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December 5, 2012

An unparalleled piece of history




During Sidney's Lowe final year as head basketball coach at NC State, he hosted a group of former players, coaches and managers for a brunch reunion.

The distinguished guests were greeted with a six-minute scoreboard video directed by former NCSU team manager turned filmmaker Tor Ramsey. Later during the event, Ramsey's 20-minute film would dazzle the crowd.

Former NC State point guard Chris Corchiani knew that Ramsey was showing a piece of a much larger project, but he still was not prepared to watch what he saw.

"I saw a look on a lot of the ex-players' faces of the old video," Corchiani recalled. "There was a sense of pride beaming down on all the ex-players' faces.

"I realized this was something special."



The video Corchiani and others saw that afternoon was only a small snippet of what would be a three-hour film directed by Ramsey on the history of NC State basketball, a DVD called "Running With The Pack."

Ramsey came up with the idea to do such a film in 1992 as an admitted heartbroken NC State fan over the sudden struggles of its proud basketball program. He flirted the idea by some in the Wolfpack Club but was told, "It would take an act of Congress to do that."

The Shelby, N.C., native, who grew up in a devoted NC State household as the son of a father who refused to utter the words "Chapel Hill," moved out to Los Angeles to continue his filmmaking career, but he was back in Raleigh four years ago when he received notice from GoPack.com's Tim Peeler about a discovery in Reynolds Coliseum.

In the basement of the historic building were film canisters that went all the way back to the days of legendary coach Everett Case. The timing coincided with the 100th anniversary of NC State basketball and came just after Wolfpack great Dick Dickey had passed away.

The time had come for Ramsey to pursue his project. As far as he could tell, only Duke, Indiana and Kentucky had similar films. Ramsey had an advantage for his project. During Case's 28 years as State's coach, he kept film of almost every game and many practices.

"That stuff is still intact," Ramsey noted. "A lot of them are archived with the ACC. You got the entire history of NC State basketball, which really started with Everett Case; you got the whole thing before your eyes."

Dickey's passing also spurred Ramsey to start interviewing former players, including some from as far back as Case's first team in 1946.

"Their memory is unbelievable, and they can give you details of certain plays that is really remarkable," Ramsey noted. "These guys would sit down with us for hours and hours."

The end result was a feature that Ramsey is confident is "the most comprehensive history that has ever been done of any program in history because of the fact that is so well-documented and those films have stayed intact.

"When you do a film, it's like taking a journey out west - you discover all these things," Ramsey said. "I just got more and more fascinated with everything I found out."



Former NC State head coach Jim Valvano famously said that a successful day included thinking, laughing and crying.

"You do all three of those things watching this film. There are a lot of laughs. There is a lot of funny stuff in it. There's a lot of real factual stuff in it, and there are a lot of tear-jerking moments," Ramsey said. "There are a lot of players getting choked up on camera about certain things."

Ramsey used his theatrical background to do more than just tell the story of NC State basketball - he recreates the emotions of every moment. He even hired Los Angeles-composer Bill Benson to create an original score for the film.

Corchiani was quickly taken aback by how much he had never seen about NC State basketball, like Lou Pucillo throwing a behind the back pass on a fastbreak in the late-50's, Eddie Biedenbach emotionally talking about David Thompson's terrifying fall in 1974 and even Valvano running around a hotel wearing a unitard.

"To see the history gave me chills," Corchiani said. "That is the beauty of this DVD - it takes fans way back. It really gives everyone a sense of who NC State was and who we are and what we need to maintain and become."

Corchiani was so inspired by what he saw during that reunion that he enthusiastically signed up with Ramsey to help produce the project. Corchiani, his wife Stewart and Ramsey have worked tirelessly since then to finish the film, which will be screened for the first time Dec. 6 and is available at www.runningwiththepackdvd.com.

Ramsey also got cooperation from the NC State athletic department.

"I want to give Debbie Yow a huge amount of credit for creating the atmosphere to allow this to happen," Ramsey noted.

Ramsey is excited about releasing this film at a time where NC State basketball coach Mark Gottfried is collecting talent at a rate that has caught the attention of the college basketball world.

In hindsight, producing the project in 2012 rather than 1992 was a blessing in more ways than one.

"I'm glad it didn't happen back then because I didn't have the skills as a filmmaker," Ramsey said. "I needed to get some experience.

"I don't think the timing could ever be better. Right now is a great time to look backwards because it looks like we have a good future. Mark Gottfried has embraced the history of the program like no coach has since Valvano."

Running With The Pack now gives fans that opportunity to embrace the program in a way they may have never seen it.


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