Past Times

In 1993, weather took the ACC Tournament by storm

Fans gathering for the ACC tournament in 1993 had to bundle up against the weather.
Fans gathering for the ACC tournament in 1993 had to bundle up against the weather. N&O File Photo

The ACC tournament may coincide with spring break, but it seldom coincides with a snowstorm. So needless to say, sports writer Mickey McCarthy was unprepared for the “blizzard” of ‘93 as he traveled to cover the tournament in Charlotte that year.

In this business preparation means everything.

With that in mind, I had gone about packing for my trip with the utmost care, double checking all items until departure time.

With no ominous weather warnings, I felt comfortable in my choices. I tossed in three pairs of golf shorts, a light golf sweater, a pair of walking shorts and sneakers among the mentionable.

No, I wasn’t headed to the Masters. I was on the road to put in four days of hard labor at the ACC Tournament. This means sitting courtside, exchanging small talk with the famous coaches and wondering where Duke was going to play next week. Then it was back to a swell hotel for an elaborate meal on an expense account. And you thought we guys had it easy.

Thursday was pleasant enough. Golf shirt No. 1 was worn in off-duty hours. And the play-in game between Maryland and N.C. State was one to remember.

Day 2, Friday, was a little rainy and a little chilly.

On Saturday, I met my first blizzard.

When the weather wizards in Raleigh last predicted snow, I hurried out and bought 10 loaves of bread and five gallons of milk. Of course, they were wrong.

So when I reached Charlotte, the local weather was the last of my concerns.

There were some whispers about maybe a dash of snow. I recall one blow-dry talking head saying there might be a small accumulation. I didn’t hear the “B” word.

But Saturday about noon, it crashed the grand old ACC party. Much of the ACC crowd had arrived early and was spared the slip-and-slide games outside the Charlotte Coliseum.

Several inches had fallen by sunset, and there might be more to come. The winds were howling when I peeked out from my comfort zone inside.

On the court, a couple of power outages gave Virginia a few more breaths in the opening semifinal game. With 16:36 remaining in the second half, the big house went dark and the two teams left the floor. Carolina was up a modest 43-39.

After a 28-minute delay, the teams returned and the inevitable transpired, the No. 1 Heels running it out, 74-56.

The ACC record book does not list power outages, but Bob Bradley, a valuable historian for the league, recalls there may have been one in 1961 when the tourney was in Raleigh.

During the delay, an odd couple showed up together in the press room.

Bobby Cremins of Georgia Tech and Cliff Ellis of Clemson, the opposing coaches in the second game, sipped on soft drinks and presumably talked about everything except the game.…

Better late then never, they finally got around to playing the second game, and Tech won it in a fitful finish 69-61. The crowd, what was left of it, was apathetic for the nightcap.

Yes, and UNC and Tech will settle the championship this afternoon. Weather permitting. I’m picking the Heels to win it handily, and if they don’t, let’s all blame the weatherman. The N&O March 14, 1993

Sports writer Dane Huffman reported on the impact of the storm on the players.

At 2:46 p.m., the lights blinked off and left coaches, players and fans groping around a building lit only by emergency lighting. Steve Camp, the coliseum director, said a power surge caused by the snowstorm caused the coliseum’s power to shut down temporarily. Just when the lights were coming back, another surge, at 2:54, brought darkness again.

The players went back to their dressing rooms to wait, and many of the fans drifted toward the exits to peer outside as the snow came down.

Finally, after a 28-minute delay, the teams returned from their dressing rooms and warmed up for two minutes, and the game resumed with 16:36 left in the second half.

To the Virginia players, the sudden halt was devastating. All said they thought they had found a rhythm before the lights disappeared.

“I was disappointed, “ Junior Burrough said. “We had a little flow going.” The N&O March 14, 1993

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/past-times.

Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

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