Brandon Childress and his younger brother, Deven, liked playing football. Deven still does. But Brandon’s preference changed shortly after he stopped by Joel Coliseum and spied his father’s name on one of 11 banners hanging from the rafters above and behind the team benches.
At first, scanning the array of retired jerseys of Wake Forest basketball greats, Brandon thought Randolph Childress had been traded by the European club for which he played at the time. “I was too young to understand – I thought that it was everybody on one team,” the Wake freshman recalls.
Shortly afterward, rummaging through a storage room at home, Brandon Childress came upon a vestige of his father’s pro basketball career, which ultimately lasted 16 years, three in the NBA and the last 13 overseas, mostly in Europe. “I said, ‘Wow! Pretty cool!’ Ever since then I said I’m going to try this basketball thing, and I’m here.”
Despite joining a seasoned backcourt led by Bryant Crawford, Brandon Childress averages 19 minutes per game coming off the bench and generally has performed well. That impressive start neatly fits the quick 6-foot guard’s personal narrative. “I think that’s a blessing, to look up and see my last name up there every day,” he says of the banner saluting his father. “It’s not me personally, but hopefully I can get my name up there someday.”
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This season, a handful of ACC men’s players are on rosters at the same school where their fathers starred decades ago, inevitably conjuring comparisons to their parents’ achievements. “He’ll be Randolph Childress’ son wherever he goes,” says Brandon’s 44-year-old dad.
Complicating that connection, Randolph Childress is associate head coach under Danny Manning at Wake. He helped recruit Brandon, who was spurned by the heavyweight programs he admired.
Fathers and sons
Both father and son take pains to emphasize the differences between how they interact around basketball and their relationship away from the game. “There’s a time and a place for everything,” says Brandon Childress, frequently seated beside his father on the sideline during last week’s easy home win over Charlotte. “When he’s a father he talks about life, when he’s a coach he’s strictly basketball.”
Other son-father combinations dot the ACC. Virginia’s Jeff Jones, a seldom-used senior, is following in the tread marks of his same-named father, a solid point guard at UVa from 1979 through 1982 when that program emerged atop the conference. Jeff Jones was also head coach at UVa (1990-98) and currently holds the same position at Old Dominion. Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes, an under-appreciated junior playmaker, went where his father, Tharon Mayes, was a standout from 1988 through 1990 before the school joined the ACC.
Then there’s Christopher Corchiani Jr. at N.C. State. He shares with his same-named father a characteristic pointy chin. He also wears No. 13, a “family tradition” that extended to his father, grandfather, uncles, cousins and brother Tommy, a freshman walk-on at South Carolina.
Neither Mayes nor Jones had quite the oncourt impact of Chris Corchiani nearly three decades ago. Twice a second team All-ACC selection, the fiery, feisty, physical point guard was a Wolfpack lineup fixture from 1988 through 1991, partnering with sharpshooter Rodney Monroe to forge a potent backcourt duo nicknamed “Fire and Ice.”
Corchiani didn’t start early in his career, precipitating regular, hectoring phone calls from Gabe Corchiani to coach Jim Valvano on behalf of his son. There’s no such lobbying to gain a more prominent role for Christopher, firmly affixed to the Wolfpack bench. He hasn’t appeared in a game so far this season; over his career the junior has gotten on the floor in seven contests for a total of 12 minutes, scoring four points.
The oldest of three Corchiani sons was born in Turkey during his father’s eight years playing basketball abroad. He can even exchange a few words in Turkish with freshman center Omer Yurtseven, a fellow Istanbul native. The family moved back to Raleigh when Chris Corchiani’s playing career ended, and young Chris became a Wolfpack fan and attended Ravenscroft. That made it relatively easy to accept coach Mark Gottfried’s offer to come to N.C. State as a “preferred walk-on” rather than accept overtures from Columbia, Presbyterian and several Division II and III teams.
I know my role now and that’s to get these guys ready at practice and to cheer hard.
N.C. State’s Christopher Corchiani Jr.
Even knowing what was in store, it took Corchiani several years to tame his competitive instincts and accept a supportive, publicly invisible role. Now he takes pride in being part of the scout squad, along with Gottfried’s son, Cameron, a transfer from Siena. “I understand that I’m not here to be the best guy on the team,” says Corchiani, also known as Chris and Corch, just like his dad. “I know my role now and that’s to get these guys ready at practice and to cheer hard.”
His father, a regular at N.C. State games, owns a Raleigh mortgage loan and title insurance company, affording him the flexibility to attend practices several times weekly to see his namesake play. “He’s a lot like me,” says the elder Corchiani, still the ACC’s modern career leader in assists per game and its second-most prolific career leader in steals per game. “He plays hard, he’s aggressive, he’s quick. But he’s got his own game as well.”
Opponents often were disconcerted by Chris Corchiani Sr.’s constant attack mode. But his senior season the approach fell flat against a high-profile Wake Forest freshman whom he tried to “punk,” as he put it, just as he’d been worked over by Clemson senior Grayson Marshall upon entering the ACC.
“Randolph said, ‘You’re picking on the wrong guy, buddy,’ ” remembers Corchiani, 48. “He was as tough as they come. Toughest guy I have ever played. Not best, but toughest.”
Sports is rife with terminology adopted from the military, including the over-used accolade a player is “a warrior.” Yet the label fit both Corchiani and Childress, a prep school product with an inner-city attitude honed in Washington, D.C.
Childress played from 1991 through 1995, missing the ’92 season while recovering from knee surgery. Three times he was both an all-conference selection and among the ACC’s top three scorers as Wake, bolstered by the arrival of Tim Duncan, rose from the league’s second division to its champion.
Relentlessly self-confident, Childress once shot an airball and, as he was running upcourt, yelled to Dave Odom, “Coach, don’t take me out! I’m hot.” As a coach now, the memory makes him cringe.
Still, he converted that brashness, along with hard work and talent, into rare clutch abilities. Those culminated at the 1995 ACC tournament, when a sensational Childress scored 107 points in three games, an enduring record for the event, capped by sinking a floating jumper with four seconds remaining to beat North Carolina in overtime in the championship contest.
Brandon Childress – who attended Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, where Duke's Harry Giles was a teammate – and Chris Corchiani Jr. insist tales of such glories weren’t standard family fare when they grew up. Nevertheless, both are conversant with details of their fathers’ exploits, if only because fans enjoy recounting them.
“It doesn’t get old, it’s history,” Brandon Childress says. “People miss that. That’s why it’s important for us to keep improving and bring back what the people want. They need something new to talk about.”
Wake Forest had a single winning season in the past six, none under Manning, in his third year at Winston-Salem. “It’s not about Tim Duncan and Randolph Childress anymore,” says the younger Childress. “It’s about now.”