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College Basketball Legend Lorenzo Charles Dies


Unidentified Man #1: ...on the dunk.




SIEGEL: Joining me now to talk about the life of Lorenzo Charles and the shot that links them together is Dereck Whittenburg, who went on to coach college basketball at Wagner and Fordham in New York. Welcome. And I'm sorry for the loss of your friend and teammate.

DERECK WHITTENBURG: Well, thank you very much, and our condolences from my family to Lorenzo's family. And what a tragic loss but what a lot of great memories about a wonderful teammate.

SIEGEL: How about that one memory, that shot that - I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, that shot or pass you threw to Lorenzo Charles.

WHITTENBURG: Well, Lorenzo and I will be linked together for the rest of my life and for college basketball history. For the past 28 years, every day, somebody's come up to me from an airport, across the country, Europe, anywhere, and always want to talk about the infamous pass or the shot. And they always mention Lorenzo and I together. And I will always remember that play, you know, for the rest of my career and life.

SIEGEL: You made a career out of basketball - assistant coach and then head coach in college. Lorenzo Charles was a kind of low draft pick, played briefly in the NBA and then played in Europe, minor league basketball, coached a little bit, didn't quite make a whole life out of it, though.

WHITTENBURG: And he really enjoyed it. Speaking with him a month ago at a memorial services at - one of our assistant coaches who suddenly passed away, and he explained to me he enjoyed it, being around people and kids. He was still involved in the game. He still thought he was very much involved in basketball.

SIEGEL: It's always a mystery to me why it is that you look at a college basketball team, a great college basketball team, and you think you know who could go on to be a star in the NBA. Obviously, seeing Drexler that night, you could tell this guy was going to be a star in the NBA. But is it obvious to everybody on the team? I mean, would you all have known, you know, Lorenzo Charles, very good college basketball player, probably not going to be a starter in the NBA, or do you think maybe he could be a starter in the NBA? What was your thought in those days?

WHITTENBURG: But he found his love, he enjoyed it, and that's what he wanted to do. And I - it looks like he was very successful at it.

SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Whittenburg, thank you very much for stopping with us en route to his funeral in North Carolina.

WHITTENBURG: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: Dereck Whittenburg, who was Lorenzo Charles' teammate at North Carolina State and is himself a veteran college basketball coach. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.