Monday, March 25, 2013

ESPN's "Survive And Advance" Show Is Must-Viewing

Not having been bludgeoned to viewing submission by NCAA tournament games late Sunday night, your Hoopscribe sought out one last dose of the sport via the magic of the "On Demand" feature of my cable network.

It was there, around the midnight hour of late Sunday/early Monday that I got my first look at ESPN's 30-for-30's production of "Survive And Advance," the documentary of North Carolina State's improbable run to the national championship of the 1982-83 season.

There is even an almost-connection to the MAAC. Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano coached five seasons at Iona, the last in 1979-80. But, he had moved on  to Raleigh, N.C., two years before the MAAC's formation (1981).

At Iona, his best player was Jeff Ruland and, together, they took Iona to a 28-4 finish in 1979-80 and to the NCAA tournament's second round. Ruland, who was also gone from Iona before the MAAC was formed, did come back to serve as an assistant with the Gaels under Tim Welch and, then, as the program's head coach for six seasons.

"Survive And Advance," a well-worn phrase about tournament play that might well have originated with the loquacious Valvano, brings together the entire North Carolina team for a 30th-year reunion at an otherwise unoccupied pub.

Their reminisces, along with game highlights, interviews with others from both around the program and competitors (particularly Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski), provide the material to weave together a wonderful story about a storied team.

There was also considerable archival material from Valvano, including snippets from a motivational speech he once gave, from his return to N.C. State for a 10th-year reunion in 1993 when he was already well into his life-ending battle with cancer, and, of course, from his famous speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards, not long before his passing.

The only absentees from the 30-year reunion were Valvano, and Lorenzo Charles, whose mid-air grab of teammate Dereck Whittenburg's 35-foot last-second shot and subsequent dunk provided the game-winning points in the championship game against highly touted Houston and its "Phi Slamma Jamma" persona. Charles died in a 2011 bus accident.

A good portion of the show is seen through the eyes of Whittenburg, a confident 6-foot-0 senior guard for North Carolina State that magical season. Whittenburg, who went on to a lengthy coaching career (including work as a head coach at Wagner and Fordham) is now on ESPN's staff and produced the documentary.

The result is funny, witty, touching and tear-inducing, and I will admit to more than a few tears shed while watching.

It was certainly a well-spent 90, or so, minutes of viewing ... a glimpse at basketball history.

Sports Illustrated ranked the Wolfpack's improbable 1983 national championship run as the top story of the 20th century in college basketball.

There's no disagreement here. And, the documentary's quality matches the achievement.

It is must-see viewing for any fan of college basketball.


Nomar said...

A I thought guys only cried at Rudy

speedboy said...

Rumor or Fact Tony BOZELLA leaving Iona for Seton Hall.Who would be a good fit to replace him.right now they are looking for another A.D also.

Steve Amedio said...

Obviously, the rumor is true.
No idea about a good replacement. Your thoughts?
And, Nomar ... I didn't cry when watching Rudy!!!