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Looking Back at the 'Cardiac Pack'

Twenty-five years ago, NC State's Cinderella run through the 1983 NCAA basketball tournament captured the attention of the entire country. Nail-biting, down-to-the-wire finishes became standard fare as the "Cardiac Pack" pulled upset after upset to reach the championship game against top-ranked and heavily favored Houston on April 4, 1983, in Albuquerque, N.M. 

The title game was no exception as Lorenzo Charles intercepted Dereck Whittenburg's wild, 30-foot shot with time running out, slamming the ball home as time expired to give the Wolfpack an improbable 54-52 victory and the national championship.

The Bulletin asked you to share your memories of the 1983 championship game. Following are a sampling of recollections from NC State faculty, staff and administrators about NC State's magical run to the 1983 NCAA championship. 

1983 in Pictures

Relive the magic of NC State's run to the 1983 NCAA basketball championship. Launch Photo Gallery

(Photos courtesy of the Agromeck, NC State's official yearbook)

"The 1983 NCAA championship team was special, and people will always remember that fabulous run. NC State is proud of our national championship titles and the memories they recall for so many of our alumni and friends. Thanks to the hard work of those Wolfpack players, we showed the nation that motivation, teamwork and spirit on the court make all the difference. Proud moments, indeed."
-- James Oblinger, Chancellor

"Jim Valvano and I both came to State the same year, in 1980. We were both young and untested. Valvano came from Iona College, and I came from UCLA, where had I witnessed its domination of college basketball (eight NCAA titles in 10 years), until dethroned by NC State in 1974. Naturally, I hated NC State in those days. Who would have guessed that I would soon be a faculty member there!

"In March of 1983, I was returning to Raleigh from a trip to California via a connecting flight in Atlanta. By sheer coincidence, the NC State basketball team was on the same flight, having just won the ACC tournament (Sidney Lowe was tournament MVP). As I approached the players in the departure lounge, I was struck by their poise and cool demeanor, despite pulling a major upset to win the tournament.

"Shortly after takeoff, the pilot's voice came in over the intercom, announcing a warm welcome to 'the ACC champion NCSU Wolfpack and its coach, Jim Varano.' The players, who were all sitting together, roared in delight at the mispronunciation of the coach's name, as if this was the signal that they finally could let themselves go.

"Upon our arrival at RDU, the airport was jammed with delirious fans greeting the team, and I barely made it through the gate in one piece. Few of us could have dreamed that barely three weeks later this team would the national champions."
-- S. Thomas Parker, professor, Department of History

"Even before I came to NC State in 1998, the Wolfpack's win in the '83 championship game was one of my favorite sports memories. I was a senior in high school, getting ready to head to Clemson University in the fall. I remember watching the game with my brother, who was home on spring break, and my mother while my dad was out of town on business. The thing I remember more than "THE dunk" was Coach Valvano running up and down the court and my mother saying, 'He can't find anybody to hug! Somebody needs to hug him!'

"Who would have known that 15 years later, I would become a Wolfpacker myself and that 23 years later, one of the guys celebrating that night on the court in Albuquerque would be my husband! It's been really special to hear Ernie (Myers) talk about that season and what it meant to him then and what it has meant to him through the years.

"And even though I had been at NC State for eight years before he and I met and knew how special that season was to so many people, I've been amazed at how many people stop him at the mall, at restaurants (even at church!) and reminisce about one particular play or game from 1983."
-- Annabelle Myers, assistant athletics director for media relations

Lorenzo Charles
Lorenzo Charles' dunk at the buzzer against Houston in 1983 remains a popular highlight clip on NCAA tournament broadcasts.

"I have two regrets about NC State's 1983 NCAA championship: First, that my parents had me a year too late for me to be a freshman at NC State to enjoy everything that happened here on campus that February, March and April. As it was, I was a senior in high school, already accepted to NC State, reveling in every moment of the Wolfpack's wild ride to the championship.

"Second, that I didn't accept my friend Luann Harmon's invitation to join her and some other friends on a post-game road trip to Raleigh to participate in the celebration on Hillsborough Street. She called just after Lorenzo Charles made his famous dunk, and said, 'We're going to Raleigh!' It was a Monday night, we lived three hours away, and I had a physics test and baseball game the next day. I'll never forgive myself for blowing her off instead of the test and the game.

"Obviously, the spirit of that championship lives on. I've tried to retell as many of those memories from the players, the coaches and the staff as possible over the last year or so, with When March Went Mad, and by reliving every game of that season on I just wish I could have added my own personal recollection of the Brickyard and Hillsborough Street on the night of April 4 – really the morning of April 5, I suppose – to all those other memories.
-- Tim Peeler, managing editor,

"I was only 4 years old when NC State won the 1983 title, but I still remember watching the Cardiac Pack top off its run with the win over Houston. At the time, my mother had yet to graduate from NC State, but she was 'red' through and through, becoming a Wolfpack fan in the early 1970s when David Thompson and Tommy Burleson made their marks. Though she was far from being an athlete, her indoctrination – that Thompson was the greatest college basketball player ever; that NC State and Everett Case paved the way for 'Tobacco Road'; that 'Pistol' Pete was close to being our own – began early.

"So as I watched that final play in 1983 with my mother in our living room in Garner – she biting her nails, sitting on the edge of the ivory swivel chair, and yelling and cheering like I've heard her do so many times when the Wolfpack are on TV – I knew: It would always be NC State for me. Though I didn't quite understand at the time what that 1983 win meant, it bound me to this university forever. That's why it was the only college I applied to in high school, and that's why it's the place where I work today.

"To me, NC State has always been a school that reveres itself for providing opportunities to people that others have often written off or that others don't believe in. Here, it doesn't matter where you come from or where you've been, you're accepted for where you are and where you can go. And we believe in the possibilities. If you keep the faith and keep working, special things will happen. The '83 team proved it."
-- Cherry Crayton, assistant editor, NC State alumni magazine

"The 1983 Wolfpack run to the national championship was one of the most improbable and exciting events that I can recall during my years at NC State. Being on campus during that time provided the opportunity of being a part of the excitement that built as the underdog Wolfpack won three ACC and then six NCAA tournament games for the championship. I still remember how each improbable victory led to a larger and more spirited celebration as well as a belief that maybe the Wolfpack could go all the way. The final celebration on the Brickyard and Hillsborough Street was unbelievable."
-- Thomas H. Stafford Jr., vice chancellor for student affairs

"I was working as a sports editor at a metropolitan Atlanta newspaper. Georgia Tech was still trying to find its footing in the ACC, but because our paper covered Tech, we watched ACC games with a fair amount of interest. After NC State won the ACC tournament, I distinctly remember our assistant sports editor wrote that NC State didn't have much of a chance in the NCAA tournament. I watched the title game with friends. There was the usual level of game-watching noise in the house, but when the Wolfpack scored at the buzzer, somebody yelled, 'I can't believe it...they just beat Houston.' The room went quiet and everyone watched Jim Valvano run around the court like he couldn't believe it, either."
-- Keith Nichols, director, News Services