Thirty years later, the details remain in sharp focus for Chuck Everson. His cameo appearance in Villanova's shocking upset of No. 1 Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game has given the 7-1 former Brentwood High School star a lifetime of pleasurably vivid memories . . . even if his family doesn't always share his excitement.
Every five years, on an anniversary of the Wildcats' 66-64 victory over the Hoyas on April 1, 1985, in Lexington, Kentucky., Everson gets calls from former teammates, friends and even inquiring reporters who remember how his getting slapped by an opponent just before halftime helped trigger an epic second-half charge.
His eyes always light up, a reaction not shared by the others in his Farmingville household.
"It's kind of funny," Everson said Wednesday. "Any time the Villanova thing comes up, my daughter [Kathleen] and my wife [Kathy] just roll their eyes and go, 'Oh, my God. Again?' "
Everson's story is worth recalling as the 2015 NCAA Tournament shifts into high gear with Villanova a top seed in the East Regional and unbeaten Kentucky No. 1 in the Midwest.
The potential battle of top-seeded teams could make for a great game, but it would be nothing compared to the drama of eighth-seeded Villanova's Cinderella run in 1985.
About the run
In the Southeast Regional, the Wildcats:
Escaped against No. 9 Dayton, 51-49, after the host Flyers had taken a 49-47 lead.
Beat No. 1 Michigan, 59-55.
Beat No. 5 Maryland, 46-43
Beat No. 2 North Carolina, 56-44, for the regional championship.
The Final Four matched Villanova against Memphis, a No. 2 seed, and Patrick Ewing's Hoyas vs. Chris Mullin and the St. John's Redmen in a battle of No. 1 seeds.
Everson, now 50, then a backup to star center Ed Pinckney, remembered watching the Georgetown-St. John's semifinal game and "actually rooting for Georgetown to win because we felt that St. John's matched up better against us. They gave us fits. Walter Berry gave us a real tough time. Chris Mullin gave us a real tough time."
The Wildcats were buoyed by close Big East regular-season losses to Georgetown, 52-50 in overtime and 57-50. Coincidentally, ESPN was showing the overtime game the morning of the championship, a perfect jumping-off point for Rollie Massimino's pregame message. "Coach Mass wanted us to think about two things," Everson said. "Anybody can beat anybody on one night, and play the game to win instead of playing not to lose."
Everson said his teammates, including Pinckney, forwards Dwayne McClain and Harold Pressley and guards Gary McLain and Harold Jensen, did not fear the ultraphysical Ewing-led, John Thompson-coached Hoyas, who also featured stars Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Bill Martin.
"We were not in awe or afraid of Georgetown or the Hoya Paranoia thing that was going on with their team," Everson said. "We knew what we were getting involved with; we knew there would be a lot of pressure, especially in the backcourt. And we knew if we got by that, we'd have to deal with the big guy [Ewing] in the middle. So we knew what they were about. We knew they would play hard."
So did Everson, who entered the game late in the first half and inadvertently became involved in a play reporters later termed pivotal.
"Pressley tipped one in and we're up one. We go back on defense and Wingate is coming down the floor with the ball. I'm racing down the floor with Reggie Williams to get to a spot. The last thing I wanted to happen was to have Reggie tap the ball in and we go down one at halftime and I get screamed at by Coach Mass in the locker room. That was not going to happen," Everson said.
"I put a good, hard, clean box-out on him. I got in front of him and hit him with my back. It was legit; it wasn't any kind of dirty play. He didn't like that too much and at halftime, he came up and kind of shoved me and half-slapped me in the face and took off running the other way.
"That charged up Coach Mass and all the guys, and he used that in the locker room. In the second half, we came out and shot 9-for-10 and went on to win the game."
Before Massimino even got to deliver his halftime pep talk, further inspiration was provided by the haughty Hoyas. "The thing that people don't know is that our locker room was behind the Georgetown bench and their locker room was behind our bench," Everson said. "So we had to cross paths with them in the hallway. Those guys were kind of laughing and snickering and saying things like, 'It's OK. We got this. It's only one point; we're going to take care of you in the second half.' "
Instead, Villanova took care of business and pulled off what is considered one of the greatest upsets not only in NCAA basketball history but in all of sports.
Everson became a critical footnote to the script. "At the time, I was mad because I knew I wasn't getting in in the second half unless [Pinckney] got hurt real bad," Everson said.
"I wanted a foul on Reggie so I could shoot the one-and-one and get a chance to score in the championship game. I never realized what a big moment that was until the game is over."
That's when a surprised Everson found "25 or 30 reporters" crowded around his locker. "They wanted to know what happened. They called it the turning point of the game," he said.
Everson acknowledged, with a chuckle, that it was a turning point in his life. "I've been milking three minutes of playing time for 30 years now," he said.