Capturing Villanova's win for posterity

(Published in Daily News, March 25, 1985)

Snapshots from a victory (Villanova 56, North Carolina 44, NCAA Southeast Regional, March 24, 1985):

There was The Pasta Speech.

Halftime in Villanova's room was, in the understated, smiling words of Dwight Wilbur, "kind of loud."

Rollie Massimino, for the first time in his coaching career, stormed right past his assistants and waded into the Wildcats before they could even grab towels. "Usually I talk to my staff first," he said later. "But this time I went right in. It was, shall we say, eventful. I needed to reaffirm some things."

His tirade was special, even by Rollie's standards. It soared and leveled and then soared again, much more majestically than the 20 lopsided misses (out of 26 shots) with which Villanova polluted the first half.

"Do you think I want to be doing this?" Massimino erupted. "Do you think I want to be screaming at you? Do you bleepers really think I want to go to the Final Four? Listen, there's much more to life than that.

"Do you know what I'd really rather be doing now than anything? Than being here in this room? I'll tell you. I'd rather be at home, sitting behind a big, steaming, heaping plate of spags (spaghetti). Yeah, that's right! Macaroni! Linguini with clam sauce! I'd rather be doing that than losing this damn game! Now get out there and do what got you here in the first place!"

Maybe that doesn't sound like the proper way to send a basketball team off to play the greatest 20 minutes of its life.

But after yesterday, after what Villanova did in a half-empty arena, on a perfect spring day in Birmingham, you might expect to hear The Pasta Speech again.

There was The McClain Adventure.

Underneath Dwayne McClain's languid exterior and deep in his soul is a hunger for the spectacular. McClain knows that a thunder-dunk can be basketball's equivalent of the sleeperhold. And he is more than willing to apply it, from whatever jaunty angle he can imagine.

Yesterday he saw his chance. Villanova, suddenly shooting again, ran off seven baskets in seven possessions and led the befuddled Tar Heels, 31-26. Carolina got unbefuddled in a hurry and got two baskets from Brad Daugherty. McClain charged on the other end, a call nobody on Villanova's bench liked very much, and now the Heels could get the lead again - except Ed Pinckney tipped a pass away, and Harold Pressley threw it down to Gary McLain, and Dwayne McClain was beside him. Two-on-nobody.

"It slipped out of my hands a little bit," McLain said. "But it went to Dwayne, and I wanted him to have it anyway, because I knew what he would do."

But he couldn't have known that McClain would turn his back to the basket and summarily miss the slam dunk.

As people hurled ashtrays at TV sets throughout the Main Line, North Carolina continued its second-half theme by throwing it away on the other end. And the Heels were playing 5-on-4 at the time. McClain was sprawled on his back at the other end, grotesquely twisted and motionless.

They stopped the game and helped McClain off. He sat there with a towel over his face. How was the pain?

"No pain," McClain said, deadpan. "I was wiping the sweat off my face."

Turns out that McClain's agony was maybe 25 percent physical and 75 percent visceral. Missing the dunk hurt worse than banging his back on the Civic Center floor.

"I injured my pride," he said.

"I think that was it," Pressley said.

"Yeah, he said he got his steps messed up and miscalculated," Massimino said. "Miscalculated, right. But Dwayne did one very smart thing. He didn't look over at me."

There were The Kids.

We have several pictures of them.

Some of them aren't kids anymore. John Olive is the player personnel director of the Los Angeles Clippers. Mike Mulquin works on Wall Street now. Mulquin was the hero the last time Villanova beat North Carolina, in 1983. "Yeah," he said. "We've got a thing going with Deano (Smith)."

And then there were the current kids.

Dwight Wilbur, sitting there quietly in his warm-ups an hour after the buzzer. He said, "It's such a dream come true that I'm too happy, really, to celebrate. I'm just sitting here thinking about it ... "

Harold Jensen, the sophomore the Wildcats took in a year when Massimino backed off Pearl Washington, a kid who sprouted for 10 enormous points, 3 assists and 3 steals. Carolina had three steals for the game. Jensen was surrounded by the kind of media crowd you usually expect to find surrounding Mike Schmidt. They call him "Howie."

"Hey, Howie," Pinckney kept yelling. "Let's get going ... "

Gary McLain, the littlest general, who spent the last three minutes on the floor smiling as Villanova pulled the ball on the masters of the four-corners and passed it around unerringly. "Gary is the most important player on our team," Wilbur said. At one point, McLain heard Dean Smith tell Kenny Smith, "It's a 2-3 matchup," speaking of Villanova 's defense. McLain grinned as he realized the Wildcats had the Tar Heels confused. At that point, UNC assistant coach Eddie Fogler caught McLain's eye and smiled back.

"No chance," Fogler told him.

"I wonder what he meant by that," McLain said later ...

Harold Pressley, his Cosby smile widening with each second. Pressley remembered that he had predicted the Final Four long ago, in October. He even had the temerity to inform Massimino about it. "Coach told me we'd be lucky to win 19 games," Pressley said. "I said, yeah, right. I knew this day would come ... "

Ed Pinckney, who is making a couple of hundred thousand extra bucks with each game as the NBA scouts rewrite their card files on him. Pinckney stared at a man with a minicam. "Are you a Cinderella team?" the man said. Pinckney replied, "Evidently you guys think so. But we don't ... "

Steve Lappas, the new assistant coach, standing at a pay phone outside the locker room, pleading with people to "give me some new numbers to call. I want to call everybody that we know ... "

R.C. Massimino leaping into his father's arms near the end. And Tommy and Andrew Massimino, on each side of the coach, the three of them walking with their arms locked to the middle of the court, as Pinckney stood on the scorer's table with arms extended ...

Father Bernard Lazor, the priest who travels with the Wildcats, walking up to Massimino with the net in his hand. He had heard The Pasta Speech in toto. "What would you rather have now, Coach?" he said, holding out the net. "Spags? Or this?"

Snapshots from a victory (Villanova 56, North Carolina 44, NCAA Southeast Regional, March 24, 1985).

Paste them into the album and send it to the Villanova Field House. There, people will be looking at it for the rest of their lives.