Wednesday night’s instant classic in Durham resulted in bragging rights for Dookies until the teams meet again in a couple of weeks in Chapel Hill. Not only that, it means the rest of us are left with the insufferable whining of a select subset of Tarheel fans who think their HOF coach has lost his edge. Thankfully, there are national writers who, armed with a broader perspective and at least an average level of intelligence, are able to bring some semblance of reality back to the conversation. Here’s Chris Chase, writing for USA Today’s FTW:

Since returning to Carolina, after losing that title game with Kansas, Roy Williams has been the better basketball coach than Mike Krzyzewski. And not even the craziest at Cameron could say otherwise.

Chase certainly cites some interesting stats to support his assertion1. I don’t necessarily buy into his particular choice of statistics to compare the two almost equally great coaches. Coach K has a knock-out resume even outside of college basketball and Roy has the distinction of establishing substantial success at two different institutions, a not insignificant accomplishment even though he left Kansas without having won a title. But their respective personalities almost perfectly embody their programs2 in ways that, despite budding coaching trees, will be difficult to replace.

I think the subtext of Chase’s point is this – if you’re a Carolina fan and you’re cooing that it’s time for Roy to go, you’re off your rocker. The game hasn’t passed him by, he is a great coach and I don’t see any of that changing significantly before Roy decides for himself when it’s time to hang it up, no matter how near or far away that day is. Just cherish every game, season and ounce of success you have left with Roy because there’s no guarantee that there’s another Roy waiting in the wings to save whatever disastrous succession plan you’ve drawn up on a napkin.

  1. However, when referencing the coaches’ respective ACC records since Roy returned to Chapel Hill, Chase weirdly excludes Roy’s first year, correctly highlighting that Roy was coaching his predecessor’s players. Okay, but did Roy just roll the ball out for them and say “go play”? No. and pointing that out undermines any attempt to credit Roy with winning the national title the very next year with thos very same players.  ↩
  2. Coach K because he practically built Duke’s program, making it in his own image; and Roy because Roy is basically the perfect successor to Dean Smith – equal parts adaptable to the modern game and aww shucks good ol’ ball coach – though it took UNC a few revolutions around the earth and to Kansas and back to get him.  ↩

The Dean of Everything

When I saw the news on Twitter last Sunday about the passing of Dean Smith, my feeling of sadness was immediately followed by an urge to text JB and ask him to write something up for Notably Worthless. But after a brief moment, I realized it would mean more coming from me.

You see, I am not a lifelong Dean Smith fan. In fact, having been raised a Wolfpack fan, I was actually quite unimpressed with Dean Smith. But after he retired, the passage of time1 helped soften my hardened heart against Coach Smith. I was able to ignore the idol-worshiping noise a bit and finally absorb all of the stories that truly defined the man.

Sometimes talent, luck, hard work, and timing conspire to bring great fortune to a man. And other times, as in the case of Coach Smith, talent, luck, hard work, and timing conspire to bring great fortune to humanity. For a time, Dean Smith was measured by the players he produced and the wins he amassed. But that time has long since passed. Today, and for many generations to come, we remember Coach Smith for the men he served, the men he saved, and the men he sent out into the world better than he found them.

  1. And perhaps my own maturation.

Finding Light in the Darkness

I know it has been a while, but with my beloved University under fire and my own personal misgivings about the situation it just hasn’t felt right. However, a recently published interview with UNC AD Bubba Cunningham has provided me with at least the hope that the athletic department has someone in charge who is up to the challenge. While, I understand there is a cynical view to be take here, you will get no such read from me. I am going to focus on the hope.

Bubba’s comments when asked about the planned renovations to the Tar Heel basketball cathedral should provide all Tar Heel fans with faith in his leadership:

I think we need to upgrade a number of our facilities, but I don’t think the timing is right. So it’s still there, it’s still on the back burner. And as soon as we feel like, as a University, that we’ve healed ourselves and we feel comfortable, then I think we’ll move forward.

I am most appreciative of the inward focus he shows here. The university community and family needs to come to grips with what we allowed to happen whether willingly or unwillingly. We all had a part to play in the compromise of the principals we said were so dear, and only when we as a Tar Heel community come together can we proceed.

But that’s when you have confidence and that’s when you have courage. And right now, we don’t. We’ve lost our own confidence; we’ve lost trust by our alumni, within the community, outside of the community…We have to get comfortable with who we are again and prove to people you can do both.

