March 11, 2016

By John Heisler

Former University of Notre Dame men’s basketball All-American Adrian Dantley Friday revived memories of the epic 1974 Irish victory over top-rated and unbeaten UCLA–that ended the Bruins’ record 88-game win streak—while joining the Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball Legends Class of 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Dantley qualified as one of 14 former standout players and a three-time ACC coach of the year who headlined this year’s class of ACC Basketball Legends presented by New York Life. The Legends will be recognized Friday night during the 2016 New York Life ACC Tournament semifinals—and they were featured at the annual ACC Legends Luncheon at the Washington Marriott Marquis Hotel.

Asked to list his top Irish memories by luncheon master of ceremonies Tim Brant, Dantley kidded, “I still see Bill Walton all the time and I remember him coming in whistling the Notre Dame Victory March. I think they thought they would probably crush us. We ended up ending their 88-game winning streak, and I can remember Bill crying when they left our arena.”

Dantley grew up in the Maryland/District of Columbia area and originally thought he might end up playing in the ACC.

“When I was young, my high school coach Morgan Wootten and Dean Smith were real close. and I went to camp there (Chapel Hill) in the summers and thought I’d end up at North Carolina. But I liked to score, and I used to look at North Carolina and they used to play that four corners and I thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to go there,’ said Dantley with a laugh.

“When I grew up Austin Carr was my idol, he was one of the great college players to play the game. And I liked the fact Notre Dame was on television every game.”

Dantley Friday joined the 2016 ACC Legends Class that also included Jim Hooley (forward, Boston College), Grayson Marshall (guard, Clemson), Jason Williams (guard, Duke), Rowland Garrett (forward, Florida State), BJ Elder (guard, Georgia Tech), Darrell Griffith (guard, Louisville), John Salmons (forward, Miami), James Worthy (forward, North Carolina), Anthony “Spud” Webb (guard, North Carolina State), Charles Smith (forward, Pittsburgh), Derrick Coleman (forward, Syracuse), Norman Nolan (forward, Virginia, Howard Pardue (forward, Virginia Tech) and Dave Odom (head coach, Wake Forest).

This year’s ACC Legends class included four national players of the year, two NCAA Final Four MVPs, three national championship team members, two ACC Tournament MVPs and a national coach of the year.

As a Naismith Hall of Famer, a United State Olympic gold medalist and a two-time consensus All-American, Dantley ranks among the game’s all-time elite. He scored over 2,200 points in his three seasons (1973-76) for head coach Digger Phelps at Notre Dame, averaging 30.4 points his sophomore year and just under 29 points as a junior. The 6-foot-5 native of Washington, D.C., connected on over 56 percent of his shots from the floor as a collegian, shot 80 percent from the foul line and pulled down nearly 10 rebounds per game.

After leading the Irish to three consecutive NCAA berths and top 10 rankings, Dantley starred for the U.S. Olympic team in the 1976 Summer Olympic Games at Montreal. He led all players with 30 points as the U.S. squad downed Yugoslavia 95-74 in the title game. Dantley played 15 seasons professionally and was a six-time NBA All-Star. His professional resume also includes the 1977 NBA Rookie of the Year award and two league scoring titles.

Dantley became part of a long list of former District of Columbia area players who came to South Bend—including Carr, Bob Whitmore, Collis Jones, Sid Catlett, Tracy Jackson, Don “Duck” Williams, Tom Sluby, Monty Williams, Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, among others.

Dantley joined the Notre Dame Ring of Honor in 2012. Now living in Silver Spring, Maryland, he has remained in the game since his retirement, working as both a coach and an official.

Among those in attendance Friday were Jackson along with former Irish guard Stan Wilcox (now athletics director at Florida State) and a table full of Notre Dame athletics administrators. Also present was longtime Clemson football communications director Tim Bourret, who received his master’s degree at Notre Dame the same summer (1978) that Dantley earned his degree—and Bourret brought along old photos of Dantley, Dantley’s mother (Virginia) and Bourret in front of the Golden Dome.