘You got any room in there’,” Smith said. “And he moved over.”

The KU fans filled the stands, cheered for their team, and hung a banner from the lower balcony that read, “NCAA – JAYHAWKS ALL THE WAY.” But on Friday, most KU fans were pulling for the Tar Heels over the Spartans because they wanted to beat the better team for the title. North Carolina and Kansas had been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 almost all season. However, UNC was the underdog, not because it was a road game (UNC only had eight home games all season), but because KU had Chamberlain. Still, Kansas was not invincible with Goliath in the paint. It lost to Iowa State and Oklahoma State, each by two points, in the regular season. Before the game, McGuire asked each player if he was afraid of Chamberlain, to which they all responded: “No.” McGuire’s pre-game mantra included the point that a lay-up and a dunk are no different – they’re both worth two points, but the dunk keeps the crowd in the game – so Chamberlain cannot dunk. The game plan was simple, keep the ball out of Chamberlain’s hands, and if he has the ball collapse on him. Otherwise, make them beat you from the outside.

Having the psychological edge against a team with Chamberlain was no easy task, many thought at the time, even for an undefeated UNC team. McGuire thought differently. Before the tipoff, he told Kearns to jump center against Chamberlain. Kearns and the other starters never second-guessed McGuire’s instruction. After all, nobody had won a jump ball against Chamberlain, so why not give Kearns the nod? The other UNC starters didn’t even line up near the jump circle while Kearns squatted low and then never attempted to leap for the ball. That scene proved more than comical.

“I think it was a big psychological factor,” Kearns said. “And I think that the Kansas coaches and players were wondering what the heck Frank was going to do next. This was a crazy, unheard of thing. What were they going to do? And I think that lingered in the back of their minds and kind of set an early tone for the game that certainly played into our hands.”

McGuire’s game plan to collapse on Chamberlain, swarming him with four or five UNC players every time he received the ball, worked in Carolina’s favor.

“We couldn’t go up and say I’m going to just play you man-to-man,” Quigg said. “He could throw me in the basket and then the ball.”

UNC sagged back in the zone, daring the other four KU starters to shoot. While Kansas was reluctant to pull the trigger on the perimeter, UNC was not. Harp wanted to contain Rosenbluth. He used a box-and-one on him with the other four players in a zone. This opened up the perimeter. A few outside jumpers by Brennan and Quigg gave the Tar Heels an early 19-7 lead.

“We knew what teams were going to play against us,” Rosenbluth said. “We forced them to play a zone. They couldn’t play us man-to-man. It just couldn’t be done.”

Because Quigg was a good shooter and made a few outside shots early in the game, it forced Chamberlain to guard him on the perimeter. Quigg and the other Carolina players were relaxed and executing well in the first half partly because they did not realize who was watching. Gov. Luther Hodges had flown to Kansas City after the Michigan State victory. At game time, UNC manager Joel Fleishman sat next to the scorer’s table in order to keep score and take notes. Freeman sat next to Fleishman. McGuire sat next to Freeman, followed by the players. Hodges invited himself court side, sitting on the bench between the two UNC coaches. Less than a minute into the game Freeman told the North Carolina governor that he would have to move, so Hodges sat between Fleishman and Freeman. Never having any non-team member on the sideline, Freeman indicated that he still wasn’t happy with the governor on the bench and Hodges decided to take a seat in the stands before halftime. There were no hard feelings as the team was invited for dinner at the governor’s mansion in Raleigh a few weeks later.

The slow tempo in the championship game favored UNC, who not only had played in three more overtimes than KU but went to bed much later the previous night.

“(Harp) chose not to come after us and I think that was a major, major mistake,” Kearns said. “If he had, then things might have been different.”

Instead, UNC ran its pattern offense. It set up good shots, mostly on the perimeter, taking Chamberlain and the crowd out of the game. The Tar Heels shot 65 percent from the field in the first half, and led 29-22.

Shortly after halftime, Quigg picked up his fourth foul. Both teams became more cautious in the second half. KU led 44-43 when Rosenbluth fouled out with just under two minutes left.

