HBO commemorates 1985 championship

Courtney Scrib

It has been said that there are no perfect men in the world. On April 1, 1985, however, one team proved that with heart and courage, a group of “imperfect” men can accomplish a near-perfect feat.

In what has been called one of the greatest upsets in college basketball and in a game that defines what “March Madness” is all about, Villanova defeated the heavily-favored (and feared) Georgetown Hoyas, 66-64, to claim the NCAA championship title.

“No one thought they could do it,” Coach Rollie Massimino told a reporter immediately following his team’s historical win, “but I did, and they did.”

Last Monday night HBO debuted “Perfect Upset: The 1985 Villanova vs. Georgetown NCAA Championship,” an hour-long documentary that chronicles the events that preceded and followed that memorable night in Lexington, Ky.

(Before the start of this year’s “Sweet Sixteen” games, HBO actually released the film early to Villanova so that the basketball team could watch it during the snowy, nine hour bus ride to Syracuse before facing UNC.)

The ’85 game was hailed as a match of David versus Goliath. Leading the Wildcats was “Daddy Mass,” who was known for his family-style home-cooked meals as much he was for his family-style basketball program, and the self-proclaimed “Expansion Crew” of center Ed Pinckney, forward Dwayne McClain and point guard Gary McLain.

Another unforgettable member of the Villanova family was the beloved Jake Nevin. The longtime trainer had been diagnosed with Lou Gerhig’s disease but was with the team every step of the way, earning himself the team’s “unofficial mascot” title.

Meanwhile, Georgetown with their us-against-the-world attitude and “Hoya Paranoia” aura took the court confident that they would be crowned the national champs for the second consecutive year.

“We weren’t going to be humble,” former Hoyas coach John Thompson said. “We weren’t Jackie Robinson.”

In fact, people had already began selling “Georgetown: 1985 NCAA National Champions” t-shirts even before the game had started.

“Basically we were coming to see how badly Georgetown could beat Villanova,” Washington Post Michael Wilbon columnist recounted.

No one could have predicted what unfolded that night. The improbable Wildcats were nearly flawless against one of the top defensive teams in the nation. They shot an unheard of 79 percent (22-of-28) from the field, missing just one shot in the second half and setting an NCAA Final Four record. “Secret Weapon” sophomore Harold Jensen was especially explosive coming off the bench.

“We didn’t miss. We couldn’t miss,” Pinckney said. “It was unreal.”

In addition to featuring interviews with sports analysts and the coaches and players of both teams, the film also sheds light on the other story lines feeding to the “drama” of the championship game. (One anecdote about a quarterfinal half-time speech in which a fiery Massimino yelling about wanting a “big bowl of pasta with clam sauce” was especially amusing.)

While the producers focused most on honoring the team’s accomplishments, they also detailed the impact that McLain’s admission to using cocaine in college had on the Villanova family.

“For better or for worse, we are all married forever,” McLain said.

HBO plans to air the documentary again tonight at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, April 10 at 10 a.m.