This isn't a sports blog, but I've been pulling for the Heels since they beat Wilt Chamberlain in 1957, an unbeaten season capped with David triumphing over Goliath, the guy who went on to be the greatest NBA player of all time until Michael Jordan came along--Michael Jordan, a Tar Heel! Last year as everyone knows, UNC won yet another National Champeenship, and all their seniors graduated plus a couple of juniors went pro, so Roy Williams started this year with a fresh new squad full of highly touted but very young kids, a great soph big man named Ed Davis, and two hold-over seniors, Deon Thompson and the aging defensive specialist Marcus Ginyard, who hailed from the 17th Century and started out playing when Daugherty was coaching in Chapel Hill.
The first few games looked pretty good, and the Heels were ranked high, but when they beat Valpo in Chapel Hill after nearly letting them come back at the end, Roy was not a happy camper, and said in his presser something about how the kids were going to be surprised when they went up to New Yawk if they played like "that." A week later, Syracuse put a whomping on them in the second half, after a tight first half where the Heels were only behind by five or so when they went to the dressing room.
It's been down hill ever since, Carolina losing many ACC games, Carolina getting beaten by Duke by 32 points (but let it be recalled that we still beat Duke by 50 in football back in 1960-something). Carolina then lost in the first round of the ACC Tourney, and personally, I would have been very happy to just move along to Women's College Softball, which I got into last year when we got ESPN, hoping in the back of my mind that maybe next year Roy would have found us a better point guard. Instead, he Heels got invited to the NIT, and accepted.
So I watched last night. What I saw was a very happy team, particularly in the second half. I think it was the first time I saw smiles on Thompson's and Henson's faces all season. Granted, they beat a short, all-white team dressed in green and coached by a leprechaun, which hit more 3s than any team has in in the history of the Universe. William and Mary looked a whole lot like the US Marine Corps Team that I watched Montrose and Co. demolish back in '92 or something--the only game I've ever been to in the Dean Dome. But the smiles were genuine, and I was happy for the guys. I'm hoping maybe they'll win a few more NIT games. Just so's they feel reasonably ok about this horrible season they've been through.
But I have to wonder just what Roy's problem is? Because yesterday, before this little obscure game in the meaningless consolation tourney, he once again trashed his team! Roy said something along the lines of, "I can't get this team up to play."
That's a left-handed criticism, and I don't understand why a head coach would say that of his team. To the team, sure. But putting this out to the press? And he's been doing this all year, starting with the Valpo comments (and that was after a win!). Anyone can see that the UNC point guard situation has been difficult. But, how does it help for the head coach to bad-mouth his own team. I have to say, WTF, Roy? Coach 'em, and if they lose, coach harder. But whining to the press, that sucks. And I'd guess it would be a good reason for some of the guys to at least subconsciously think, "well, if we're not good, we'll just play not good." You even have to wonder about all the injuries. Bad vibes can cause injuries sometimes.
I still have confidence in Roy. But I hope he'll bring a better attitude to the job next year. Strickland is coming along too.
Meanwhile, way to go Pack! The Wolfpack is a team which has known years of adversity, not just one season. The State alums got rid of their last coach, Sendek, because he wasn't tall enough, even though he'd gotten the team into the NCAAs every year. Now they have a great State basketball alum, the guy Valvano called the greatest guard to ever play in the ACC, for their coach. And last night they battled to a win over a strong Big East team with the top scorer in the whole US of A. I hope they go far. It looks like State and Carolina might meet soon in the NIT. I don't know who to pull for. Maybe I'll stay neutral for the teams, but pull a little for Sidney Lowe.