“I felt very bad,” Rosenbluth said. “I didn’t foul out many ball games in my career at Carolina ... I felt that even though I wasn’t in there, someone was going to come through and win the ball game.”

Harp stayed in the zone defense (perhaps a critical mistake against a good perimeter shooting team with its leading scorer on the bench), letting UNC dictate the tempo of the game. With 20 seconds left in regulation, Kearns made his first foul shot to tie the game at 46, but missed the second shot, thus overtime.

In the first overtime, Young scored the only basket for Carolina as did Chamberlain for Kansas. Freeman told his players before the game that Chamberlain would have a more difficult time blocking bank shots. Kearns took his coach’s advice during the first overtime, putting up a shot toward the glass that he says he knew was going in ... Chamberlain deflected the ball into the seats.

In the second overtime, Brennan and Chamberlain nearly exchanged punches fighting for a loose ball. Brennan says Chamberlain elbowed him in the head and he retaliated by pushing the Kansas center because he felt it was “a dirty play.” Kearns and others stepped in to break it up. The incident apparently caused some fans and both coaches to rush the floor, but ended in a handshake between coaches, according to the Associated Press covering the game. McGuire told the AP:

“I moved up to see what was happening on the floor. Then I heard Harp yell at me to shut up. I told Dick I hadn’t said anything. Then a big fellow on the Kansas bench – I don’t know his name – hit me in the stomach. Then everything calmed down. I have no argument with Harp but that big fellow on his bench had no right to punch me in the stomach.”

That big fellow was six-foot Jack Eskridge, Harp’s assistant, who told the Associated Press, “nothing happened.” Players and observers downplayed the incident. Many didn’t recall any major scuffle. And Harp was a friendly and well-liked man as was Chamberlain. Despite the physical play Chamberlain dealt with on a consistent basis, he never complained, says Quigg.

“He took more beatings in the two years he played college than probably any player has ever taken,” said Monte Johnson, a Kansas forward who played down low on the rare occasion that Chamberlain was taken out of the game. “But to my recollection he never struck back at anyone.”

And despite being hounded, he kept KU close. UNC took a 52-48 lead in the third overtime on a basket and a pair of foul shots by Kearns. Chamberlain’s three-point play and a foul shot by Kansas guard Maurice King tied the game. Gene Elstun made a foul shot with 31 seconds to put Kansas ahead 53-52. With time winding down, Quigg received the ball left of the foul line with Chamberlain guarding him. Quigg drove to his right, toward the basket. Chamberlain blocked his shot, but the referee called a foul on King, who had helped out. Six seconds remained.

“I knew I had to do something with the ball,” Quigg said. “I knew (Chamberlain) would block the jump shot, so I drove hoping to at least pick up the foul. And then when the foul was called, I just felt good about making that shot, I really did. I wasn’t nervous. I’m more nervous now when I look at it.”

Before he could shoot, McGuire called a timeout, going against modern philosophy about using a timeout to ice a player at the foul line. Back then it wasn’t second guessed. During the timeout, McGuire told his players that after Quigg, who had missed his only foul shot attempt in the game, makes both free throws they are going to try and pass the ball to Chamberlain.

Sure enough, Quigg swished both shots: UNC 54, KU 53.

With just six seconds left, everyone in the building knew Kansas wanted to try and feed Chamberlain the ball. But half a dozen seconds can seem like an eternity in basketball since decisions are made in milliseconds. McGuire told reserve Danny Lotz (6'6", 240 pounds) to help out, guarding Chamberlain from behind while Quigg fronted him. Kansas guard John Parker inbounded the ball from halfcourt to Ron Loneski, who caught the pass from just beyond the right elbow. Lotz realized Loneski was unguarded so he went to contest a wide-open shot, leaving Quigg alone down low to front the seven-footer. Recognizing the mismatch, Loneski attempted to lob the ball into Chamberlain. Quigg deflected Loneski’s pass. If it had been lobbed a foot higher, Chamberlain would perhaps have had an uncontested dunk. McGuire later criticized Lotz’s decision to leave Chamberlain.

“I never saw the film until a couple of years ago,” Lotz said. “And I just made a lunge to him. And I really think if I didn’t do it, he would have taken a little jump shot and won the game.”

