Take A Look At What Case Built

Dr. James Naismith may have invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the game was honed and polished in the high school gyms of Indiana.

Dr. James Naismith may have invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the game was honed and polished in the high school gyms of Indiana. It was this type of exciting basketball that Everett Case, "The Old Gray Fox," would bring to the people of North Carolina and transform tobacco country into Tobacco Road.

When Case arrived at NC State in 1946 after a stint in World War II, he brought with him a gaudy 467-124 high school basketball coaching record and four state titles. He also brought a hunger to put his sport, basketball, on the main stage in a part of the country that was just beginning to embrace it as a major sport, despite Carolina playing in the national title game just a year before he arrived.

It's well documented on the broad-reaching changes that Case brought to the NC State program and the area, lobbying to increase the size of Reynolds, hosting the Southern Conference, borrowing the tradition of cutting down the nets after a championship from his days in Indiana, etc.

But the legacy that Case will be forever linked to and remembered for is the Dixie Classic. A regular season tournament that pitted the Big Four—State, Duke Wake Forest and Carolina—against some of the best basketball programs from across the nation, the Dixie Classic essentially turned basketball from an also-ran sport to THE sport of North Carolina.

Case knew that simply playing competitive basketball wasn't enough to put people in the seats. Think of basketball of the 40's as the women's soccer of today. Sure, there are some local teams that compete on a national level year-in and year-out, but it's not enough to bring people through the turnstiles in droves. Case needed to create that kind of excitement, and the Dixie Classic provided it.

It certainly helped Everett's case that he and the Wolfpack were so successful in the event he helped create. Over his tenure he won seven Dixie Classic titles, more than any other coach, including the first four (1949-1952). Add in his successes in the Southern Conference Tournament (six straight titles) and the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament (four titles) that were often hosted in Reynolds, and it's easy to see why basketball was embraced so rabidly here in North Carolina.

And speaking of the ACC Tournament, all of Case's past is prologue to this weekend's installment. In the years since Case brought big time basketball to the area, the ACC Tournament has become the ultimate showcase for the sport on a national level.

It's perhaps fitting that in a season when the talent level for the rest of the country's basketball programs is waning a bit, the ACC is stronger than ever. While huge conferences of 10, 12 and 14 teams struggle to get more than two teams into the NCAA Tournament, the nine-team ACC could possibly send seven of its schools to the Big Dance. Football may bring in the big bucks from bowls and TV contracts, but make no mistake that the ACC is still a basketball conference, first and foremost.

Need proof? When you and your coworkers are huddled around a TV in the breakroom at 2:30 in the afternoon, or every one of your high school's TVs are checked out of the AV closet, or you swing by the local barber shop and the sign on the door reads "Gone to watch the tournament—be back at 4:00," then you'll know why basketball is still King on Tobacco Road.

All because of a man from the corn fields of Indiana.

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