North Carolina, home to more than 120 colleges and universities, 30 professional sports teams and countless championship-winning high schools, can now boast a hearty tribute to its rich sports history. More than just a collection of names and statistics, Nothing Finer is filled with extended profiles and delightful stories of the people who make the history of sports in North Carolina so fascinating.
An account as far-reaching and well researched as this is hard to come by — and is the product of the 300+ years of sports writing experience its contributors collectively bring to the table.
Lovers of North Carolina — or of sports in general will find Nothing Finer an enjoyable and exceptional read, written by those who know the state’s sports history personally and passionately.
In the words of Nat Walker, two-time NC Sports Hall of Fame board president, “Nothing Finer, North Carolina’s Sports History and the People Who Made It is a tour de force that brings alive the sports and the amateur and professional stars who thrilled and captivated us through the decades.”
North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame members and affiliates will receive a 20% discount when purchasing the book online at our website, www.cap-press.com, using discount code “NCSHOF”. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book goes to support the Hall when you order online before March 15, 2015.
From Wilt Browning, editor Nothing Finer (10/26/14)
Some good news on Nothing Finer. The North Carolina Society of Historians yesterday named the book the winner of the Willie Parker Peace History Book Award in the society’s annual meeting in Mooresville. The book received positive votes from ALL members of the panel.
One judge wrote: “Do you ‘wanna’ know about the history of baseball in NC … read this book. ‘Wanna’ know about football or golf in NC … you HAVE TO read this book! It’s got absolutely everything … left no stone unturned.”
Another judge, a lady, wrote: “No wonder my husband is so taken up with sports!”
Elizabeth Sherrill, the president of the society, commented that Nothing Finer “is a MUST for anybody wanting to know anything about NC sports – in any field. With the proper marketing at this time of year, we can easily see how this book would be at the top of anybody’s Christmas list, especially those people lovingly dubbed ‘sports nuts.’”
More than 100 golfers took part in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame’s inaugural Salute to Champions Golf Classic on a beautiful fall October day at the prestigious Prestonwood Country Club in Cary.
Participants were able to play the exact course – including the same pin placements – that the Champions Tour’s best played the previous day during the final round of the SAS Championship. Each four-person team was joined by a fifth player … a sports celebrity. Some of the celebrity golfers included college baseball coaches Elliott Avent (N.C. State) and Mike Fox (North Carolina), former Carolina Hurricanes star Glen Wesley, and a slew of Hall of Fame members, including former Appalachian State football coach Jerry Moore and former Tar Heel All-America guard Phil Ford.
Next year’s tournament is set for Monday, Oct. 12, and again will be held the day following the SAS Championship. All proceeds support the Hall, a 501(c) non-profit. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact Executive Director Don Fish at email@example.com.
A record crowd of more than 800 attended the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame’s 2014 annual banquet on May 9th at the Raleigh Convention Center. They were treated to a memorable night highlighted by the induction of nine new members into the Hall. Listed alphabetically, they are: Eddie Biedenbach, A. J. Carr, Bob Colvin, Randy Denton, Lee Gliarmis, Marshall Happer, Rodney Rogers, Bob Waters (posthumously) and Frank Weedon (posthumously).
Here is a brief biography of each new inductee:
Eddie Biedenbach: The Pittsburgh native was a two-time All-ACC selection during three years as a starting guard at N.C. State. Biedenbach averaged 12 points a game his sophomore year and 16.7 as a junior. He was his team’s MVP his senior year. A masterful ballhandler and defender, Biedenbach was drafted in two sports — by the NBA’s Lakers and the ABA’s Nets, plus the NFL’s Cowboys — and played one year in the NBA before being turning to coaching. He was a key assistant on N.C. State’s 1974 national title team and held head jobs at Davidson and UNC Asheville. At Asheville, he led the program for 17 seasons, amassing 256 wins and taking the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament three times. A four-time Big South Coach of the Year and the winningest coach in league history, he most recently served as an assistant on the staff at UNC Wilmington.
