2010 ACC Men's Basketball Legends: Dave Wiedeman, Wake Forest

Feb. 9, 2010

The 2010 ACC Basketball Legends class is a group of 12 former standout players - one from each ACC school - who will be honored during the 2010 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament. TheACC.com will feature two members of the ACC Legends Class each week during the six weeks prior to the tournament.

The annual ACC Legends Brunch will be held on Saturday, March 13 beginning at 10 a.m. Hosted by television personalities Tim Brant and Mike Hogewood, the ACC Men's Basketball Legends Brunch will be held in the in the Guilford Ballroom of the Sheraton Four Seasons Hotel.

Although he was an All-ACC player who graduated from Wake Forest, Dave Wiedeman might not be properly be served by the designation of student-athlete. Try “husband-father-student-athlete” and you’re getting warm.

The Demon Deacons’ ACC Legend for 2010 did more juggling than most circus performers as a 5-foot-11, 150-pound guard on the basketball team and married father of two – and later three – on the home front. Nearly 50 years after he helped the Deacs to their only Final Four appearance to date, he will return to North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad as an honoree and perhaps an object of amazement.

“Now, you look back,” Wiedeman recalled, “and you say, ‘My God. How did we ever do that’?”

These days, it’s often said that the 1950s and 1960s were “simpler times.” This is nonsense. Today, about one-third of American men aged 20-34 are married. In 1960, that number was 70 percent. Getting hitched as a teenager was almost commonplace in Wiedeman’s youth, and that explains part of the reason he dropped out of Wake after his freshman year of 1958-59, during which he was ineligible to play sports as a freshman under NCAA rules.

His high school sweetheart, Joan, was waiting for him, and they were married in 1959. A year later, they were back in their hometown in New Jersey when they welcomed their first child, Michael.

Dave, Joan and Michael made the move back to Winston-Salem in the summer of 1960. Dave needed to take a couple of classes to get back on track to graduation and to become eligible to play for Wake after two seasons of inactivity.

He was ready to go. He was one of the important pieces that Coach Horace Albert “Bones” McKinney, an entirely Southern character from Durham, N.C., gathered together from a 100-mile radius of the Northeast. Wiedeman was a nuisance of a 5-foot-9 guard from Delanco, N.J., who would ultimately be charged with harassing the best individual opponent under 6-7. Len Chappell was a 6-8 center from Portage, Pa., who finished with 2,165 points in three seasons. Billy Packer was a 5-9 guard out of Bethlehem, Pa., and the son of a coach.

Packer, it was alleged, was bound for Duke out of high school. Chappell was headed to the University of North Carolina. And Wiedeman? He was certain to follow Al Bunge, a former high school teammate, to the University of Maryland.

McKinney, an ordained minister so intense that he had to seat-belt himself to the bench lest he meander onto the court, got them all to come to the still-new Reynolda Campus at Wake Forest.

“He was able to inspire you,” Wiedeman said. “It was because of his personality. He was electrifying. He showed so much charisma that it was hard to tell him no.”

By going 14-for-24 from the floor, Wiedeman earned second-team All-ACC Tournament honors in 1961 and helped Wake to its first conference title. That earned the Deacs a trip to face homestanding St. John’s in Madison Square Garden, and Wake easily defeated the Redmen, as they were then known. They beat one future NBA head coach, Kevin Loughery of St. John’s, for the right to two others, Jim Lynam and Paul Westhead of St. Joseph’s.

The Hawks proved too tough for Wake, but the Deacs quickly decided they’d be back in the all-or-nothing pressure cooker known as the 1962 ACC Tournament. Only the champion from each league advanced to the NCAAs in that time, and that boiled everything down to one weekend in NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum.

In the league championship game, Wiedeman held three Clemson Tigers in check as the Deacs repeated their ACC title.

“My greatest strength as a player was my defensive ability,” Wiedeman said. “You learned to play defense when you had Chappell and Packer. Because they did most of the shooting.”

And so on the afternoon of March 3, 1962, life was good for Dave and Joan Wiedeman. It was also going to be a bit complicated. Joan was pregnant with the couple’s second son and due at the end of the month. If the Deacs hadn’t won the ACC Championship and the resulting NCAA berth, the family would have few distractions.

But the Deacs were in the tournament, and they were on a roll. They dispatched Yale in Philadelphia and then St. Joe’s and Villanova in College Park, Md., where Wake had suffered a 17-point loss to the Maryland Terrapins three months earlier. That might as well have been three decades earlier. The Deacs were on their way to Louisville and a baby to be named Victor was waffling on whether to enter the world on his due date or postpone things.

Dad traveled with the team to Kentucky and hoped for no news on the baby front because there were no contingency plans for any emergency return to the Triad.

“We did not have anything planned,” Wiedeman said. “Not at all. (Joan) was very late with our first child and we hoped it would be the same. I don’t know what I would have done.”

“You would have stayed with the team,” Joan chimed in.

The Deacs didn’t come back with a champion’s trophy, but they did defeat the burgeoning beast known as UCLA in the third-place game. The Bruins, making their first appearance in the national semifinals, wouldn’t lose another Final Four game until the classic semifinal of 1974 to NC State in the Greensboro Coliseum. In between, they won nine NCAA championships.

“Now it seems like it’s irrelevant, but to end up in third place? If you can’t be first or second, then third place isn’t bad,” he said.

Dad came back to campus with a trophy and memories and still expecting a child. Victor held off for three more weeks before appearing on April 18, 1962. Another son, Paul, was born in 1971.

Dave Wiedeman’s final season was his best individually. He averaged 13.9 points and five rebounds a game and helped Wake to the ACC Tournament final, which it lost to Duke. The season included first-team All-ACC designation alongside three eventually prominent players: Jeff Mullins of Duke, who scored 13,017 NBA points; Art Heyman, an All-American who played in the NBA and ABA; and Billy Cunningham of North Carolina, who authored 13,626 points of his own and coached the Philadelphia 76ers to an NBA crown in 1983.

At least three of Wiedeman’s teammates managed studies, basketball and marriage, but he was the only one who had children on top of everything else.

It made for a full life, and he wasn’t even 23 when he graduated.

Wiedeman got into high school coaching, compiling a 484-206 record (he thinks) in 29 seasons, two of which produced state championships in New Jersey. His 1988-89 team at Haddonfield Memorial High featured a backcourt of son Paul Wiedeman and Matt Maloney, who went on to a six-year NBA career.

Coaching high school games was a breeze when compared to the multitasking of college and family life, however.

“There were some difficult times. No doubt about it,” Wiedeman said. “But we did it, and we’re stronger for it.”