We want to take a moment to put aside partisanship and extend condolences to the NC State basketball family and to Wolfpack Nation on the untimely death of the hero of the 1983 national championship team, Lorenzo Charles.
Charles died on Monday afternoon when the tour bus he was driving crashed on I-40 in west Raleigh. He was 47.
I confess a personal interest in this story because I was driving eastbound on I-40 this afternoon and saw the traffic jam but obviously did not know the cause, nor the famous driver involved. Oh, and because I was a huge State fan in 1983 when Charles dunked in Dereck Whittenburg's desperation heave as time expired to give the Pack the national championship.
Charles, who led the Wolfpack in scoring in both 1984 and 1985, was part of one of the most glorious ages of ACC basketball. For fans under the age of about 40, it is hard to fully comprehend how spectacular the ACC was in the early-to-mid 80s. UNC and State won back-to-back NCAA titles, UVa and Maryland were national contenders just as Duke began its rise, and legendary coaches - and those who would become legendary - roamed the sidelines, with names like Smith, Driesell, Cremins, Krzyzewski, and Valvano. And holy cow, the players of that era - Worthy, Jordan, Perkins, Bias, Sampson, Bailey, Dawkins, and Bilas, just to name a few - of which Charles was among the best, especially as a senior.
Charles was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft but barely stayed long enough for a cup of coffee in the league; still he played professionally both in the US and overseas for nearly 15 years.
I had the chance to meet Charles on a couple of occasions when I was a college coach and always found him to be humble, especially given his role in NCSU and NCAA legend. Today's tragedy is an untimely end for an unlikely hero. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends as well as our lupine brethren.