A.J. Carr: The soft-spoken Carr has been called one of the most respected men in North Carolina sports. Although known as a veteran sportswriter (42 years at the Raleigh News & Observer, plus stops at his hometown Wallace Enterprise and the Greensboro Daily News), he also had a rewarding career as an athlete. Carr was an all-conference basketball player three years at Wallace-Rose Hill High and team MVP in 1960, the same year he was all-conference in football. He was a four-year starter in baseball and team MVP in 1959. He holds nine state titles in Senior Games age-group basketball shooting and 12 Wake County championships. A member of the Guilford College Sports Hall Sports of Fame, Carr was named the N.C. Sportswriter of the Year in 1978 and 2008 and won three national awards for college baseball writing.
Bob Colvin: Of all the eras of dominance among North Carolina’s high school football teams through the decades, perhaps no one was more dominant than Colvin’s teams at 1-A Robbinsville High School in western North Carolina. In a head-coaching career that spanned 18 years (1966-84), he led the Black Knights to 11 state championships in a 15-year period beginning in 1969. In only one of those 11 victories did the opponent manage to lose by less than a touchdown. For his career, Colvin posted a record of 177-57-2.
Randy Denton: A Raleigh native, Denton starred at Enloe High School, where his jersey was retired in 1967. As a center at Duke University, he earned All-ACC honors in all three of his varsity seasons (1969-71), during which he led the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding in each. An All-American as a senior, Denton posted career averages at Duke of 19.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Six times he scored more than 20 points and had more than 20 rebounds in a single game. Denton played eight seasons professionally (ABA, NBA and in Italy). He was inducted into the Duke University Sports Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Duke University Hall of Honor in 2001.
Lee Gliarmis: An outstanding high school athlete in Wilson, Gliarmis was invited to join both the basketball and soccer teams at UNC-Chapel Hill. Yet it was back in Wilson, beginning in the early 1950s, that Gliarmis began to make an indelible mark on young athletes in a youth coaching career that spanned multiple decades. When Fike High School had its glorious run of football success in the late 1960s, it did so with a high percentage of players who had honed their skills on Gliarmis’ youth league teams. His contributions extended to other sports that include baseball, where he led the efforts to build the N.C. Baseball Museum at historic Fleming Stadium in Wilson.
Marshall Happer: A Kinston native, Happer was a two-time state tennis champion who starred at UNC Chapel Hill. After graduation, he was instrumental for more than two decades in furthering tennis development in the Triangle and the state. In 1981, he left Raleigh to serve as commissioner of the Men’s Tennis Council, the governing body of the international tour for men. He made his biggest mark nationally while serving as executive director, COO and in-house counsel for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) from 1990-95, where he was responsible for overseeing the U.S. Open and the U.S. Olympic, Davis Cup and Federation Cup teams.
Rodney Rogers: A phenom at Durham’s Hillside High School, the powerful forward went on to average 19.3 points and almost eight rebounds per game during his three years at Wake Forest University. He was named ACC Rookie of the Year in 1991 and the conference’s Player of the Year two seasons later as a junior. Drafted ninth in the first round of the 1993 draft by the Denver Nuggets, Rogers went on to have a productive 12-year pro career with the Nuggets, Clippers, New Orleans Hornets, Celtics, Nets, Sixers, Spurs and Suns. He became known as the “perfect sixth man” in the pro league and was so honored as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2000.
Bob Waters (deceased): Considered the NFL’s first ever “shotgun” quarterback as a backup with the 49ers, Waters’ pro career prematurely gave way to coaching because of injuries. He became an assistant coach at his alma mater, Presbyterian College, and then coached wide receivers at Stanford University. Just three years into his coaching career, Waters accepted an offer to become head coach at Western Carolina. His first team in Cullowhee went 9-1 in 1969, and his 1972 and 1974 teams were the school’s first to appear in postseason competition. His 1983 team played in the national championship game. Waters coached at Western Carolina for 20 seasons and was the school’s athletics director for 15 of those years. The football field at Western Carolina bears his name. He died in May of 1989.
