Q and A with former Tech All-American Mark Price

Former All-American Mark Price will be honored at halftime of Saturday's game against Duke as part of the 25th anniversary of Georgia Tech's first ACC championship.

Price, who lives in Duluth and works as a shooting consultant for the Hawks, reminisced some this week.

He talked about what it was like to be the first point guard recruited by Bobby Cremins, the shaggy white-headed coach from the Bronx, and to play on a team that defeated North Carolina three times in a season, including the 1985 ACC tournament final.

Q. Did you catch Cremins' win with the College of Charleston over North Carolina last week?

A. I didn't get to see the game, but I heard about it and saw the highlights. I sent a text to Coach as soon as I saw they'd won. I was really happy for him and his program.

Q. Did it bring back any memories?

A. Oh yeah. Lots of memories.

Q. So what was it like the first time Cremins showed up at your house in Enid, Oklahoma?

A. I don't think I'd ever heard anybody talk that fast for so long in my life. He talked for about two hours straight. And it took about two hours to decipher what he said after he left.

Q. What did he say that got your attention?

A. When Bobby got the job, the Tech program was in disarray. They'd just gotten in the ACC a couple years before. They couldn't really recruit top 10 players at that point. They had to find some guys flying under the radar. John Salley and I fit that bill. John was 6-9, about 185 pounds, and I was like 5-11, 155. I think people probably looked at Bobby like he was crazy when he told everybody that these two guys are going to help turn the program around.

Q. That ‘85 team had nine players, I think, and only six playing by the ACC tournament, when Duane Ferrell hurt his knee, right?

A. Really we only played five or six guys for three days straight. You look back at it, it was really incredible what we were able to pull off considering the circumstances.

Q. When Ferrell got hurt against Virginia in the first round, did you feel like you had a chance?

A. We still believed because we still had Scott Petway, a senior who was a really good defender, smart player. Although he didn't give us the offense that Duane did, in some ways Scott might have made us better defensively that weekend.

Q. When you went 14-for-14 from the free-throw line in the semifinals against Duke, did you notice you hadn't missed?

A. I didn't expect to miss much any time I went to the line. It was rare to get to the line 14 times in a game, but I was real aggressive, knowing with Duane out, I had to carry a real load offensively.

Q. That UNC team you faced in the finals was loaded?

A. I think they had five 7-footers in their lineup. Brad Daugherty and Kenny Smith and Steve Hale, a fellow Oklahoma guy, Joe Wolf, they had several guys that went on to play in the NBA. The legend of Dean Smith and all he accomplished. I think the biggest challenge was trying to beat them three times in one season. To beat Carolina twice was a big deal.

Q. The last team to do it had been N.C. State and David Thompson in 1974.

A. That's pretty good company. They were one of, if not the most dominant programs in the country. And here we were, lowly Georgia Tech, battered and hurt going in and trying to knock off Goliath for a third straight time. To pull it off was pretty amazing.

Q. What do you remember about the celebration?

A. I think we had captured the city, at that point. It's like we were the only team in town. I remember driving the bus from the [Omni] back to campus and the students were all out in the streets. We couldn't even drive the bus through the streets. Kids were going nuts.

Q. Is it fun to think you were the first in a line of great point guards to play for Cremins?

A. Yes. I think that's why Bobby and I still have a real special bond because I was the first. I took a chance on him, he took a chance on me, and it paid off.

Q. What was it like to play for him?

A. Bobby was great. He was tough, he was fun, he was a competitor. He let you do what you did. Although he wanted you to grow and become better, he didn't take away the things that you were good at. He instilled confidence in you that he believed in you. You wanted to just run through the wall for the guy.

Q. Easy to poke fun of, too?

A. He probably butchered the English language like no one I ever knew. After four years of playing for him, when people said ‘Mark' I didn't even respond, I was so used to being called ‘Mahk.'

Q. What are some stories that might come up this weekend?

A. The first time I met John Salley. I knew that they were recruiting John, and he knew that they were recruiting me. We both signed with Tech. I'm in my dorm room about 2 a.m. I'd just gotten there. Someone starts banging on the door. It's John Salley. He's like ‘Where's Mark Price?' I poked my head up out of the bed, and the first thing he said was ‘You're white.' They'd recruited me the whole time, and John didn't even know I was white.

Q. What did you say?

A. I just looked at him because he walked in with this big necklace that said ‘Spider' around his neck. This was John Salley, New York meeting Oklahoma. It was quite a scene and quite a way to start it all off.