RALEIGH — The crowd here at the RBC Center stood and roared on Tuesday night when Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta appeared on the court as part of a ceremony to honor the Wolfpacks 1988-89 team, of which both players were a part.
The ovation continued while Corchiani and Gugliotta walked off the court and disappeared into a tunnel. It had been a difficult stretch of days for both men two of the great players in N.C. State history after referee Karl Hess ejected them from their courtside seats during the Wolfpacks loss against Florida State on Saturday.
Corchiani and Gugliotta were led out of the arena by police, and their ejections stirred the emotions of a frustrated N.C. State fan base. Hess offered no immediate explanation for his decision to eject Corchiani and Gugliotta, but in an email he sent to N.C. State he accused both of being demonstrative and for inciting the crowd.
A day after the ejections, on Sunday, N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow announced that the university would honor N.C. States 88-89 team with the inaugural Wolfpack Unlimited Award, which recognizes a team that never gives up and refuses to accept the status quo.
The ACC office later reprimanded Hess for his failure to follow the proper protocol when ejecting fans.
Its great, to first of all be able to get back with your old teammates and celebrate the successful season that we had, Gugliotta said after the ceremony.
And it was especially so, he said, given the events of Saturday.
Itll be nice when its put to rest, Gugliotta said. But it was an unfortunate thing and it kind of left a little bad taste in your mouth for getting in trouble for something that you dont feel was necessary. But it is what it is and if we can turn it into something positive, thatd be great.
Gugliotta said he hasnt received an apology from Hess or from the ACC office, though he admitted one would be appreciated.
[I] cant lie and say it wouldnt be nice to know that you didnt do anything wrong, he said. But thats up to them. Im not dying for it, but it would be nice. But its not going to affect my life in any way.
Chucky Brown, a member of the 88-89 team, also was recognized, among others, during the pregame ceremony. Now a scout for the NBAs New Orleans Hornets, Brown said his former teammates didnt deserve the way they were treated on Saturday.
They werent irate, they werent swearing, Brown said. So the dudes that kicked them out should be kicked out, too, you know what Im saying? So its just an unfortunate situation that shouldnt have happened.
But its great to come back and put a positive spin on it.
Meanwhile, N.C. State students showed up with plenty of signs supporting Corchiani and Gugliotta. One said, Free Corch, Free Googs. Another said, Dont mess with Hess, and it pictured the referee wearing a pair of rabbit ears.