We have lost trust as a family just as the national academic and athletic community has lost faith in us. The University is too busy pointing fingers and plugging holes rather than focusing on the progress it has made to insure this will not occur again. We must focus on what needs to be done to prepare all who walk onto campus for the future whether they ever play a sport.

Some of it is time. And as Larry (Fedora) indicated when we hired him, I can say all of the right things, but we’ve got to do it. So we need to show that we’re going to admit students that can be successful. We need to provide them a great education while they’re here. They need to graduate. They need to get good jobs and go on and do things.

The University will not recover until it resolves to provide an education and opportunity to every student who sets foot on campus. That may seem like a sacrifice to some, but that is the place I fell in love with 25 years ago and the one to which I thought I belonged. Thank you Bubba, for allowing me to see that place once again.

“…but at some point, we can’t sit in neutral. We’ve got to move forward.”

Photo Credit: Zach Frailey via Flickr

Matters of State

I am the last person who should be writing anything that even closely resembles celebratory talk about the Wolfpack’s convincing 35–7 rout of the Tarheels yesterday. Why? Because I’ve barely laid an eye on the Pack all season. That said, I had a lot of fun watching the game, especially in the 4th quarter with about five minutes left when I finally let my guard down a bit, cautiously optimistic that the game was a bit out of reach even for the quick-strike Tarheels. I won’t lie, I even got a little greedy, practically begging the Pack’s defense to hold on for the shutout.

That was actually the most fun I’ve had watching Pack football in a long time. Games where we execute so consistently throughout the entire 60 minutes are few and far between, especially against our arch-rival1 Tarheels. Do I think UNC put their best foot forward yesterday? No way. To be honest, I was dreading this game after watching the performance the Tarheels put up against Duke two Thursdays ago. In fact, the optimistic spin that Tarheel fans might reasonably put on this is that this was a classic hangover/trap game after beating their real rivals, and of course the Pack would come out fired up with an extra week of preparation for their “Super Bowl”. Sour grapes for sure, but that’s to be expected from the wine and cheese crowd and, quite frankly, I’d much rather have this win than whatever’s next for the Pack. Calling it our Super Bowl is probably an apt observation.

Just a quick aside on the note of rivalry. The rise of Duke’s football program under David Cutcliffe certainly won’t do State fans any favors in the not-our-rival conversation. It certainly doesn’t help that Carolina and Duke are in the same division, with their match-ups having potential head-to-head implications if they can ever sync up their relative success. And on top of all of that, you have the Victory Bell – a tangible spoil for the victor.

What does it all mean about our respective programs? Not much more than what we’ve already seen all season. Carolina has shown glimpses of great football, but they still have a long way to go to get back to where they were headed a few years ago. The Pack’s glimpses have been more rare, but it’s nice to end the regular season on such a high note and so convincingly. Hopefully that victory gave the entire team a confidence boost that will propel them into their potential bowl game and on into next season. Don’t let up. Go Pack!

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gerry Broome

  1. That’s right, I said it.


A lifelong Carolina fan sent me this piece by Thad Williamson to serve as a representation of his thoughts and feelings of the revelations brought out by the Wainstein Report. The piece is honest, possibly still a bit defensive and deluded (regarding Dean and what he did or didn’t know and the degree, understandably so), and appropriately optimistic:

UNC is still an institution that aspires to greatness, and specifically to the notion that academic accomplishment and high-level athletic accomplishment can go hand in hand. Some of the problems at Carolina stem from the systemic tension between those two goals, when student-athletes are brought to campus without the requisite academic preparation. That’s a tension felt at almost every school in the country that plays big-time sports, and indeed is intrinsic to the current model of college sports.

I had similar thoughts about the program – regardless of how they got to where they are now (good or bad), UNC will always attract a large number of talented individuals, whether they be future professional athletes, doctors, scientists and researchers, writers – you name it. They still have the potential to build on the foundation of historical greatness and, if done right, they can rise to the top, look down and proclaim without irony that they arrived the Carolina way.

UNC vs Duke: Part 1

It has been a while since we have updated this space, but its been a busy winter and the snow, well, that is my excuse anyway. Speaking of using snow as an excuse to bail on a commitment, I give you your 2013/2014 Duke Blue Devils! While canceling the game was the right a call at the time, I question how it got to that point, but that is black ice over 15/501 at this point…I kid, I kid. Anyway, no better way to kick off the first of two (potentially three) brutal nights for me than chronicle it here for thedustin to read (and JohnnyH if he knew about the site).

