Thompson, NC State's 1974 title team enjoy reunion

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMarch 1, 2014 

— The applause for each member of N.C. State’s 1974 national title team got louder as the familiar names were introduced.

By the time the crowd at Saturday’s N.C. State-Miami game at PNC Arena game got revved up for big man Tommy Burleson, it found another notch for the incomparable David Thompson.

Thompson, a three-time ACC player of the year and the only N.C. State player with his number retired, enjoyed the reception but not as much as the reunion with his teammates and their families.

“Forty years is a long time; we’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” Thompson said.

When the team got to go out to dinner on Friday night, appropriately at Jimmy V’s in downtown Raleigh, it was a chance to retell old stories and introduce a new generation to the memories of one of the best teams in college basketball history.

“We don’t get to see each other that often,” Thompson said. “It has been a lot of fun reconnecting and seeing the new additions to the families, grandkids and all that.”

The Wolfpack, under coach Norm Sloan, went 30-1 and ended UCLA’s seven-year title reign with an 80-77 win over the Bruins in overtime in the Final Four. The Pack capped off the season with a 76-64 win over Marquette in the championship game in Greensboro.

The ’74 team was unique in its makeup with the towering Burleson (7-foot-2) in the middle and the diminutive Monte Towe (5-7) running the point. Thompson, the 6-4 high-flyer from Shelby, was the star of the team that was compared to a traveling circus.

Thompson, 59, said he gets asked about the ’74 team almost every day, not only for the historic wins but the style of play.

There was also the matter of unparalleled success against the ACC. The ’73 team went 12-0 in the conference, and 27-0 overall, but was ineligible for the postseason.

The ’74 team also went 12-0 in the ACC. No other ACC team has gone unbeaten in conference play in consecutive seasons.

There was also the matter of owning rival North Carolina. Going back to Thompson’s freshman season, N.C. State won nine straight against the Tar Heels and the legendary Dean Smith.

“We had one stretch where we dominated everybody,” Thompson said. “We were real dominant. People don’t forget that, especially State fans.”

Burleson, who still attends home games and stays connected to the program, said it’s impossible to forget the ’74 season because there were too many big games.

Just to get into the tournament, the Wolfpack had to outlast Maryland in the ACC tournament. The Pack beat the Terrapins 103-100 in overtime for the ACC title, back when the conference got only one bid into the NCAA tournament.

“It took a lot to beat UCLA; it took a lot to beat Maryland,” Burleson said. “We were just able to put it together.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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