Oklahoma A&M’s formidable Bob
Kurland with the ball in the 1946
NCAA championship game in
Madison Square Garden; White
Phantoms shown are Bob Paxton
’ 47, left, and John “Hook” Dillon
’ 48, the latter a first-team All-American. Coach Ben Carnevale,
below left, apparently pulled some
strings to channel quality players
to Chapel Hill.
23 CAROLINA ALUMNI REVIEW
McKinney, a red-headed
Army vet who was All-Southern
Conference at N.C. State prior
to the war, guarded Iba’s three-
time All-American and fouled
out with 14 minutes remaining.
“When he got in there guarding
Bob Kurland, you couldn’t even
see Bones,” says teammate Taylor
Thorne ’ 49, the smallest member
of UNC’s three-guard rotation.
Carolina had announced
itself to the basketball world and
gained a confidence boost in
late December 1945, traveling to
Dillon, often teamed in a double-post alignment with McKinney,
went on to lead the Southern Conference in scoring and earned
consensus All-American honors. Jordan, the 1945 Southern Confer-
ence Player of the Year, repeated as an All-American.
UNC, the Southern’s first-place finisher during the regular season, was upset in the league tournament but was selected by a
three-coach panel to participate in the NCAAs anyway. The opening opponent was powerful NYU, playing before a home crowd.
Again, the White Phantoms were the better team. Two games later,
they reached the championship contest in the eight-team field.
The NCAA tournament was considered a minor event in those
March 26, 1946: Serving notice
days compared with the National Invitation Tournament. Reflect-
ing that low profile, its penultimate game was played on a Tuesday
night; the marquee at Madison Square Garden did not even men-
tion the sponsoring NCAA. “We just accepted it more or less like
any regular games,” Thorne says. “I don’t think it was any pressure
or anything. It was just another game.”
Just another game for Carolina, that is, the second of its 30 Final
Four contests and nine appearances in the finals.
Ben Carnevale, a naval officer who oversaw
athletics for the Navy’s V- 12 pre-flight
training program that dominated the campus during World War II,
accepted the school’s head coaching position prior to the 1944-45
season on the condition he receive a two-week furlough before he
Carnevale, a former college and pro basketball player, had
endured the sinking of his ship and five days adrift at sea on a raft
during the war, an experience that turned his black hair gray. Survivor’s instincts intact, according to his son, Corky, he used his leave
to travel to Washington, D.C., where he arranged for basketball-playing servicemen to be mustered out through Chapel Hill.
Two seasons later, his veteran-laden squad, then nicknamed the
White Phantoms, finished 30-5 and made the first of Carolina’s
record 18 Final Four appearances. Led by a formidable front line of
6-2 John “Hook” Dillon ’ 48, 6-3 Jim Jordan ’ 46 and 6-6 Horace
“Bones” McKinney ’ 48, UNC advanced to face defending champion Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) in the first televised
NCAA title game.
As many as a half million people watched as coach Henry Iba’s
club, led by seven-footer Bob “Foothills” Kurland, defeated the
Phants, 43-40. “There is no doubt but what we had the better team,”