Past Imperfect: The Ballad of Fire & Ice

Posted by JWeill on January 26th, 2012

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Every two weeks, RTC contributor Joshua Lars Weill (@AgonicaBoss|Email) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the dynamic duo of  Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe.

Clearly, NC State coach Jimmy Valvano loved nicknames. He reveled in being “Jimmy V”. He started referring to his erratic star big man Charles Shackleford as “Shack” long before Shaq was Shaq. So it’s not surprising two star freshmen in 1987 would eventually get their own aliases.

But taking a glance at the pasty white point guard from Florida and his reed-thin fellow freshman from Maryland, would anyone have ever come up with the monikers “Fire” and “Ice”? Perhaps not at first. But it didn’t take long for Chris “Fire” Corchiani and Rodney “Ice” Monroe to earn their nicknames, and much more.

Rodney Monroe and Chris Corchiani made up one of the NCAA's all-time great backcourts.

Corchiani meshed well with the fiery (and proudly, even comically, Italian-American) Valvano right off the bat. A Florida prep legend that was named Florida’s Mr. Basketball in 1986 and again in 1987, Corchiani was a passionate and talkative pass-first point guard, a coach’s son who loved winning basketball games even more intensely than he hated to lose them. By the time he left for Raleigh, Corchiani had set Florida prep marks for both career points and career assists.

Monroe had also had a record-breaking high school career, establishing a Maryland state high school record for scoring with over 3,000 points. Coming out of Baltimore’s tough Catholic league, Monroe had his pick of programs, but ultimately chose the Wolfpack over his home state school. This was due in part to the departure of popular Terrapins coach Lefty Dreisell, but had more to do with the chance to play alongside Corchiani, whom Monroe had first met at a high school camp a year before. As any good scorer knows, playing with someone who can get you the ball means more chances to shoot. Both had been point guards in high school, but Valvano knew what he wanted.

“[Corchiani] was a point [guard] who thought pass first and shoot second. That’s why it was a joy to play with him because I thought shoot first. We really had a great combination,” Monroe said later.

Coach Jim Valvano was always close with his fiery point guard.

With future pros Chucky Brown, Vinny Del Negro, and Shackleford already in the fold, Monroe’s immediate role would be as instant offense off the bench, and that’s just what he was. Corchiani, meanwhile, moved seamlessly into the starting lineup and racked up 235 assists as a freshman. Valvano’s motion offense meant lots of looks for Del Negro and Brown, and lots of cleanup for Shackleford. Monroe came in launching as the team’s sixth man. After a 24-win campaign, however, NC State was shocked by Murray State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the beginning of a pattern of NCAA struggles that would haunt this vaunted duo.

It would be as sophomores that the Fire and Ice duo would more fully gain national attention. With Del Negro gone to the NBA, Monroe got his shot, and shoot he would. Playing the game with a quiet intensity, and never afraid to hoist up a deep one, Monroe was the icy compliment to Corchiani’s fiery temperament. Riding Monroe’s three-point bombs, Brown’s interior brawn and Corchiani’s total floor game, NC State won 22 games in 1988-89 and earned a 5-seed in the NCAA tournament, where it dispatched South Carolina and Iowa easily.

The Wolfpack’s run would be stopped, however, on a questionable traveling call on Corchiani that negated a potential game-tying bucket with under two minutes to do. With Alonzo Mourning doing damage inside (12 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 blocks), Georgetown would go on to beat NC State, 69-61. Still, the season had been a good one, with the Wolfpack finishing the regular season as ACC champions and reaching the Sweet 16. Hopes were high for the next year, with Fire and Ice returning as upperclassmen and talented young big man Tom Gugliotta joining the starting lineup.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.16.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 16th, 2011

And then there was one…undefeated conference! That’s right, the ACC is the last conference standing with no losses. Just yesterday the SEC continued its tradition of losing to a SoCon and Big South team (congrats to Elon and Coastal Carolina for the wins); Kent State took care of West Virginia and Miami knocked off Rutgers to down the Big East; Kansas and the Big 12 took one on the chin from Kentucky; last and definitely least, the Pac-12 was embarrassed as UCLA managed to lose by 20 at home to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders; and Michigan State lost to Duke at Madison Square Garden to seal the Big Ten’s fate. For those of you keeping score at home, the ACC is now a combined 22-0 after a little over a week of action.

  1. ESPN: Dana O’Neil and Jay Bilas do a great job capturing Mike Krzyzewski‘s career in wake of the Blue Devil victory over Michigan State to give him the all-time Division I wins record. O’Neil reflects on the more important things that the number 903 reminds us of. Most important are his family followed closely by his mentors and students from the game — basically, she takes this moment to reflect on Coach K’s career. Bilas’ reflection as a former player is much more personal. He describes his own recruitment, using it for a microcosm for Krzyzewski’s eventual rise to greatness. Bilas points to Coach K’s ability to bring out his player’s innate “toughness” in order to maximize his team’s potential (Author’s Note: Bilas has a slightly unconventional definition of “toughness” that’s worth checking out). Together these two pieces do a good job placing Duke’s legendary coach and his career in some kind of perspective.
  2. Boston Herald (via Baltimore Sun): Mark Turgeon has swagger. He had it as a player, and he’s got it as a coach. How many guys would go up to Larry Brown and demand a spot on Kansas’ basketball team? This profile of Turgeon reminded me a lot of stories about Mike Krzyzewski’s playing days at Army (undersized point guard, leader, etc.). Turgeon’s sharp tongue and obsession with winning also parallel Coach K. But watching Turgeon on the court, his composure stands out above his spurts of emotion. I think he’ll end up as a great hire for Maryland in the long run.
  3. Washington Times: Speaking of Turgeon, the big news from Monday night was Maryland star Terrell Stoglin beginning the Terps’ game from the bench. Although Stoglin said the matter was private, it sounds like the message was that Turgeon’s offensive star needs to shift his focus to both ends of the court. Stoglin ended up playing over 30 minutes and leading his team in scoring with 22 points. Maryland doesn’t have the firepower to blow the socks off its opponents this season, so the Terrapins will need to rely heavily on not making mistakes and playing effectively on the defensive end.
  4. Gaston Gazette: NC State may not have CJ Leslie (or point guard Ryan Harrow, who transferred to Kentucky), but the Wolfpack look like they’ve turned things up to eleven relative to last season. Their opponents so far aren’t necessarily giant-killers, but in their first two games they’ve assisted on 47 of their 62 field goals including 15 of the first 16 against Morehead State. Additionally, their shallow front line has been incredibly effective. Slimmed down Richard Howell and Deshawn Painter have replaced Leslie’s production and some. Sophomore Lorenzo Brown has also stepped up to run the point after the team lost both of last year’s point guards.
  5. Charlotte Observer: Speaking of NC State, former Wolfpack legend Rodney Monroe is back in the States after a 15-year professional career overseas to try and turn around Southlake Christian’s floundering basketball program. Monroe holds the NC State all-time scoring record with 2,551 points (a little more than college basketball great David Thompson). He’ll have his work cut out for him, as last year the Eagles only managed one win.

EXTRA: North Carolina’s newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, noticed that Playboy released its Top 25 for college basketball recently. Headlining the list is North Carolina, but Duke is ranked fourth. Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Austin Rivers all make the magazine’s All-America team. The ACC love stops there though.

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