Kinda weird being a middle-aged man and admitting your mother got you involved in hoops but that’s what happened with me. My mother was an associate producer for a sports television pioneer named C.D. Chesley years ago. I worked for him myself while in college.
I doubt many of you have heard of C.D. Chesley but it would not be an exaggeration to say he was one of the folks that made it possible for college basketball to enjoy the popularity it does today.
Chesley, a former athlete himself, had a vision folks sitting in the comfort of their homes would want to watch sporting events on television. His pioneering in organizing, packaging and syndicating college basketball games some fifty plus years ago eventually led to all of us filling out (and throwing away fairly quickly!) those paper brackets a couple of weeks ago. Atlantic Coast Conference basketball programs were “put on the map” by his efforts.
He also elevated Notre Dame’s football program to greater heights by syndicating a weekly highlights show to a national audience…long before we had our choice of watching virtually any game we want – as it is being played – like we do today.
I was fortunate through my “affiliation” with my mother…and Chesley…to see two Final Fours in person…
1974 – N.C. State, led by David Thompson, ended UCLA’s stranglehold on the Championship with a pulsating double-overtime win in Greensboro Coliseum. Thompson, while only 6-4, was the “tallest” player on the court whenever he took it and is considered by many one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Even the great Bill Walton was only the second-best player on the court at that Final Four. After the Wolfpack dispatched UCLA, they handled Marquette in the Championship. The Warriors (as they were known at the time) were coached by another all-timer, Al McGuire. Al was a classic showman, teacher and leader.
1981 – Indiana, led by Isiah Thomas, dispatched North Carolina in the Championship. The victory was overshadowed – and could have been possibly delayed – by the shooting of President Reagan earlier in the day. I recall driving to the Philadelphia Spectrum with the playing of it still uncertain at that time. It was also the final year of the Third Place game. Many of you may have forgotten – or don’t even know – they used to play a “consolation” game Monday before the Championship was contested.
Great memories and a great way to begin my love affair with sports. As I watched the Final Four unfold yesterday, I thought back to that special time.