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Writing Their Own Story

There are some similarities between what the current NC State men’s team and the 1983 NCAA championship team experienced along their unlikely journeys, but their stories are different.

Side by side photos of the 1983 men's basketball team and the 2024 men's basketball team members celebrating their advance to the Final Four of the NCAA Basketball Tournament
Side by side celebrations: Men's basketball players celebrate their advance to the Final Four — in 1983 and in 2024.

They’ve seen this story before. In fact, they’ve lived it.

For members of NC State’s famous 1983 NCAA championship team, watching this year’s version of the Wolfpack advance to the Final Four this week in Glendale, Arizona, has brought back all the raw emotions and memories of their unlikely nine-game winning streak under head coach Jim Valvano 41 years ago.

It has also given them hope that the generations of fans who’ve waited faithfully for a new version of a championship season will have something more to celebrate since head coach Kevin Keatts and his team won its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship, advanced through the first four rounds of the NCAA championship and qualified for the Final Four for the fourth time in school history (1950, 1974, 1983 and 2024).

“It’s like I’m watching history all over again,” says former Wolfpack point guard and head coach Sidney Lowe. “I’ve seen this. I’ve seen it.”

For Lowe, a senior on the ’83 team who is now an assistant coach for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, watching the excitement of NC State clinching an ACC title with five wins in Washington — as he and his teammates did with three wins in Atlanta — and then seeing four straight wins in the NCAA tournament stirs up memories that are just as vivid as they were four decades ago.

Lowe and his teammates celebrate a win in 1983
Lowe and his teammates celebrate a win in 1983

Wednesday, as this year’s team pulled out of the parking lot of the Dail Basketball Practice facility, memories of the ’83 team’s departure from Reynolds Coliseum flowed along the streets around campus and down I-440 to Raleigh-Durham International Airport as they prepared to board a flight to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Back then, students and fans lined Western Boulevard to wave goodbye. Students from nearby Meredith and Peace colleges cheered from overpasses, with a banner that read “Bring it Back, Pack.”

“I remember it as much as anything else, like it was yesterday,” Lowe says. “That feeling of appreciation, a feeling of family. It was just something we couldn’t believe. Unless you have experienced it, you can’t even describe it.”

An NC State basketball player in street clothes walks through a long line of NC State fans gathered outside of the Dail Basketball Center before departing to play in the NCAA Men's Basketball Semifinal this weekend.
NC State basketball fans gave a warm send-off to the men’s team as they departed for the NCAA Men’s Basketball semifinals.

Lowe was in the Cavaliers locker room last weekend when the Wolfpack beat Duke to advance to the final weekend of the season, and he started telling everybody what might be happening in Raleigh: That fans would meet the team at the airport and on campus. That students would be celebrating on Hillsborough Street and at the Memorial Tower. That alumni from every corner of the state would be debating whether they wanted to experience the game in person or stay in their community to talk about it the next day with their next-door neighbors who had, until recently, been wearing clothes in various shades of blue.

“Man, I’m just so happy for these kids on this team, to experience everything that is happening,” Lowe says. “They are playing with a confidence I’ve seen before.

“I’ve lived it.”

A large crowd of students and fans at the NC State Belltower at night. The tower is illuminated in red.
Fans celebrate at the NC State Belltower following the Wolfpack’s win over Duke last weekend.

Lowe will be watching what happens with Keatts and the current team when they play top-seeded Purdue Saturday evening — unless he can figure out a way to stay in town after the Cavaliers play the Phoenix Suns Friday night and still make it back to Cleveland for a home game on Sunday.

Teammates Thurl Bailey, Dereck Whittenburg and Terry Gannon say they will be in State Farm Arena as part of NC State’s red-wearing contingent of leadership and fans. One teammate who won’t make that trip is former guard Ernie Myers, who is with the NC State women’s team in Cleveland as a member of the NC State broadcasting team that will be calling the action on WKNC 88.1 FM during the women’s Final Four matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

It’s a tangible tie between the two programs and the championship seasons that span 41 years.

“We have a text chain between our teammates from back then, and every now and then someone shares a clip or two of Ernie calling the games,” Lowe says. “It’s so fun to hear him get fired up.”

Myers left with the women’s team Tuesday and had a feeling of déjà vu as the team bus drove off campus and headed to the airport.

“It was just surreal,” he says. “I just started feeling everything all over again, just like when we left in ’83.”

He and his old teammates hope both the men’s and women’s teams experience what the Wolfpack did in Albuquerque, when they woke up on championship Monday to a thin dusting of snow on the high desert plains of New Mexico.

A crowd of Wolfpack fans in the stands at a game in 1983
The Wolfpack faithful in the stands cheering on the 1983 team

The circumstances don’t have to be the same, but a similar outcome would be appreciated, mainly to end the wait Wolfpack fans have patiently abided since the men last won it and for the women to etch their program into the Wolfpack history books.

“For the men, no one really expected this,” Lowe says. “They had to win the ACC Tournament, the same way we did, to be playing in the NCAAs. But the games and the outcomes have been different. The women are a little different, because they did have expectations.

“I want them both to go out and write their own stories, so they aren’t compared to anybody else. It will belong to just them.”