Monday, March 30, 2015

Case's Final Gift To His Players

The late Dean Smith made news last week when his will revealed that the Hall of Fame coach left about $35,000 of his final estate to former UNC-Chapel Hill players, an extremely generous and kind gift that mimicked what NC State Hall of Fame coach Everett Case did for 57 of his former Wolfpack players nearly a half century ago.

Smith sent about 180 former Tar Heel players a check for $200 and told them to have a nice dinner on him. It was the perfect gesture from the coach, who always treated his players to the best hotels, the best restaurants, the best modes of travel when his team was on the road. It was always a bit of a letdown when they made it to the NCAA Tournament and had to stay at, eat at and travel by NCAA-selected vendors.

Smith always considered treating his teams to the finest things one of the few perks he could give to players who made so much money for the school and for the NCAA.

Case, a lifetime bachelor who died of cancer in 1966 with only one living relative, set aside for his players a third of his substantial estate of more than $200,000, which he acquired from his coaching salary, his multiple business ventures (including a chain of Indiana drive-in restaurants) and many wise investments.

Dean Smith, Vic Bubas, Everett Case, Bones McKinney.
When Case died of multiple myeloma on April 30, 1966, his estate was worth a little over $200,000—that’s about $1.5 million in today’s money. Two-thirds of his estate was left for the care of his unmarried sister, Blanche Etta Case, who lived with him at his house in Raleigh’s Cameron Village.

The rest was divided into 103 shares that were doled out to 57 of his former players. Some players got as many as three shares. Some got a half a share. Each was free to spend it however they wished.
All-Americans Dick Dickey, Ronnie Shavlik, Sammy Ranzino, Bobby Speight and Vic Molodet were among those who received three shares, as did aspiring coaches Norman Sloan, Vic Bubas, Mel Thompson and Bucky Waters.

“He said his players were responsible for the reputation he had attained in coaching and he wanted to show his appreciation,” Fred H. Jones, one of the executors of Case’s will, told Whitey Bell of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer when details were made public a few weeks after Case’s death. “Everett said he was having trouble trying to decide how to divide the estate because some of his players helped more than others, but that all of them were close to his heart.

“Everett was meticulous in preparing his list,” Jones said. “He went through pictures of all his teams at State and listed the names of those he wanted to remember in his will. Then he decided his unit share. It must have taken him a long time.

“I don’t think the general public knows just how much his boys meant to Case. His was more a father-son relationship than it was a coach.”

Everett Case
Notably missing from the list were all the players from the 1964-65 ACC championship team. Case stepped down two games into that season 50 years ago, handing the club over to his hand-picked successor, Press Maravich. Those were the ones who lifted Case up to cut down the nets one final time after the Wolfpack beat Duke in the ACC title game at Reynolds Coliseum, a nod to Case introducing that Indiana high school basketball tradition to the college game.

They had not graduated by the time Case’s will was read. However, they all served as the pallbearers at the coach’s funeral, an honor that still fills each of them with pride.

It wasn’t just superstars who received the most shares. Waters, who became head coach at West Virginia and Duke before going on to a long career in broadcasting, got three shares, even though he was a three-year reserve for the Wolfpack.

For him and his family, that gift meant more than just being remembered by his former coach. It may have helped save his young son, who had a severe milk allergy and relied on a special kind of formula for sustenance.

"I was making about $5,000 a year and that stuff was 70 cents a can, and he was using three cans a day,” Waters said. “So it didn't go into a convertible or anything like that.

“It was a godsend."

Former guard Joe Harand, the last remaining member of Case’s first team, has a daily reminder of how he used the money from his half-share. He bought his first color television with the money and with the few dollars he had left over bought a gold-plated sign for his television stand that reads “Through the generosity of Everett N. Case.”

The television is long gone, but the sign remains in Harand’s home in Shelby, along with the affection he’s always felt for the coach that brought big-time basketball to North Carolina.