Harp said after the game that he wished someone other than Loneski (who might have been the worst passer on the team) attempted the entry pass into Chamberlain.

“We have jokingly said since that time that that might have been the first assist he had all season,” Johnson said. “You always wonder what would have happened if Wilt received the pass and had a chance to do something with it, but other than wishful thinking, that doesn’t mean much.”

The deflected pass traveled straight to Kearns, who threw the ball toward the gym’s high ceiling because he “didn’t want to take chances with anything.” Before it landed, the final buzzer sounded. It was about a quarter after midnight. At that moment, even though the players were numb to what had just happened, Kearns’s words of reflection at the beginning of this story became poignant. Yet in simpler terms, at least for those two nights in March, he reiterated, “We became heroes overnight, just like that.”

“When the final whistle blew and we won the game, you could hear a pin drop,” Rosenbluth said.

That may be an exaggeration, but the KU fans certainly weren’t noisy. Exum, Hayes and many of the Carolina fans stormed the court without excessive celebration. The victors were given watches and the national championship trophy.

Quigg remembers walking back to the hotel alone. The cold rain falling on his sweaty uniform couldn’t wash away his euphoric feeling. He didn’t know it at the time, but those game-winning shots would be his last at UNC....

After back-to-back nights of triple-overtime games, the UNC players wanted to grab a beer and head to bed. McGuire had other plans. He wanted them to talk to the fans and press that had gathered in the main ballroom as well as a few invitees later in his hotel suite, one of which was Governor Hodges. Another was Dean Smith. So that’s what they did.

“It was almost like a dream,” Cunningham said. “All I wanted to do was just go to bed. I was so doggone tired. The last thing I wanted to do was sit around and talk to some old guy that’s probably older than I am right now. I wanted to just get a beer or two and just go to bed.”

Because Smith graduated from KU five years earlier, addressing the UNC players just after the game’s conclusion wasn’t easy.

“You guys had it at the end,” Smith wrote in A Coach’s Life. “Congratulations. But I certainly wasn’t cheering for you.”

Most of the places to grab a bite to eat were closed that night. So the players walked around in the rain until they finally found a place for food and drinks. (Later, UNC Athletic Director Chuck Erickson, who had animosity brewing with McGuire, thought the celebration bill was too high, and charged McGuire for the pricey Roquefort salad dressing, putting their relationship on worse terms).

As the rain fell, Kansas rode on the bus back to Lawrence. Students and fans gave the team a warm welcome at the Student Union, where Louie Armstrong was playing in a concert. As the players entered the ballroom and went on stage, Armstrong played When the Saints Go Marching In. Kansas may have been surprised by the game’s outcome, but it did not shock the UNC players.

“We were so used to winning that it was just another ball game,” Rosenbluth said.

Little did they know.... The day after the title game, the UNC team flew into Raleigh-Durham Airport. McGuire and Rosenbluth, however, were on a different plane, headed to New York City as guests on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The Tar Heel fans didn’t know when the team was going to arrive so more than 10,000 people flocked to the airport in anticipation of the team’s return. Approaching RDU, the pilot told the passengers he was going to circle the field because the plane couldn’t land with the large crowd on the tarmac. That’s when the players looked out their windows.

“That was the biggest surprise of all,” Quigg said. “We didn’t realize that everybody in the whole state of North Carolina was watching both of those games.”

Quigg has a black-and-white photo hanging on a wall at his Fayetteville home that shows it all – someone is carrying Quigg on his shoulders next to the airplane door while a sea of fans are on the runway. The crowd was so excited that they ran onto the landing strip while the propellers were still going, and they rushed toward the plane, carrying the players off and handing them paper and pens for autographs. As for Rosenbluth, being on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was not a big deal. He wanted to travel with his teammates.

“Back in those days, you didn’t say, ‘Well, I don’t want to go there. I’d rather go back with the team’,” Rosenbluth said. “That’s one of the saddest things, I didn’t go back with the team, because they always talk about the welcome they received at the airport.”