Before we begin, I thought it would be fun to give you my three most memorable UNC-Duke moments…

1. Jerry Stackhouse Under the Basket Tomahawk!
(Just for fun, remember when he fought now coach of the Suns, Jeff Hornacek?

2. Marvin Williams Put Back to Beat Duke in 2005 on the way to the National Championship!
(Underated was the 9 point comeback with less than three to play. People forget May was unstoppable the last month of that season.)

3. Matt Doherty gets up in Chris Collins’ grill!
(This is great for so many reason, A) I took my father to the game, B) the elbow by Dahntay Jones is a reminder of what a dirty player he was, C) Doherty unhinged because he probably knew he was done at UNC, D) a mediocre UNC team pulled out the win and represented one of only two wins over Duke while I was at UNC)

There are so many more moments to choose from and every UNC fan has their favorites, but it’s time to see if tonight’s game adds to the legend. Given that it’s UNC-Duke, the odds are likely it will.

9:02 – In the opening montage some guy just painted a picture of the rivalry while narrating…gotta love Raycom!

9:03 – Brando and Bonner, I am sure there is a joke in there. I am bummed we don’t get Billas since ESPN is blacked out. (Note – it was not blacked out as I would discover later)

9:05 – Had to put the dog upstairs because he freaks out when I watch UNC games and you can only imagine how it is when Duke is involved.

9:07 – Over/under on “8 miles” mentions? I set the number at 3.5

9:09 – Do yourself a favor and follow @DaggumRoy

9:10 – Seems like a good time to JUMP AROUND!

9:11 – McDonald with a big game sure would be nice.

9:12 – A Duke player on their back…huge surprise. Tokoto may be the worst FT shooter I have ever seen.

9:14 – Meeks really needs to work on that lift, he would be borderline unstoppable if he could get could jump higher than my father.

9:17 – Paige splitting the screen is a thing of beauty.

9:18 – PlumThree sighting!

9:22 – Ugh! 2 on Brice. This could get ugly.

9:25 – Not good if Hood and Cook are going to make their threes.

9:27 – That foul was not on Hood – Parker should have 2

9:29 – HUBERT!

9:31 – Oh, I got it now, the hand checking is illegal if you are wearing white tonight. Much clearer now.

9:39 – Honestly, can we just get rid of the charge/block call.

9:41 – I like how they just showed Hood’s 3 pt % as 5th all time at Duke, he has had such a prestigious career.

9:46 – Free Throws…ugh

10:01 – Well, down 7 isn’t terrible considering Carolina has played like crap. Hopefully we have a patented 2nd Half Paige run in store.

10:08 – I may switch to the ESPN broadcast to shake up the mojo

10:10 – Ahhh! Huge mistake, I switch over and they have Boehiem on.

10:31 – And I’m Back! My son had a night terror, I assume he was dreaming about Tokoto free throws. In other news, not much has changed.

10:33 – Really feel like UNC just needs to play hard and keep it close. The officiating is terrible.

10:38 – What a terrible pass by McDonald.

10:43 – Tokoto has improved so much (we will ignore the pass to Hubert in transition). If he cuts his TO down and works on his FTs he could be an All-ACC caliber player.

10:49 – And Roy’s watch comes off….

10:51 – Really terrible officiating on both ends tonight. Hopefully the last 5 minutes won’t be decided by a zebra…

10:53 – Thank you again ESPN for reminding us this is just the aperitif for the new rivalry.

10:56 – Marcus Paige is good at basketball..very good.

11:02 – I am glad it worked in UNC’s favor, but that was a terrible call on Parker, just terrible.

11:08 – Free Throws and Marcus Paige is a man!

11:10 – thlhfdsjhfjkdksljfdsjkldsja;kjfadkl;jfklsjd

11:13 – Carolina Ball!!!!!!

11:14 – Such a great job by Roy tonight, the little things. Putting Meeks in at the end to be able to throw the inbounds deep. Solid job.

11:16 – You just can’t say enough about this team.

That’s all folks. What a masterclass by Roy. This team fights and fights. It’s always a good day to be a Tar Heel, some days are just a touch more special.