Its hard to know which angel perched on the shoulder of N.C. State University basketball coach Mark Gottfried and whispered Whitt. But chances are it was James Thomas Anthony Valvano.
In a decision that doubtless was cheered by the fans of the Wolfpack, Dereck Whittenburg, the man who fired a shot heard round the world in 1983, will be joining the basketball staff as director of player development. Glory will be riding the bench in upcoming seasons.
Ah, the glory. In the NCAA national championship game against the University of Houston in 1983, Whittenburg fired an improbably long shot with time running out in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His teammate, the late Lorenzo Charles, grabbed the ball as it was falling short and put it in the basket. It made Whittenburg and his team the victors in one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history.
Valvano died of cancer just 10 years later, after a public and courageous fight documented recently in an ESPN special in which Whittenburg was a key figure and executive producer.
His post-NCSU career included college coaching and television commentary. Now he will come back, come home in a way, to N.C. State to mentor young players.
Affable, accomplished and a Wolfpacker for life, Whittenburg is well-suited to his role. Jimmy V, gone 20 years now, would without question endorse the idea of his former player and assistant returning to Raleigh.