The celebration did not last forever. By the time Exum and Hayes returned on Monday afternoon, it was almost like another day in Chapel Hill. Quigg and his teammates had to study for exams and classes they missed. Lotz remembers making up chemistry and physics labs every Saturday in April and May. Still, the seed had been planted for the growth of UNC and ACC basketball. Word of UNC’s heroics against Michigan State spread throughout North Carolina.

“After the first game ending in triple overtime, everybody went out and got their neighbors and had TV parties,” Quigg said.

But the players and coaches in Kansas City didn’t realize that a man from a Philadelphia suburb had such a huge impact on that Final Four. His name was C.D. Chesley. He had ties to the state of North Carolina and broadcasted the games on Friday and Saturday night live with play-by-play to thousands of North Carolina viewers. He produced and sold the commercials and did basically everything else for those historic telecasts on March 22 and 23, 1957. To those in the know, like then UNC President William Friday, he was “the grandfather of televising ACC basketball” who made history with those first nationally televised college basketball games.

“C.D. Chesley was a genius, an entrepreneur, and probably the greatest salesman I’ve seen or known,” said Jim Babb, a former promotion director at WBTV who began working with Chesley in 1957 and succeeded him as right’s holder to ACC games in 1982.

Because of the tremendous response to the Final Four telecasts, Chesley decided to broadcast an ACC game every Saturday afternoon on WBTV (the CBS channel 3 affiliate in Charlotte, N.C.) the following year. Viewers from Maryland to South Carolina could tune into those contests. Pilot Life Insurance Company was his sponsor, which later became the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation. Chesley’s vision kept growing. He added more televised games in the coming years and eventually night games. Babb worked with Chesley to develop what became the host station for ACC sports coverage.

Before Chesley’s commercial telecasts during the ‘58 season, games were played at night. And until the championship season, UNC fans listened to the games on their radios. But during the ‘57 season, the first ACC game was shown with live announcers on channel 4, the University station. That game upset radio broadcasters across the state. So the radio stations met with UNC officials and they reached an agreement that the University would only telecast the picture and natural sound, called Broad Vision, while the radio announcers did the play-by-play. The only games televised on Broad Vision that year were from Woollen Gym because it had the only camera mounts. There was a hole in the brick wall wide enough for the camera to move from one basket to the other. Viewers within 80 miles of Chapel Hill could watch the limited number of UNC home games on television that year. Once Chesley began his commercial telecasts (the picture and play-by-play), Broad Vision ended.

“I think (the 1957 Final Four) did a great deal to promote college basketball in this area, which Everett (Case) had started,” Smith said. “But certainly Coach McGuire’s ‘57 team really finished it off.”

“We like to take credit, hopefully, that we legitimized the whole conference,” Rosenbluth said. “We made it into a basketball conference when we won the NCAA title.”

Life After Basketball

There was, however, life after basketball. Everyone of the members of that 1957 team earned his degree, several earning advanced degrees. After graduating in 1957, Rosenbluth played two years in the NBA, where he moved from forward to guard, a difficult adjustment. So he taught high school history and coached basketball in Wilson, N.C., but his paycheck was not high enough to support a family. Some high schools in Miami were recruiting teachers from North Carolina and offered significantly higher salaries. So he moved to Miami and continued to teach and coach. He has lived there for more than 30 years. He retired in 1995. Hurricane Andrew destroyed his home, but he still has some photos and mementoes from his playing days, which his grandchildren see.

“It’s such a honor to be remembered all these years,” Rosenbluth said. “I think that’s the mind-boggling thing of it ... when I talk to you, the mind goes back to when we were young men and everyone was playing ... the memories of all the ball games – that never goes away.”

Kearns graduated in 1958. At the time, there were only eight teams in the N.B.A. with Elgin Baylor selected as the first overall pick. Syracuse drafted Kearns in the fourth round. He played in one game, making the only shot he attempted as a pro. After his stint in the NBA, Kearns married a Duke girl, Betsy Wright, who he had met at the Zeta house in Chapel Hill. He then worked for Merrill Lynch in Greensboro, N.C. In 1969, he moved to Darien, Conn., where he currently resides. He worked for a Wall Street brokerage, where he “got lucky and made a fair amount of money.” Ironically, he became good friends with Chamberlain and helped him with investments. Although Kearns retired in 1986, he remains busy. He is involved with investment businesses across the country, travels and plays golf frequently (sometimes with his good friend Dean Smith), keeps up with UNC basketball and sometimes visits Chapel Hill for a game. Kearns made his movie debut as a basketball coach in Finding Forrester. He gave his Final Four memorabilia to his son, Tommy III, who graduated from UNC in 1986. Kearns now spends time with Quigg more than any other player from that team because they meet up at a few UNC basketball games every year.

