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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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History course helps preserve rich, storied past
For Barry Lawing, it began as something of a "lark."
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published December 25, 2006
For Barry Lawing, it began as something of a "lark."
A longtime instructor at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C., Lawing proposed a continuing education course that would marry his two passions: history and Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.
"My dad and my brother took me to my first Wake Forest game in 1967," Lawing said breathlessly as he relived the Demon Deacons' 90-80 win against Clemson as if it had happened a day earlier. "When you're a kid, going to a college basketball game seems like the coolest thing. I got to be a huge fan."
And the 49-year-old realized he was not alone.
Far from it. ACC basketball in North Carolina is akin to a religion much like football is in the deep South. It inspires passion and prayer. It has its own dogma if you're from Chapel Hill, the devil does wear a blue dress and not Prada. It's intricately and inextricably woven into everyday life along Tobacco Road, especially during the ACC Tournament, which comes to the St. Pete Times Forum in March.
It's why ACC basketball is so unique.
So, why not a course about its roots?
"I loved the concept," said Jennie Fentress, the school's coordinator for community services who happens to be a North Carolina alumna and bleeds Tar Heel blue. "There's so much history, so many people. The stories are so exciting, and many of them are so touching. If we don't hear those stories now, we may never know them."
Not a problem.
For a fourth consecutive year starting next month, Lawing, who has written a book on Wake Forest basketball's past, will relay those stories (with a bit of an emphasis on Wake Forest - he wears a Demon Deacon wristwatch) in a noncredit course that meets for eight weeks on Monday evenings so as not to interfere with attending or watching ACC games.
Like any of the other half-dozen history classes he teaches a term at Forsyth, he hands out a syllabus to his 30 or so students. But it's for fun. Under Course Objectives, Lawing lists "... to measure the students' understanding of Wake Forest and ACC basketball through a mid term and final exam. These tests will not be evaluated by the instructor and everyone who supports Wake Forest will receive an A. For everyone else - good luck."
During each class, Lawing shows video clips and lines up an impressive roster of guest speakers:
He has had Tommy Burleson, the center on North Carolina State's 1974 championship team. He has had former Duke star Gene Banks, whose final year was coach Mike Krzyzewski's first. He has had Charlie Davis, the former Wake Forest standout who was the ACC player of the year in 1971. He has had Wake Forest's dazzling but diminutive guard Muggsy Bogues. He has scheduled Eric Montross, the center on UNC's 1993 title team, as a guest for the upcoming year. And he has had former UNC coach Bill Guthridge and Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser.
"I had not heard anything about it, but he (Lawing) wrote a nice letter and followed up with a phone call, and it sounded legit," said Guthridge, who was Dean Smith's assistant for 30 years then took over for Smith and led the Tar Heels to two Final Fours (1998, 2000) in his three seasons. "He was very knowledgeable. He did his homework, and I think the students had to do some homework to prepare some questions to ask me. It was very interesting."
And fun, even the occasional tough question, such as why UNC didn't land David Thompson, who did it all for N.C. State, including an NCAA title - and at least it wasn't for Duke.
"What I've found in the six years I've been at Wake Forest, which I didn't really appreciate until I arrived in North Carolina, is how deeply inculcated ACC basketball is in the fabric of the people in that state," Prosser said. "People grew up with it. They watched it incessantly. They care about it passionately. Just the fact that there's such a course at a community college is reflective of that."
Hard to get them to leave
Rick Parry, 35, has a family and is a manager at a Wachovia Bank in Winston-Salem. He has a life. And he has a passion for ACC basketball and signed up for Lawing's course three years ago.
"Just having the opportunity to hear some of the players share their stories, share some inside information about their experiences in the league, has been a joy and pleasure for me," said Parry, a New Jersey native who moved to North Carolina when he was 8 years old and, at that time, had to choose a basketball side. (He picked N.C. State.) "It's probably one of the better things I've done."
So much so that he'll be back spending Monday evenings with Lawing for a third straight season.
"It's supposed to be a two-hour class, 6-8, but we rarely get through at 8. Oftentimes, it goes three hours," Lawing said. "It's the only class I've ever taught where it's hard to get the students to leave. We have a good time with it."