The Thrill That’s Lingered 30 YearsChaminade’s Tony Randolph and Virginia’s Ralph Sampson sat courtside last month at Lahaina Civic Center, laughing and joking and having a great time watching Chaminade play the Giant Killer role again as the Division 2 Silverswords beat D-1 power Texas in the Maui Invitational.
Randolph and Sampson are good friends these days, nearly 30 years since they battled head-to-head in the game often dubbed “The Biggest College Sports Upset of All Time.”
It was Dec. 23, 1982, when tiny Chaminade stunned No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Virginia at what was then called the HIC (now the Blaisdell) in Honolulu.
“What do I remember? I remember losing,” Sampson tells a national television interviewer, laughing. “They played well. You have to give them credit.”
“We had beaten crosstown rival Hawaii (a couple of games prior to the Virginia upset),” Randolph says. “That gave us confidence.”
Randolph, at 6-foot-7, and Sampson, at an imposing 7-foot-4, are both native Virginians and had played together many times in what Randolph called “street ball” back in their hometown. “I knew I could play him,” he says. “I just had to be quick and shoot from the outside. Sometimes you have those games when you feel like it’s going to be your night. The rim was like an ocean, and everything was falling in.”
Randolph scored 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting in Chaminade’s 77-72 victory for the ages. “The game has a life of its own,” he says now. “People still talk about it. They never forget.”
Over the years, Randolph says he has heard from people as far away as New Zealand, Germany, Japan and many small towns around the United States.“My brother once set up a game for me to play at a state penitentiary in Ohio against some guys who were considered ‘safe.’ As we came onto the court, one of their guys came up to me, and said, ‘Hey, you are the Giant Killers!'”
Many years after The Upset, Randolph had Giant Killers tattooed on his right forearm.
“It reminds me of what we accomplished – it’s almost spiritual,” he says. “It’s almost as if it was meant to happen, a great story of underdogs, like David and Goliath.”
After playing some pro ball overseas and spending 21 years working with troubled youths in the Hawaii Family Court system in Honolulu, Randolph has a new home at Saint Francis School in Manoa. He’s in his second year as the dean of discipline there, and also assistant boys varsity basketball coach.
“The kids here are wonderful. It’s such a good place,” he says. “The job enables me to work with kids, which I love. There are some good athletes here, and we were successful last year (winning the ILH D-2 championship). This year, we’ve already beaten some D-1 teams, so we’re excited.”
Time rarely goes by when someone doesn’t again bring up Ralph Sampson or The Upset.
“They come up and say ‘How did you guys do it?'” he says. “It’s so important to so many people. There’s a movie in the process about the game – it’s affected so many lives.”
The Upset is a part of Tony Randolph, and so are the Islands.
“I came to Hawaii, fell in love with it, met my wife here and we’ve lived here the rest of our lives. I feel truly blessed and humbled to have been a part of it.”
Yes, 30 years later -and forever – Chaminade has still beaten Virginia. The Giant Killers live on.