The late Paul Brandenburg, who played for Case in the early 1950s, used his three shares to make improvements on the house he bought in 1970 in Greensboro, North Carolina. He extended the driveway at his new home so he could install a basketball goal for his seven children—one small step in fulfilling Case’s dream of seeing a basketball goal at every home he drove by in his big red Cadillac.

Paul Brandenburg
“Dad always invited his teammates over to the house for a big party during ACC tournament weekend when it was here in Greensboro,” said Paul’s son, Brien Brandenburg. “There would be 30 or more former players and their wives come over. Many years, we could get them to go out back and start shooting 40-foot two-hand set shots and all kinds of trick shots in the backyard on that goal that Everett Case paid for.

“My youngest sister still lives in that house, and her two sons play basketball there to this day, as do all of his other grandkids when we all go over there for family get-togethers.

Here are the players who received shares from Case’s will:

Norman Sloan
Dick Dickey
Warren Cartier
Sam Ranzino
Vic Bubas
Lee Terrill
Bobby Holt
Eddie Morris
George Pickett
Paul Brandenburg
Bobby Speight
Vic Molodet
Ronnie Shavlik
Bucky Waters
George Stepanovich
Lou Pucillo
Dan Englehardt
Dan Wherry
Jack McComas
Leo Katkaveck
Eddie Bartels
Bill Kukoy
Dick Tyler
Mel Thompson
Ronnie Scheffel
Phil DiNardo
Whitey Bell
Nick Pond
Bob MacGillivray
John Richter
Smedes York
Ron Gossell
Bob Cook
Pete Jackmouski
Joe Stoll
Jim Stevenson
Bob Seitz
Tom Hopper
Ken Clark
Denny Lutz
Jim Whitfield
Paul Horvath
Joe Harand
Charlie Adams
Doug Kincaid
Herb Applebaum
Bernie Yurin
Lou Dickman
Marvin Kessler
Harold Atkins
Bob McCann
Bruce Hoadley
Bob DiStefano
John Key
Pete Auksel
Don Grenier
Les Robinson

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pack, 'Cats Have Met Before in NCAAs

NC State and Villanova will meet Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh. It's the second time the old rivals have faced each other in the postseason. The first meeting was 64 years ago on Friday at the end of a season that was positively Kukoy.

©  Tim Peeler, 2015

Sixty-four years ago today, at the end of a most unusual 1950-51 season, NC State and Villanova squared off against each other for the third time in three months.

The two college powerhouses were frequent opponents back then, often playing twice a season. NC State Hall of Fame coach Everett Case loved playing Philadelphia schools because of the city’s basketball tradition, its recruiting opportunities and the chance to play at the 10,000-seat Palestra. He often scheduled home-and-home game with Villanova and other Big Five schools LaSalle and Temple.

Among those who made the trip South to play for Case during that era were future All-Americans John Richter and Lou Pucillo of Philadelphia, as well as other area stars like Bob Seitz, Bucky Waters, Phil DiNardo and John Maglio.

In 1949-50, Villanova handed State a loss in the regular-season finale, but the Wolfpack went on to win the Southern Conference championship and advanced to the NCAA semifinals (the Final Four, in today’s terms).

The Main Liners won the first two games in 1950-51, the first in Raleigh in December at Reynolds Coliseum and the second at Philadelphia’s Palestra in mid-January. Coached by Jack Severance, Villanova was the first opponent to beat an Everett Case-coached team twice in the same season, extending Villanova’s winning streak against the Wolfpack to four in a row.

State’s 1951 team, despite the losses to Villanova, was one of Case’s best, with seniors Sammy Ranzino, Vic Bubas and Paul Horvath. Averaging 78.9 points a game, the Pack was the nation’s top scoring team and Ranzino was one of the top 10 individual scorers in the country, though he lost the Southern Conference scoring title by a fraction of a point to Duke’s Dick Groat.

