Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Tar Heel and his unbreakable record

Many of us remember Larry Miller as the tough-as-nails small forward who led North Carolina to its first two Final Fours under Dean Smith in 1967 and '68. He was player of the year in the ACC both of those years, and we don't remember much after that.

Miller, though, went from Chapel Hill to the old American Basketball Association. And he was there, playing for our Carolina Cougars, on March 18, 1972, when he set the record that will never be broken.

Miller scored a league-mark of 67 points against the Memphis Pros in a game at the Greensboro Coliseum that night. Since the ABA went out of business shortly after that, Miller's record will stand for all time.

Miller was a decent but hardly dominant pro player, averaging 13.6 points over a seven-year career. But he simply had one of those nights when he could do no wrong. His teammates were feeding the hot hand, and he finished up with 25 field goals in 39 attempts and 17 free throws in 23 tries. He played for 46 of the game's 48 minutes, and also contributed eight rebounds and four assists.

Miller, who was 6-foot-4, didn't get to savor the victory long. Two nights later, as he told writer David Friedman, his house, not far from Greensboro, burned down. He lost many possessions, but that record is his forever.--Stan Olson