Deacs Break Boeheim Spell

It took six tries, but Wake finally gave Jim Boeheim something to really whine about tonight at Joel Coliseum.

Known almost as much over the years for his bellyaching as his Hall-of-Fame coaching acumen, Boeheim was actually, best I could tell, on his best behavior after the Deacons beat Syracuse 73-67 for their first ACC victory. No grousing about the calls. No grumbling about having to eat at a Denny’s. No we-wuz-robbed kvetching at all, at least none that I could detect listening to the post-game video provided so graciously by the Syracuse Post-Standard.

People I know who know Boeheim say he’s a prince of a guy. And you certainly don’t have to read this to know he’s one of the greatest college basketball coaches ever. His 915-360 record, all of it fashioned at Syracuse, his alma mater, assures his spot in the sport’s pantheon.

Not only that, but I might, in a weak moment, even admit that I’ve enjoyed Boeheim’s acidic, dripping sarcasm on certain occasions. We might have heard some tonight but, again, not being there in person, I couldn’t be sure.

Maybe he was ripping his guards when asked about his team’s paltry nine assists. Or maybe he was just explaining that passing is not this team’s thing.

“We don’t get assists,’’ Boeheim. “We dribble-drive mostly, and try to score that way.’’

Tonight the Deacons beat Syracuse for the first time by containing the dribble-drive well enough to get stops on 20 of the Orange’s 35 second-half possessions. What’s more, they allowed Syracuse only six offensive rebounds.

The Orange, a team that can hurt you as bad on the second shot as the first, managed only 11 second-chance points. Coach Danny Manning of Wake will tell you that’s too many, but he knows that this night he didn’t get beat on the boards.

He’ll also tell you his team won the hard way, by playing the second half without leading scorer Keyshawn Woods and most of the final 10 minutes without center Doral Moore. Woods injured his knee in the first half, and his availability for Saturday’s game at BC may or may not have been determined – but wasn’t revealed. And Moore picked up his fourth foul with 10:36 left and sat the next eight minutes.

Earlier the Deacons were losing games at the defensive end, especially in the second half and especially, especially down the stretch. So Manning has to be encouraged to see the Deacons make a second-half stand for the second game in a row. The Deacons got 19 stops on 36 possessions Saturday at North Carolina, which means the last two teams have scored on just 44 percent of their second-half possessions.

If Wake plays defense that well at BC and as the season progresses, it might even be playing games that matter come March. Given the pratfall out of the gates, that would be some accomplishment.

I did like the way Manning mixed in the zone tonight, but I noticed that at winning time he went man and the Deacons responded by getting stops on seven of the final 10 possessions.

Wake’s three biggest offense plays, in the mind of Boeheim as well as my own, were the three 3-pointers out of the left corner, the first two by Bryant Crawford and the third by Chaundee Brown. Just when I was wondering what all the fuss was about this Brown guy, he nailed that trey for a 55-53 lead with 4 ½ minutes to go.

He even acted like he meant to make it, impressive for a freshman who had missed all five of his earlier shots from the floor.

Baskets by Terrence Thompson (off a nice feed by Brown) and Brandon Childress put the Deacons ahead to stay for the final two minutes, though a well-placed mic might have picked up the teeth-gnashing on the Wake bench when knock-dead free-throw shooters like Mitchell Wilbekin, Bryant Crawford and Childress kept missing free throws.

I thought Wake had made a mistake by inbounding to Olivier Sarr with 19 seconds left in a two-point game.

But Sarr sure showed me by draining both, then hitting two more with seven seconds left for good measure.

Manning and his players had good reason to be feeling pretty good when walking out the back door of the Joel in the bitter winter wind. It’s not every day, after all, that Wake beats Syracuse in basketball.

Before tonight, it wasn’t any day.

R.I.P. Rick Hall: You Earned It

Musically, my favorite haunt is the intersection of Williams Avenue and Charles Boulevard – as in Hank Williams and Ray Charles.