But there was trouble afoot. The NCAA had relaxed its eligibility requirements during World War II to allow freshmen to compete in intercollegiate athletics. When it established its Sanity Code for Eligibility in 1947, it rescinded the freshman eligibility rule. The Southern Conference, however, did not, allowing freshmen—including Ranzino, Bubas and Horvath—to compete in 1947-48.

Just before the start of the 1951 Southern Conference tournament, the NCAA notified Case that his three seniors, who had all played as freshmen, would not be eligible for the NCAA Tournament, should the Pack qualify. The NCAA denied State’s final appeal on the day the Wolfpack beat South Carolina on the opening day of the Southern Conference tournament.

State beat Duke in the semifinals and Maryland in the title game and became one of a handful of schools during that time that received and accepted bids into both the more prominent National Invitation Tournament and the lesser NCAA, which had expanded from eight to 16 teams.

Ranzino, Bubas and Horvath were eligible to play in the NIT, which was bigger because it was held at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Seeded No. 2 in the tournament, Case and his team thought they had a good chance to win both events, just as the City College of New York had done the year before.

However, just before the Wolfpack left for the Big Apple, news of the first big point-shaving scandals to hit college basketball broke and a New York tabloid owned by William Randolph Hearst implicated NC State. The Charlotte office of the FBI verified that none of the implicated players were from NC State. Case took no chances, though, sequestering his team in the Downtown Athletic Club overlooking Central Park for the week and forcing them to take mid-term exams to avoid any chance of running into Big Apple gamblers.

In a foul mood, the Wolfpack laid an egg in opening round and lost to little-known Seton Hall, 71-59, after shooting just 18 percent from the field in the second half. It continued Case’s string of hard-luck appearances in Madison Square Garden.

The dejected Wolfpack returned to Raleigh to play in the first-ever NCAA Tournament game in Reynolds Coliseum, knowing it would not have its three seniors.

Making matters worse, Case’s team drew familiar-foe Villanova, which had defeated the Pack twice already that season. Not even a pregame ceremony in which the Wolfpack Club presented Case and his only assistant Carl “Butter” Anderson bright-red Cadillacs for winning their fifth consecutive Southern Conference title could cheer up the players.

Billy Kukoy
In one of the more remarkable NCAA tournament games in school history, sophomores Billy “Bowlegs” Kukoy, Bernie Yurin and Bobby Goss stepped into the starting lineup for the Wolfpack and were inspired by a raucous home crowd.

Case, known for his full-court man-to-man defense and high scoring offense, threw a zone at Nova’s driving offense. The Wildcats led 38-32 at the half and it looked like the losing streak might continue.

Kukoy, stepping in for Ranzino, scored State’s first 11 points of the second half, however, and finished with a career-high 27 points for the game, hitting 12 of his 31 shots on the night.

The Pack took a 67-62 victory, ending the Wildcats’ four-game winning streak over NC State. (BOXSCORE)

Kukoy eventually graduated from NC State, received a master’s degree from Purdue and was a longtime basketball coach in his hometown of Gary, Indiana. He died on Dec. 2, 2007, at the age of 80.

Case and his team had to return to Madison Square Garden two nights later to face Illinois in the second round. Kukoy suffered a dislocated shoulder early in the first half. Now down four regular players, the Pack’s lack of depth was too much to overcome in an 84-70 loss to the Illini. The next day, State lost to Frank McGuire-coached St. John’s in the regional consolation game, 71-59.

“I think one of the games that stands out most in my memory,” Case said years later, “and the game so many State fans have said they remember the most, was the win over Villanova.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Little Piece of Reynolds Coliseum

The update of the first book I ever wrote, Legends of NC State Basketball, has been out for a few weeks now. I saw it at Raleigh's Quail Ridge Books, which makes it official. I had some delivered to my house, which means I can’t park in the garage anymore. And I sold one to former Governor Jim Hunt at the Wolfpack Club’s annual ACC men’s basketball tournament breakfast in Greensboro last weekend, which was kind of cool.