A week before the start of his senior season, Quigg broke his right leg during a team scrimmage, and never played again. He now has an artificial knee and that leg still bothers him. The New York Knicks drafted him while he was recovering. The following year Quigg stayed in Chapel Hill and helped Dean Smith, who was in his first year as McGuire’s assistant and also the freshman coach. One weekend, the freshman team was playing in a tournament in Washington, D.C., but Smith could not be there because he was scouting. So Quigg filled in and they won both games.

“I told Dean that no matter how good he was, I always had a better record than he did because I was 2-0 in my career,” Quigg says with a smile.

Quigg went on to become a successful dentist in Fayetteville, and now time has allowed him to gain insight on the impact of that Final Four.

“It was life changing because if I had been the guy who missed the foul shots and lost the game I probably, and I say this in jest, probably would have been practicing dentistry in New York now instead of North Carolina.”

Graduating the same year as Quigg, Cunningham spent 15 years in sales management for IBM. He then started a small trucking company, which he sold, and then worked as a national sales manager for an electronic company until 1993, when he retired. Cunningham lived in Westport and worked in the City. After retiring, he moved to Hilton Head, S.C., where he currently resides. He also owns a house in Chapel Hill that he visits occasionally, and spends time visiting his grandchildren in Connecticut. Cunningham’s son, Rob, attended Dean Smith’s basketball camp about 15 years after the 1957 Final Four, and came home from the camp with Cunningham’s warmup jersey. During the frenzy following the KU win, some fan stole Cunningham’s jersey. Rob saw a camper wearing Cunningham’s old warmup jersey. The camper with the jersey said his father had taken the jersey at the 1957 final as a souvenir. Rob traded some of his basketball clothes for the jersey.

Brennan graduated in 1958 and was drafted by the New York Knicks in the first round, where he lasted a year and a half, and was soon waived in Cincinnati.

“I had it with pro ball back then,” Brennan said. “There were only eight teams and they didn’t pay you well. It made no sense for me to stay there or try to stay there.”

So he joined the Marine Corps, before pursuing his career in men’s clothing and living in Charlotte, N.C. When Brennan was promoted to vice president of a clothing firm in the ‘80s, he moved to New York. He now resides with his family in Jewett, N.Y., where he is “semi-retired” in the clothing business.

In the 1958 season Danny Lotz broke his leg during a game against Clemson. But soon after the injury he started a religious group at North Carolina called the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), where he is one of its oldest and most devoted members. He was the only living member of the 1957 UNC team that missed the Carolina basketball reunion in February 2004 because he was attending the national 50th reunion of the FCA.

After Lotz finished dental school in 1963, he spent two years of duty in the Air Force, playing for the All-Air Force and All-Service teams against opponents such as Rick Barry, Bill Bradley and John Thompson. He nearly made the 1964 Olympic basketball team. He married Ann Graham (Billy Graham’s daughter), and moved to Raleigh, where he recently retired after 40 years as a dentist and enjoys playing tennis.

Some of the members of those Final Four teams have passed away, such as Roy Searcy and Ken Rosemond along with trainer John Lacey and assistant coach Buck Freeman. Jimmy Kelly was killed in an automobile accident a few years after the championship season. Pat McGuire died of cervical cancer on Sept. 21, 1967. (Frank married Jane Henderson in 1972). Even the big fellow passed away. After Chamberlain died in Oct. 1999, Sports Illustrated’s Frank Deford wrote about how the UNC loss affected the great KU center:

“Wilt always recognized that the loss that hurt the most – and that set the precedent for his being perceived as a loser – was his Kansas team’s triple-overtime defeat by North Carolina in the 1957 NCAA final (in which, in fact, he played valiantly). Afterward, he morosely walked the rainy streets of Kansas City, and when he left college after the next season, it would be another 40 years before he returned to the campus. The shame he inflicted on himself for this defeat simmered for that long. ‘That goddamn one against Carolina,’ he would mutter.’”