Frank Weedon (deceased): Perhaps no one ever has been more closely identified with N.C. State University sports than Weedon, who for a half century served the institution as first a sports information director and then as an assistant athletics director. Evidence of his marketing brilliance came when Weedon sold the national media in the early 1970s on the myth that Tommy Burleson was the tallest basketball player (at 7 feet, 4 inches) in the country. Actually, Burleson was 7 feet, 2 ¼ inches. Weedon also created the first-ever, university-affiliated regional radio network, an idea that quickly caught on nationwide. Today, the press box at Doak Field, the Wolfpack’s baseball stadium, bears his name. Weedon died in September of 2013.
Former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach Dean Smith was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in a November ceremony at the White House. Smith, who is in declining health, wasn’t able to attend. His family, along with current Tar Heel coach Roy Williams and former coach Bill Guthridge — both longtime Smith assistants as well — attended the ceremoney.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. It is presented to those who have “made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Smith, who was inducted into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 1981, was one of 16 individuals honored. Other recipients included former President Bill Clinton, Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, entertainers Loretta Lynn and Oprah Winfrey and astronaut Sally Ride. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Executive Order signed by President John F. Kennedy establishing the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Smith, 82, led the Tar Heels to 879 wins and two NCAA championships in a 36-year head coaching career that spanned from 1961 to 1997. At the time of his retirement following the 1997 Final Four, Smith held the record for most coaching wins by a Division I men’s basketball coach.
A champion of civil rights, human rights and academic achievement in addition to being one of the premier basketball coaches in American sports history, Smith joined former UCLA coach John Wooden as the second college men’s basketball coach to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Here’s your opportunity to own a keepsake commemorating North Carolina’s remarkable sports history. On sale now, in limited supply and for a limited time, is the official souvenir program honoring the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary (1963-2013). The cost is only $12.95, which includes handling and shipping.
Richly illustrated throughout its 96 pages, this keepsake volume includes biographical information and photos of each of the 300 members of the Hall, plus stories highlighting key moments and figures in the state’s celebrated sports history, as authored by some of North Carolina’s legendary sportswriters. It also specifically pays tribute to the 11 inductees of the Hall’s class of 2013: Kelvin Bryant, Ron Francis, Wade Garrett, Bill Guthridge, Tommy Helms, Marion Kirby, Rich McGeorge, Hugh Morton, Bob Quincy, Marty Sheets, and Mildred Southern.
To obtain this collectible — an ideal gift for any sports fan — simply mail a check, made payable to the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, for $12.95 (per program) to this address: N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 31524, Raleigh, NC, 27622. Please allow two to three weeks for delivery.
The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inducted its 50th class during a gala reception and banquet on May 2 at the Raleigh Convention Center. The 11 newest members of the Hall — bringing the number of honorees to 300 — are Kelvin Bryant, Ron Francis, Wade Garrett, Bill Guthridge, Tommy Helms, Marion Kirby, Rich McGeorge, Hugh Morton (deceased), Bob Quincy (deceased), Marty Sheets and Mildred Southern.
“The achievements of this year’s class of inductees enrich our state’s remarkable sports heritage, and they certainly earned the honor of joining the 289 men and women who were previously enshrined,” said Dr. Janie Brown, president of the Hall.”
The formal induction ceremony, emceed by legendary Hall of Fame voices Woody Durham and Bob Harris, capped two days of festivities. The previous night, a reception at the N.C. Museum of History (home to the Hall’s museum as well) recognized the 2013 class. Also honored were the latest two recipients of the Hall’s “Great Moments in N.C. Sports History” series: N.C. State’s hiring of Everett Case as its men’s basketball coach in 1946 — a move that put in motion the great college basketball for which our state is known — and the 1974 ACC Tournament final between the Wolfpack and Maryland. That game, won by N.C. State in overtime, 103-100, is widely regarded as the greatest game in league history.
Lastly, the Hall also was on the receiving end of an award. The Naismith Legacy Award, named in honor of Dr. James A. Naismith — basketball’s founding father — was presented to the Hall in recognition of its efforts to further the game’s values of honor, respect and integrity.