The book—with new chapters on Sammy Ranzino, Hawkeye Whitney, Tom Gugliotta and T.J. Warren and a new foreword by current head coach Mark Gottfried—is available on this site, on and at previously fine bookstores everywhere.

To be honest with you, writing books hasn’t exactly filled up the kids’ college funds. Most authors don’t make that much on these projects, unless their surnames are King, Grisham or Rowiling. My basic cut on a $25 book sold via a bookstore or on-line retailer is about 65 cents.

That’s why I slog around selling them on my own. If you are interested, buy it where ever it is convenient.

Two of the first three books I did were pretty much busts because the publisher went out of business and never paid any royalties. That included the funds that were promised to the V Foundation for When March Went Mad, which was published in 2007 for the 25th anniversary of NC State’s 1983 NCAA championship and provided an outline for the Emmy-Award winning 30-for-30 documentary, Survive and Advance, produced by Dereck Whittenburg and directed by Jonathan Hock. The few profits I made on sales went to fulfilling that donation to the charity created by Jim Valvano.

The new book won’t pay off our recent kitchen renovation either, but thankfully not because of any publisher woes since the new group, Skyhorse Publishing of New York, seems to be in good financial standing.
Instead, since it’s another book devoted to Wolfpack basketball, it makes more sense that much of the income should benefit a project that is near to my heart: the renovation of Reynolds Coliseum.

NC State University and the athletics department are collaborating to rejuvenate what I believe to be the most important building the state of North Carolina ever built, turning “The House That Case Built” into a permanent home for the NC State Athletic Hall of Fame and a differently arranged home for Wolfpack women’s basketball,volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling.

It’s projected to cost $35 million.

Many of the displays in the Walk of Fame will be relics from the basement and upper concourse closets that were saved through the years by the late Frank Weedon. When I was asked to go through some of that stuff a few years back, it was always my hope that they would be saved for an athletics museum or some such thing.

In the spirit of Weedon, who gave more money to the Wolfpack Club than any other athletics department employee, I wanted to leave a small lasting legacy for my kids and family when Reynolds reopens in the fall of 2016.

Somehow, my old roommate Tracy Fulghum was dragged into this as well and he has agreed to help save a little piece of NC State heritage. Tracy earned an electrical engineering degree and an engineering doctorate from NC State while I was out playing around with various newspapers around the Carolinas, so he is the smart one in this project.

For my part, the majority of profits from the sale of the new book and any future publications will go to the Wolfpack Club to pay for this financial commitment. So buy a book, and help save a little piece of Reynolds history.

What we plan to do is make sure the old noise meter that hung in the rafters of Reynolds Coliseum for decades is preserved forever in the Walk of Fame, with a gift specifically for that display.

Five years ago, the two of us and a couple of his engineering friends dug the old meter out the basement of Reynolds, freshened it up with some new red-and-white paint, rewired it and made it portable enough to roll out onto the court at PNC Arena for the State-UNC basketball game when the two schools were celebrating their 100th-anniversary of basketball.

All old-time State fans know about the meter, a homemade box with vertical columns of light bulbs on each of the four sides. As Reynolds got louder at games, white lights came on to gauge the sound. When it got as loud as, say, a jet engine, a red light would flicker at the time. During a Carolina or Duke game, the lights were almost always on.

Most everybody now knows the meter was fake, operated by someone up stationed in the ceiling barges fiddling with a row of light switches. It doesn’t matter. It was the inspiration of many exceedingly loud, raucous upsets and wins.

It was the first thing I thought of when contemplating what an NC State athletics museum might include.
In the coming months, the Wolfpack Club will have other displays that are available for naming gifts. For us, it’s an investment that ensures the old-time legacy of Reynolds will have a future at NC State.

And the noise meter will always remind people of the echoes of the Wolfpack’s greatest victories in the old barn.