And if you really want to see me reduced to a mass of quivering protoplasm (to steal a line from my pal Rico Cavatinni) then just play Dark End of the Street done by anybody who did it. For purposes of this post, I’ll link the version by a rich kid from Waycross, Georgia named Gram Parsons who spent most of his short, tortured life at the corner of Williams and Charles.

See, I grew with the mistaken belief that Nashville was the Mecca of all good music. These days, to direct my prayers of gratitude and appreciation to whatever higher being is responsible for the glory of music, I face further west.

Memphis is the center of my musical universe because Memphis, unlike Nashville, got soul.

Gram Parsons knew this. So did Dan Penn and Chip Moman, the two white cats that wrote Dark End of the Street.

Penn, who also wrote the Aretha Franklin classic Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, was knocking around Florence, Ala., when he fell in with a couple of other budding musicians named Billy Sherrill and Rick Hall to form a band called the Fairlanes. Sherrill eventually headed to Nashville where he had a huge hand in writing and producing such standards as Stand By Your Man by Tammy Wynette and He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones.

One of his last projects before heading to Nashville was to open a recording studio with Hall and another investor. They dubbed it FAME studios for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, but the place became legendary for the small town just outside Florence where it relocated after Sherrill split for Nashvile fame.

A town called Muscle Shoals.

In previous research excursions back through musical time and space, I came across Arthur Alexander, whose song You Better Move On I knew from childhood having worn out the Rolling Stones’ album December’s Children (And Everybody’s).

I wasn’t hip enough as a kid to know Arthur Alexander, but there was a guy a half-generation ahead than me living in Liverpool, England who was.

“We were trying to get that bass sound Arthur Alexander was getting in Muscle Shoals,’’ John Lennon said. “We love his records.’’

He loved Arthur Alexander so much the Beatles covered his Anna (Go to Him). The Beatles version was killer, of course, but check out Alexander’s original.

Muscle Shoals, as the story goes, may not have ever got going without the $10,000 Hall earned off the bat from selling You Better Move On to Dot Records in Nashville. The payoff allowed him to move from Florence to Muscle Shoals and build the low cinderblock building in which so much musical magic was made over the years.

The most famous Muscle Shoals’ story is probably about the time Aretha Franklin came to North Alabama to record. The visit ended with the drunken cantankerous Hall brawling with an equally drunken and cantankerous Ted White, Aretha’s husband and manager.

But thankfully, before it came to blows the visit produced I Never Loved a Man and the first takes of Do Right Woman.

It always blew me away checking out the back of the album to see that the musicians making this deep soul music were for the most part white men wearing crew cuts who looked more like Alabama State patrolmen than the hippest of musicians. Only years later would I learn that one was Spooner Oldham, whose funky stylings on the electric piano opened Aretha’s ears and set I Never Loved a Man in motion. Another was a bassist named David Hood, whose son, Patterson Hood, plays in one of my most favorite of contemporary bands, The Drive-By Truckers.

The story of Muscle Shoals is well-documented, so much so that a basketball coach at Wake Forest named Jeff Bzdelik was all excited one day telling me about the documentary he and his wife Nina had watched the night before called Muscle Shoals. Bzdelik, I have to think, might have known music better than coaching basketball.

Rick Hall was born Roe Erister Hall on Jan. 31, 1932. His mother abandoned the family before Hall was five to work in a bordello. His father was a sharecropper who occasionally found work in a sawmill. The family home had a dirt floor with no running water.

Hall’s wife died when a car he was driving crashed in 1956. Two weeks later his father died after a tractor Hall had bought him overturned.

Hall, grief-stricken, spent the next four years drowning in a bottle, not worth shooting, until emerging from the doldrums to set up shop at the corner of Williams and Charles and churn out hits by Arthur Alexander, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Clarence Carter, The Osmonds, Mac Davis, Jerry Reed and countless others.

Grief couldn’t kill Rick Hall. Neither could fisticuffs from Aretha Franklin’s husband or the heartbreak of losing his legendary rhythm section, The Swampers, to their own studio venture in 1969, at the height of all he had going on.

But cancer finally caught up with him and Hall died yesterday. He was 85. The intersection of Williams and Charles is adorn with crepe, but the music, as always, sounds heavenly.