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Final Four Memories

1998 NCAA Men's Tournament

  Brown: 'I Thought I Saw Smitty . . . It Wasn't Him'

By Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 30, 1982


NEW ORLEANS, March 29 — Fred Brown sat at his locker and answered every question. It couldn't have been easy.

There were eight seconds left in the national championship game and Georgetown, down 63-62, was trying for a final shot. Brown, so valuable in the Hoyas' drive to get to this point, threw the ball right into the chest of North Carolina's James Worthy, a moment that will be frozen in time. Worthy caught the ball and was gone. So was Georgetown.

"I rushed the ball upcourt," Brown began, "and when I saw Eric Floyd open on the left baseline, I picked up my dribble. But the Carolina defense overplayed Floyd, so I looked to the middle for Patrick Ewing or Ed Spriggs. But both of them were covered.

"At that point I should have called timeout, because picking up the dribble had killed the play," Brown continued. "But I decided to pass it to Eric Smith, who was on the right side of the lane. I thought I saw Smitty out of the right corner of my eye.

"But it wasn't him. It was James Worthy.

"My peripheral vision is pretty good," said Brown. "But this time it failed me. It was only a split second. But, you know, that's all it takes to lose a game. I knew it was bad as soon as I let it go. I wanted to reach out and grab it back. If I'd had a rubber hand, I would have yanked it back in.

"He didn't steal it. I gave it away.

"It was just a standard, guard-to-forward pass," continued Brown. "I had made so many similar passes throughout the game, and someone from my team was always there. But not that last time.

"I hate to lose. Boy, I really hate it. But, I can't let this affect my life," Brown said, managing a smile.

Coach (John) Thompson told me after the game that I had won more games for him than I had lost. He said not to worry."

About 30 of the more than 100 reporters surrounding Brown thanked him for answering the questions. Many shook his hand. "How can you be so composed?" someone asked him. "This is part of growing up," Brown said.

Thompson said afterward, "I feel bad for Fred. But he's a tough kid. This is just part of growing up. We're not mad at Fred. And we don't feel like he lost the game."

Worthy, voted the most outstanding player in the final four, was just as surprised as Brown when he caught the ball.

"I saw him pick up his dribble," Worthy said. "I saw him fake the pass away (to Floyd). He looked back and I just stood there. I thought he would throw it over my head. I was pretty surprised when it landed in my chest."

Brown, Smith and Floyd explained that their team didn't want to call timeout after what would turn out to be Michael Jordan's game-winning basket with 15 seconds left.

"The first person we look for is Floyd," Smith said. "But there was no set play. I was there at first, and I called for the ball. I guess he heard my voice and thought I was still there."

"It was a great game," said Brown. "I loved playing it. I just wished the score was reversed at the end of the game."

© Copyright 1982 The Washington Post Company

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