Fifty years since Wake’s Final Four!

Fifty years since Wake’s Final Four!
                There I was this morning, getting my usual Starbucks coffee at the Cameron Village store in Raleigh, when this (I would call young) man walked up to me, grabbed me by the arm, and said “so it is good to see you are still here”. I turned around and saw Al Koehler, one of a very few people who know what it is like to have been a Wake Forest basketball player and go to a Final Four.
                The year was 1962. Bones McKinney was the coach, and Len Chappell and Billy Packer were the two stars. I remember going to some of the playoff games in Charlotte with my parents that year, and then we were in what we all knew would be the first of many Final Four trips.
                We lost in the opening round to eventual champion Ohio State, but then beat UCLA in the consolation game for third place. They still had those games then. That would be the last NCAA playoff game UCLA would lose before winning so many in a row.
                I did not know Al then and would not really get to meet him well until he was in Raleigh as an FBI agent, and I was in the United States Attorney’s office.   We worked cases together, including a bank robbery in Rocky Mount we had to try twice before getting a conviction. He is still working today for the North Carolina Department of Insurance in an investigative capacity.
                I told Al I had recently seen his picture from a game in the Wake Forest museum in the town of Wake Forest, although the school had long since moved away to Winston-Salem by the time Al was there. He looked at me in amazement and said, “Listen, do you know it’s been fifty years since the Final Four? Fifty years! They are going to honor us at the Wake-Army football game in September, have a luncheon for us, and guess who the speaker is going to be…Packer.”
                I said back to Al, “Do you realize we have only been there once”?
                “Yes, but fifty years? What in the world has happened to all that time?”
                We both left Starbucks a few minutes later, with Al still muttering something about “fifty years”.
                To all those fans of those North Carolina schools that have been to the Final Four many times and won it as well, I would only say we Wake folks envy you and wonder what it would be like just one more time. But for a brief time in September, time will stop, and those in Old Gold and Black will cheer once more for a golden time! Go Deacs!

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