Here’s a brief biography of each of the 2013 inductees:
Kelvin Bryant, a Tarboro native, was one of the most explosive running backs in UNC-Chapel Hill football history, even though he was plagued with injuries throughout his four-year college career. Yet, during his career, Bryant averaged 5.5 yards per carry. He finished with one carry short of 600 and was at the top of his collegiate game in his sophomore and junior years. As a sophomore, he split time with Amos Lawrence at tailback, giving the Tar Heels one of the most dynamic duos at the position in ACC history. For his part, Bryant ran for 1,039 yards, including an 81-yard run against Virginia and a 199-yard game against Duke. Then he exploded onto the national spotlight as a junior, getting 211 yards on 19 carries in the season opener against East Carolina, a game in which he scored an ACC-record six touchdowns. He had five more touchdowns a week later against Miami of Ohio and four in the third game against Boston College. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter in any of those games. He finished the season by averaging 6.7 yards per carry and became the school’s third all-time rusher and scorer. As a pro, he was named United States Football League Player of the Year in 1983 and MVP in the championship game. He also played for the Washington Redskins, where his coach, Joe Gibbs, once said, “When he’s healthy, he’s the best I’ve ever seen at coming out of the backfield.”
Ron Francis retired from hockey on Sept. 14, 2005, following a career in which he established himself as the greatest player in Carolina Hurricanes franchise history. Ron scored 549 goals and earned 1,249 assists (1,798) over 23 NHL seasons with Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto, and ranks fourth in NHL history in points, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe. He played in four NHL All-Star games, won the Lady Byng Trophy three times (1995, 1998, 2002), the Selke Trophy once (1995) and the King Clancy Trophy once (2002). Francis won the Stanley Cup twice with Pittsburgh (1991, 1992), but spent 16 of his 23 NHL seasons with the Hartford/Carolina franchise, establishing team records in games played (1,186), goals (382), assists (793) and points (1,175). The Hurricanes officially retired Francis’ No. 10 jersey on Jan. 28, 2006, and on Nov. 12, 2007, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Following his retirement, Francis joined the Hurricanes front office, where he currently serves as vice president of hockey operations.
Wade Garrett, a Guilford County native, was the premier fast-pitch softball pitcher in an era when men’s softball was enjoying its greatest popularity in North Carolina. Garrett pitched for 20 years for Champion Paper of Canton and recorded 358 victories (among them an astonishing 40 no-hitters) and had only 83 losses. In one streak of just over 78 innings, he was unscored upon. He was a member of the all-state or all-South team 15 times, was all-region 10 times, appeared in 10 world tournaments and was also chosen all-world. He is a member of the N.C. Softball Hall of Fame. He also played in the 1951 East -West All-Star Basketball Game. Wade currently resides in Guilford County.
The ultimate assistant coach, Bill Guthridge was Dean Smith’s first lieutenant for 30 years and succeeded Smith as the head coach of the Tar Heels. In Guthridge’s three seasons at the helm, the Tar Heels had records of 34-4, 24-10 and 22-14 for a cumulative 90-28 mark. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1998 after leading UNC-Chapel Hill into the Final Four. As an assistant to Smith, Guthridge declined repeated opportunities to leave the side of his old friend to head up programs on his own. At Carolina, he was famous for his ability to teach the fundamentals of pivot play to the big men in the program, and he was the team’s shooting coach.
A Charlotte native, Tommy Helms was an integral part of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” of the 1960s and 1970s, manning the second-base position on a team that included Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. Helms was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1966 and was a member of the NL All-Star team in 1967 and 1968. As one of the most reliable infielders in the senior circuit, Helms won Gold Gloves in 1970 and 1971. Though he is remembered as a player for the Reds, he also saw time with Houston, Pittsburgh and Boston . He had a career batting average of .269 and wound up managing the Reds in parts of two seasons as the successor to Rose.
