ONE By One

I certainly hope the next 24 hours will be better for me than the last 24 have been. I had no more than accepted the fact that "Chuck" Noe had passed when I learned that Norman Sloan had also said goodbye. Neither of these gentlemen was a Tar Heel, but there was a Tar Heel connection in both cases.

Chuck Noe has a storied history of coaching, principally in Virginia but for two years as Head Coach of USC. He was a native of Louisville, Ky. and a graduate of the University of Virginia where he played baseball and basketball. While Chuck was very successful in coaching college basketball, he was probably known by more people for his sports commentary and talk show than he was coaching. In the 70s, his Sunday night sports talk show, Speaking of Sports, was heard up and down the East Coast on WRVA and he continued the talk show until several years ago.

In 1985, he began a weekly program during football and basketball seasons called "Cavalier Call In " where he and the Virginia Coaches discussed UVA football and answered questions phoned in by Cavalier fans. It may be an understatement to say that Chuck Noe was a fixture in the Virginia sports scene.

I listened to Chuck on the radio for years but never called in to his show. He was a fiery person and I didn't want to run the risk of having an on-the-air run-in with him. He was a very intelligent person and he was extremely articulate. He had a tendency, however, to take quick and strong positions on issues and not everyone chose to put themselves in a position where they might look foolish. Everyone knew he controlled the switch and could cut you off anytime he so desired. I remember one night a regular caller made the mistake of choosing the words "your problem is that you..........." That's all she wrote. Quick as a wink, the caller was zapped and Chuck proceeded to explain to the rest of us that nobody was going to tell him how to run his show.

After retirement, I finally called him at home after we exchanged a couple of e-mails and we had several good discussions on sports. The closest we ever came to getting into a verbal brawl was on one occasion when he kept interrupting me and I could barely get a word in edgewise. I finally asked him if he would kindly stop putting words in my mouth and let me say what I had to say. From that time on we got along beautifully. Sometimes, people who are aggressive, both verbally and physically, will react positively to someone standing up to them and I think that's what happened here. No way was Chuck Noe conceding anything to me and I hadn't asked him to. I just got frustrated at not being able to finish a thought.

Noe was very fond and defensive of Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge. I saw him talking with Coach Smith before the game with Richmond in a holiday tournament here in Richmond when J.R. Reid was at UNC. Noe always spoke highly of Coach Smith and there was a touching quote by DS in this morning's newspaper. Coach Smith said, "Chuck was one of the most knowledgeable coaches I have ever known. He came and watched practices when he was in sales (after leaving South Carolina) and offered a couple of suggestions. I enjoyed talking basketball with him. He was surely great for the game."

Jennings Culley, my favorite Richmond sports writer, said, "As a player, coach, administrator and broadcast commentator, he colored every team and every sport he touched with his enthusiasm, his skill and his competitive fire. Rivals and fans may have differed at times, but no one ever questioned his knowledge or his love for all sports. His passing leaves a void in the sports world.

Chuck invited me to join him and several of his friends for coffee at Arby's one morning and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the members of the "roundtable" even if I did have to endure some good natured ribbing for being a Tar Heel. Chuck had agreed to write an article on the "mongoose" offense which later was adopted by Coach Smith and called the "four corners" for but we just never got around to it. I should have pushed harder because we never know when it is going to be too late.

I was irritated at the comments of a Richmond sports talk show host who chose the wrong words, in my opinion, to explain how UNC came to adopt the four corners offense. He said that Dean Smith "took" the mongoose offense from Chuck. Maybe he didn't mean it the way I took it but it sounded like he was saying that Coach Smith stole the mongoose from Chuck. Nothing could be further from the truth and Chuck and I talked about it several times. He even got Coach Smith's book and read to me on the telephone where it gave credit to him for the mongoose/four corners offense. The talk show host has never said a good word about Carolina that I have heard, and that may very well have influenced my interpretation of what he said. His name is "Big Al" but I try to avoid him and his snide comments as much as I can. I don't know his last name and, what's more, I don't want to know it.

This has gone on a little longer than I had planned so I will write about Norman Sloan in a later article.