Childress' Legend Lives On
Posted on October 20 2016
May 9, 2015
Randolph Childress, even on his best days, was not ready to go one-on-one with history.
So even while he was experiencing three of the most unforgettable days in the history of the ACC Tournament, Childress didn’t overly concern himself with the knowledge that it had been 33 seasons since Wake Forest had last won a conference championship.
“I was always quick to tell people, ‘I understand the history.’” Childress explained recently. “I just didn’t take it on myself. I didn’t take on the history.
“I felt like, ‘OK my responsibility and everything I was doing was just to the staff and the group of players I was playing with at that time.’ You can’t take on 30 years of history.
“You make your own history.”
Childress, a first-team All-ACC performer as a junior and senior, would be a Hall of Famer at Wake Forest even if he had never played in the 1995 ACC Tournament. His jersey No. 22 had been retired during an emotional pre game ceremony before the regular-season home finale against N.C. State, as was befitting a player who had just passed Skip Brown to become the school’s third all-time leading scorer behind Dickie Hemric and Len Chappell.
But it was the history he made in three games against Duke, Virginia and North Carolina that made him a legend.
Lifting the Deacons on his spindly back, Childress scored 40 against the Blue Devils, 30 against the Cavaliers and 37 against the Tar Heels in what has to be the great performance in the 61-year history of the ACC Tournament. His flair for the dramatic was at its most exquisite when he nailed a 10-foot runner with four seconds remaining in overtime to simultaneously break a tournament scoring record that had stood since 1957 and lift the Deacons to their first ACC title since 1962.
“I congratulate him,” Coach Dean Smith of the Tar Heels said afterward. “I’m glad he’s gone.”
Dave Odom; who made it happen in his fifth season as Wake Forest’s head coach, can remember 20 years later how he felt the day the Deacons bested arch rival North Carolina 82-80 and Childress passed Lennie Rosenbluth with 107 points in three games.
“The total unbridled joy and emotion of the championship-starved Wake fans — that’s what comes to mind,” Odom said. “That’s what I remember.
“I was aware of that the moment the championship was secure.”
Odom and Childress have both returned to Winston-Salem, Odom to live with his wife, Lynn, in semi-retirement (he still works a televised game a week as a color analyst) and Childress to help restore the Deacons to glory as an assistant coach for Danny Manning.
Many of the details have been blurred by time, but three moments will live forever in ACC lore.
Two were from the championship game — the audacity of Childress motioning for a fallen Jeff McInnis to get up while he was draining yet another 3-pointer; and, of course, the climatic shot.
But the third was not a shot, a pass or even a defensive gem. It was the timeout Odom called in the first half of the quarterfinal against Duke. Only 8:33 remained on the clock, but Odom didn’t feel he could wait for the next media timeout.
The Deacons trailed by 18.
“I remember the play,” Childress said. “I remember coming down the right side of the floor and I lost the ball. It went out of bounds and I remember it hopped over someone — it might have been a photographer or somebody — and went into the crowd. I think that’s the section my parents were sitting it.
“I was shaking my head. And I was more upset, like, ‘This can’t happen.’ I remember walking to the timeout and the coaching staff would always kind of huddle up and speak. And I just remember walking over to Scooter (Banks), and I just remember going off on those guys. I started off with Scooter because I told him: ‘You’re a senior; this is your last go-around, like mine. We’re not going to let this happen.’
“And I would always tell those young guys: ‘This is not going to happen. If you want to wait until your last go-around and come out with this kind of performance, then that’s on you. But not on my watch. This is not the way we’re going to play.’
“And I just remember just challenging our team, challenging our guys, challenging myself. I told them I would answer the bell.”
Odom’s recollection, for once, was a bit more succinct.
“I was exasperated and disappointed and often people asked me what I said to the team at that timeout,” Odom said. “I said something to the effect that I’ve seen people arrested for less. And then finally, as I got toward the end of the timeout period, I heard this voice at the back of the huddle, saying, ‘Enough, Coach. Enough. Give them to me and get out the way.’ And here comes Randolph.
“So I got the starting five out and Randolph said, ‘Coach, we’re coming back. Just leave it to me.’ From that point on, all I did was direct. I didn’t do a lot of coaching, but I directed.”
Twenty seconds into the resumption of play, Childress drilled a 3-pointer and the Deacons were off and running. With Childress making 10 shots in a row, Wake Forest pulled ahead 46-45 by halftime on the way to an 87-70 victory.
Childress really poured it on the Blue Devils in the second half, scoring 20 points in slightly more than eight minutes, to finish with 40 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals. He took 18 shots from the floor and made 13, and his eight 3-pointers (on 12 attempts) set a tournament record.
The momentum carried Wake Forest to the championship and Childress to everlasting fame.
“That was a significant swing,” Childress said. “When you go from down (by almost) 20 to winning the game by (almost) 20, that was essentially a 40-point swing — and that just doesn’t happen against a Duke team.”