A 1964 graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne College (now Lenoir-Rhyne University), where he played on a national championship football team, Marion Kirby established himself as one of North Carolina’s top high school coaches. After a year as a graduate assistant at East Carolina, he became the head football coach in Edenton High School, where he posted a mark of 59-14-3 and won three conference titles. Kirby then moved to Page High School in Greensboro and established the Pirates as a state powerhouse for more than 20 years. His Page teams went to the playoffs 16 times and won 12 league titles. They won state 4-A championships in 1980, 1983, 1984 and 1985 and were runners-up in 1982. In all, 25 of his teams won at least seven games, and Kirby’s career record stands at 278-65-8. He was selected to build Greensboro College’s football program from scratch, and he later became athletics director at Guilford College. He is a member of the Lenoir-Rhyne Sports Hall of Fame, and he served for many years as secretary-treasurer of the N.C. Coaches Association.
Rich McGeorge, a 1971 graduate of Elon College (now Elon University), was a first-round draft choice of the Green Bay Packers and when on to star for the team as a tight end for nine seasons. He caught 175 passes in his pro career, most of them from legendary Bart Starr, for 2,370 yards. He played both football and basketball at Elon, and at one time he held the national NAIA record for catches, 224, and total yards, 3,486. He held most of Elon’s other passing-catching records and won numerous all-conference, all-district and All-American awards. He also led the Elon basketball team in scoring in 1969 with an average of 16.8, and he was an all-conference selection for the 22-8 Christians his senior season. When he graduated, McGeorge held Elon’s career field goal percentage record at 59.8 percent and was the team’s leading rebounder with 688 boards. He was part of a team that made 51 consecutive free throws in a district playoff game against North Carolina A&T State. He served as an assistant football coach at both Duke and Florida prior to spending seven years on Don Shula’s staff with the Miami Dolphins. He is a member of the Elon Sports Hall of Fame, the NAIA Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
The late Hugh Morton was a many-faceted man who turned Grandfather Mountain into one of the state’s treasures. As a fierce defender of nature, he was one of North Carolina’s most staunch conservationists. Morton was also a world-class photographer, which placed him squarely into the state’s sports realm. His vast collection of photographs includes perhaps one of the most extensive sports collections in the nation, and it documents the men and women who have close ties to both the ACC and the Southern Conference. Morton served as a board member and past president of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
Also a member of the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame, Bob Quincy was a five-time Sports Writer of the Year in North Carolina. Before his career truly began, he took time out from his studies at UNC-Chapel Hill to fly 30 combat missions over Europe in a B-17 bomber during World War II. He began his newspaper career at the Rocky Mount Telegram and later became sports editor of the Charlotte News. He spent time as sports information director at UNC-Chapel Hill from 1962 until 1966, before returning to Charlotte to work in radio and television. Quincy, who authored two books, was hired as sports columnist for the Charlotte Observer in 1971 and remained on that staff until his death in 1984. The Bob Quincy Memorial Scholarship is offered by his alma mater’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Marty Sheets is one of the most highly decorated special athletes in the world. He holds 250 Special Olympic medals in an array of sports at local, state, national and world levels. Sheets has won gold, silver or bronze medals in swimming, skiing, tennis and power lifting at the world competition level, and golf at the 2007 national level. He and the late singer John Denver were chosen to lead the United States delegation into the World Games opening ceremonies in 1987. Sheets was featured on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” in 1991, and he began a 15-year run on the golf committee of Special Olympics in 1993. Sheets was chosen to sit with President Clinton at the opening of the 1995 World Games, and in 2007 he was selected by Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver to join her and four other athletes in a Special Olympics portrait featured in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Mildred Southern is the matriarch of tennis in the South, particularly in North Carolina. The Winston-Salem native has served North Carolina and Southern tennis as well as the United States Tennis Association in a range of capacities, from association president to referee, to ranking committees and as a competitor who has been at the top of her game in various age groups for years. Southern has won a variety of national, regional and state championships and was nationally ranked almost continuously from 1983 through 1997. She has been presented more than a dozen national, regional and state honors. Southern won state titles in 1971 and 1973 and won state championships every year from 1975 through 1997. She owns 16 national titles and is arguably North Carolina’s all-time most decorated tennis champion and volunteer. The top award for teams competing in southern tennis is the Mildred F. Southern Cup, and the building that houses the N.C. Tennis Association in Greensboro is named for Southern and her husband.