Sunday, April 29, 2001
[ BASKETBALL TOURNAMENTS ]
There was Will Pounds looking for someone to celebrate with, the figures frozen in time on the Blaisdell Arena scoreboard above him -- Chaminade 77, Virginia 72. The Silverswords assistant coach couldn't find anyone, though.
win was a catalyst
Tournaments about exposure
By Jack Danilewicz
Special to the Star-Bulletin
Teammates Richard Haenisch and Mark Rodrigues were busy atop the rims, having climbed up to give the nets a trimming. Head Coach Merv Lopes was doing a television interview. "How did they do it?" he was asked.
"Luck!" said the coach.
"I still can't explain it," Lopes says today. "I guess it was meant to be."
After the game, Pounds, a former Chaminade star, headed for the Silverswords locker room.
"I was so overcome with emotion that I sat there all alone and cried," said Pounds, who lives today in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Disbelief was more the feeling in ESPN's Bristol, Conn. studios, where the late sportscaster Tom Mees was nearing the end of a broadcast of SportsCenter. When he was handed a note that had come by way of the Associated Press saying that Chaminade had beaten Virginia, he balked at reading it.
"We were dumbfounded," Mees would say later of that night, December 23, 1982. "Nobody had heard of Chaminade then. I asked them to double-check it."
Even after reading the score over the air, Mees still was not convinced.
"Usually I would bolt for the door to go home and get some sleep, but that night I went back upstairs and called someone in Honolulu," he said later. "If I was going to read something this momentous to the country, I wanted to at least make sure I'd been right."
Momentous indeed. The game the national media quickly tabbed "The Greatest Upset in the History of College Basketball" changed the complexion of college basketball. In a time when Division I powers packed their non-conference schedules with what the late basketball commentator Al McGuire called "cupcakes," Chaminade-Virginia underlined the risks of scheduling games with schools of lower affiliations and seemed to paraphrase what was to become the prevailing theme in college basketball: Parity.
"It changed how teams had to approach a game against a small school," says Kalaheo coach Pete Smith, then a Lopes assistant at Chaminade. "It put a lot of fear into the schools that followed Virginia."
Chaminade, a member of the NAIA, was then a 25-year-old institution with an undergraduate enrollment under 800. Virginia was a 163-year-old institution with 16,400 undergraduates. Above all, the Cavaliers had the 7-foot-4, three-time College Basketball Player of the Year Ralph Sampson and were ranked No. 1 by both wire service polls.
Moreover, with Sampson, Virginia was the most visible team of its era and had been to the Final Four the previous April.
The Cavaliers had beaten Patrick Ewing and Georgetown only two weeks earlier in what was billed as "The Game of the Decade" and the Cavaliers were on their way back from playing in a tournament in Japan.
Virginia's Jim Miller summed it up in later years in The Daily Progress (Virginia): "In less than two weeks, we won The Game of the Decade and lost The Upset of the Century."
Former Virginia coach Terry Holland took the Cavaliers' loss in stride and would invariably introduce Lopes to friends thereafter as, "the man I made famous."
Chaminade's then-athletic director Mike Vasconcellos credits Holland with helping to begin what became the Maui Invitational.
"After we beat Virginia, Terry Holland said, 'Mike, I want to play again in a preseason tournament, like the equivalent of spring training in baseball'," he said. "But I don't want to play in Honolulu. Can we go to another island?' So we went to the Big Island, and he brought the teams.
"The next year, we decided to take it to Maui, and it became the Maui Classic."
Tony Randolph, who along with Mark Rodrigues was to star in Chaminade's subsequent upset victories over Louisville (twice) and Southern Methodist, will forever be linked to the Virginia game after outscoring Sampson, whom he had been friends with in his native Virginia, 19-12.
Two nights before the now famous match-up, Randolph awoke after a dream that culminated with congratulatory handshakes from both Holland and Sampson.
"I kept it to myself because people would have thought I was foolish, but when the game started, everything fell into place," Randolph said. "I think something spiritual was leading me and the team."
The play that will always be remembered is Rodrigues' alley-oop pass to 6-2 Tim Dunham, who soared over Sampson and slam-dunked in one rim-rattling moment. The rest, as they say in the sporting world, is history.
"It still follows me," says Randolph. "I can walk on the other side of the island and people still recognize me and shake hands and talk about the game. It was a moment that people held onto."
They're still holding on today.