Some people believe Chamberlain felt alienated from KU because he didn’t return to his alma mater until 1998, when his jersey was retired in Allen Fieldhouse. However, he became teary-eyed upon the warm reception from the Kansas fans, according to the Associated Press. Perhaps even more telling, in November 2003 it was announced that his estate donated $650,000 to endow three scholarships – for men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball, and needy students – and a Special Olympics program at KU. After the Final Four, McGuire recognized Chamberlain’s generosity and compassionate nature. They had great respect for one another as time wore on, especially when they saw each other on a daily basis in 1962 as a coach and player of the Philadelphia Warriors. Still, with all of Chamberlain’s accomplishments, some critics say he was a great player, but not a winner. And though he won two NBA titles, the title game against UNC brought the stigmatism that bothered him well beyond his playing days.


Before McGuire came to Chapel Hill, N.C. State was the conference powerhouse. Everett Case came to Raleigh after World War II. He had built a legendary reputation as a high school coach in Indiana for more than two decades. Case had similar ties to Indiana as McGuire did to New York, bringing many Hoosiers to State. And even though he beat every team in the Southern Conference, Case had one problem. His Wolfpack teams usually lost in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament. But in 1952 McGuire and his New York recruits not only began a storied basketball tradition at UNC, but eventually succeeded where Case’s teams did not.

“Frank had set the tone from a basketball standpoint at Chapel Hill,” Kearns said. “He recruited a lot of great players from New York, and clearly he turned that whole thing around and started what is now a basketball dynasty at North Carolina.”

Of course everyone knows the legacy Dean Smith left at UNC, but not as many people are aware that McGuire was a big reason Smith came to Chapel Hill. The morning after UNC beat KU, Smith and Spear were eating breakfast in McGuire’s hotel suite when McGuire asked Smith to be his assistant coach after Freeman retired in a year. Until that proposition, Smith had planned on returning to Kansas as an assistant coach. When Smith visited Chapel Hill for the first time, he played Kearns one-on-one to 10. Smith won by a point. Kearns claims McGuire told him to let Smith win because he wanted him as an assistant coach. Smith accepted the job and the rest is history.

“You have to give Frank the credit, not only for establishing the University as a national power, but having the wisdom and the good fortune of continuing the legacy through Dean Smith,” Cunningham said.

Soon after what some media and fans have called “McGuire’s Miracle,” the ACC had a strong national reputation, which Chesley’s commercial telecasts continued to help expose. Seven years in the 1960s an ACC school made the Final Four.

“He really did make North Carolina, I think, the so-called, one of the top powers until we’d get to the Final Four in ‘67, ‘68, ‘69,” Smith said about McGuire’s influence.

Smith never forgot about McGuire or Carolina’s first national tournament championship team. To show his appreciation, Smith had championship rings made for that ‘57 team since they were given watches and not rings in Kansas City. On Feb. 4, 1995, Smith presented rings to each of the members at halftime of a regular season home game.

Unfortunately, McGuire was not at the ceremony. He had passed away on Oct. 11, 1994. Before his death, there were get-togethers a few times every year. At the 40th reunion of Carolina’s class of 1957, all the living members of the championship team were present for a tribute.

“I always thought – I still do – that the whole thing is, it’s just a game,” Rosenbluth said. “I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship for a free ride in college. And it’s just a game, enjoy it. That’s the way I always felt. To me it was never life or death.”

Still, the game was what brought everyone together, and because of that, it impacted the lives of those involved forever. For the past six years, Bob Young has run a tribute to his former coach called the Frank McGuire Foundation. The members of the championship team have supported the program, which honors several coaches of any sport in the New York metropolitan area who have guided and shaped their players. Before his death, McGuire’s second wife, Jane, asked him who he wanted his pallbearers to be at his funeral. McGuire told her he wanted “his boys.” Of course she knew he was referring to the ‘57 team.

This article first appeared at in March 2007.


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