Stormin' Norman

I don't recall as much about Norman Sloan as some of the other old timers because I moved from Raleigh in 1960 and it was not easy to get press accounts of activities involving Big Four teams where I lived. I was still in the ACC area, however, and I definitely recall the plaid coats and his wife singing the Star Spangled Banner in Reynolds Coliseum. Plaid coats have long since been shipped off to Goodwill, but I was always mystified by the negative comments fans made about Mrs. Sloan singing the national anthem. I am not making a judgment about the quality of her rendition of our national song, but I always thought it was sort of neat to have the coach's wife singing before the game. Maybe it's a bad comparison, but I wouldn't mind it if our Chancellor played the organ in the Smith Center before games...that is if we had an organ.

There was a rumor earlier in the year that an organ had been donated to UNC and would be installed in Kenan Stadium. Then, predictability, a rumor started that the organ would be installed in the Smith Center instead. You know how that goes. Both group of fans profess to love Carolina just as long as one sport doesn't surpass the other in having goodies. More on that later. Turned out that both rumors were rumors and nothing more. I was aghast when I first heard of it but later warmed up to the idea. Only fault I could find with it was that it seemed to be copying what professional sports have done in their arenas, but please don't get me started on how I feel about professional sports.

My first memory of Norman Sloan was when he was a member of Everette Case's initial group of Indiana recruits in 1946. Sloan was a guard and, most of the time, he was not a starter. Let's see if I can recall the starting five for N.C. State in '46. There was Dick Dickey at one forward, Paul Horvath at Center, and Pete Negley at the other forward, Dick Bartells at one guard and lone non freshman, returning veteran Leo Kacavick (sp). Sloan was the 6th man. I also remember that Sloan played football his senior year and was not a bad halfback.

The next time I heard of Sloan was when he was Head Coach at the Citadel and I saw them play in the Southern Conference Tournament in the old Arena in Richmond. I believe that was during the same period that Lefty Dreisell coached at Davidson.

Then Sloan popped up at Florida for a while and then to N.C. State. The rivalries between State and Carolina during the period of time Sloan was at State were something to behold. I know the rivalry is heated now, but it is nothing like it was during that period. I believe at one point, State won 8 straight games against the Heels. Believe me, it wasn't a lot of fun going through that drought. I remember sitting next to a State fan at the Big Four Tournament in Greensboro when State beat us by one point and we had the ball out under their basket at the end f the game. The ball came into Ed Stahl who was at about the foul line and he missed the jumper. Game over. You think there wasn't a lot of screaming and yelling going on around where I sat waiting for the throw-in. I tried to be a good loser and I shook the hands of the State fan after the game and she admitted we had scared the crap (or something similar, I can't remember) out of the Wolfpackers. It gets a little fuzzy now, but I believe we beat them later that year in the finals of the ACC Tournament. Those were the days my friend.

The only other recollection I have of Norman Sloan is his volatile outbursts on the sidelines during games. There have been only two ACC coaches who have made me uncomfortable when they were ranting and Sloan was one of them. The other was Terry Holland. These two were different from the other coaches in that their eyes showed anger far beyond what we normally saw and made me think they were regarding the game as being more than a game. I was always relieved when these two gentlemen calmed down because I honestly thought there was a chance they would blow an O ring or go off the deep end. Fortunately, this never happened.

The best Norman Sloan story I ever heard was in Sports Illustrated at the time the Big Four Tournament was at its peak. The story was describing the intense nature of the State-UNC rivalry and it told of a young UNC fan who attended the same church as NS. After a close battle on the previous Saturday which State won by a whisker, the boy was standing with his parents after church services doing what people do in this situation. In a gesture of friendship, NS reached over to pat the young fellow on the head and asked how he was doing. The boy recoiled and said in a most serious tone "Don't touch me." SI didn't say what Sloan's reaction was to this admonition but somehow, I think NS understood.

Another flashback. My web master was at an ACC tournament game during this period with his father who was dressed in a State red polyester suit made by his wife. The web master was sitting next to his father and outfitted in a Carolina blue polyester suit made for him by the same person, his mother. It would have made a great photograph for SI if the caption had explained the situation. I often wish that I had a recording of the dialog that took place between the two during the game.