Years ago, the thought of holding an ACC tournament in Brooklyn would have seemed as strange and unlikely as having an Iditarod in Greensboro.
Then again, Frank McGuire would have loved the tournament there. Lorenzo Charles, too.
Imagine Jim Valvano, the consummate New Yorker, in an ACC tournament in Brooklyn. How cool would that have been?
With the tournament starting Tuesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a first for the staid conference with a deep hoops tradition, here’s a look at some New York ties to North Carolina, N.C. State and Duke – and an historic moment – that don’t make it seem that strange after all:
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The New York native played basketball at St. John’s and later coached the school to the 1952 Final Four (and the baseball team to a College World Series). Brought to UNC in 1952 to challenge Everett Case and N.C. State, he began the “Underground Railroad” to bring New York players to North Carolina and guided the Tar Heels to a 32-0 season and 1957 NCAA championship, beating Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas in a three-overtime thriller in the title game. McGuire died in 1994 at 80.
Known as the “Kangaroo Kid” because of his crazy-good hops and high-flying style, the 6-6 Brooklyn native played at Erasmus Hall High before becoming an All-America at UNC. The ACC player of the year as a senior in 1965, Billy C. averaged 24.8 points and 15.4 rebounds in his college career before a long NBA career as a player and coach.
Scott’s basketball legacy is a rich one. The first black scholarship athlete at UNC, the New York native was a two-time All-America who helped the Tar Heels reach two Final Fours and was named ACC Athlete of the Year in 1970. Scott grew up in Harlem and spent a year at Laurinburg (N.C.) Institute before going to UNC.
The man known to most as “Jimmy V” was born in Queens and played at Seaford High School on Long Island before college at Rutgers. The dynamic coach led the 1983 Wolfpack on a wild ride to the national championship, beating the Houston Cougars in the title game at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. Valvano died of cancer in 1993 at 47.
A Brooklyn native, Charles was a big man with a big smile and soft basketball hands. The 6-7 forward rose high to grab Dereck Whittenburg’s desperation airball and jam it through at the buzzer to beat Houston, and “Destiny’s Dunk” is shown every March when the NCAA tournament rolls around. “Lo” died in 2011 at 47.
Hodge came to N.C. State calling himself “Da Jules from Harlem on the Way to Stardom” and became one of the Pack’s most versatile, popular players. Playing four years at N.C. State, he was the 2004 ACC player of the year and led the Pack to the NCAA Sweet 16 as a senior in 2005.
Born in New York, the hard-charging 6-5 forward first signed with UNC but played for Vic Bubas at Duke and averaged 25.1 points game. The national player of the year as a senior in 1963, he helped Duke win the ACC championship and reach the Final Four. Heyman died in 2012 at 71.
A Brooklyn native, Thomas played high school basketball in New Jersey before his four seasons at Duke. The 6-8 forward was a co-captain, with Jon Scheyer, in his senior season, when he was named to the 2010 ACC’s All-Defensive team and a part of the Blue Devils’ run to the 2010 national championship.
Mike Krzyzewski’s 1,000th career coaching victory didn’t come at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium but at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Jan. 25, 2015. The Blue Devils beat St. John’s 77-68 in the “Coach 1K” game, making him the first NCAA Division I men’s coach to reach 1,000 victories.