Phil Ford ’ 78, the master of the four corners, works his magic against one of the few teams that wasn’t baffled by it — his own.
March 7, 1982: Requiem for the 4C
Rarely has a single contest more pro-
foundly affected the way a sport is played
than the finals of the 1982 ACC basketball tournament.
The meeting at the packed Greensboro Coliseum between No.
1-ranked Carolina, en route to its first NCAA championship under
Dean Smith, and No. 3 Virginia was a climactic moment in the ’ 82
season. The same teams, largely led by the same players, had met in
the 1981 Final Four, with the Tar Heels emerging victorious.
Between them, the teams held the AP’s top ranking for all but two
weeks of the 1981-82 season. Each team had lost twice, including a
split of their regular season series.
Carolina and Virginia boasted four of the five All-ACC first team
members — UNC’s James Worthy ’ 85 and Sam Perkins ’ 84 and
UVa’s Ralph Sampson and Othell Wilson. Perkins, Sampson and
Worthy were All-Americans. Sampson repeated as national player of
the year. Michael Jordan ’ 86 was the ACC Rookie of the Year.
For much of the contest the action was fast-paced and expert.
Worthy had 12 points in the first 11 minutes against Virginia’s
1-3-1 zone. The Heels set a finals record with three turnovers in
the entire game. The Cavaliers set a finals record by making 22 of
33 field goal attempts, 66. 7 percent accuracy.
UNC led 8-0 at the outset and held a 34-31 advantage at half-
time.Virginia opened the second half with six unanswered points
to lead 37-34. Carolina went ahead to stay with 8: 44 left on a 13-
footer by Jordan.
Then, leading by a point with about seven and a half minutes
remaining, Carolina put on the brakes.
“They had the best center in the country, and we wanted to draw
him away from the basket,” says Jimmy Black ’ 82, who was UNC’s
senior point guard. Smith called for the four corners, a spread tactic
meant to run time off the clock, force the defense into a chasing
mode and frustrate opponents. (Smith taught players to smile while
running “4C.”) “When it works — about 90 percent of the time —
you are a genius,” Smith explained. “When it fails, you’re a bum.”
But few coaches resorted to the strategy as frequently, or as
early in a game, as did Smith, who ordered the ball held for six
minutes against Virginia as the crowd booed and chanted, “BOR-
ing! BORing!” UVa coach Terry Holland was loath to give up his
interior advantage or to be caught in an open-court situation
without Wilson, his best guard, who was sidelined by injury.