A Carolina Victory

February 11, 2008

Sunday night was something special. 

For the first 35+ minutes, it was something special for our IPTAY friends in Orange.  But sudenly that something special turned something sour in a matter of minutes.

Danny Green 3. Turnover. Missed free throw.  Danny Green “why are you shooting a 3…NICE SHOT”.  Turnover. Psycho T.  This was the recipe for the turnaround.

How many of us thought it could happen?  Be honest.

Certainly we’ve seen it all before.  FSU in 1993.  The Duke game in 2005. 

But we’re far more likely to remember the defeats than the losses.  In our minds it’s Harold “the Show” Arceneaux.  Or Miles Simon.  Carolina Killers.

But think how it must feel for them.  Those who don’t understand what it’s like to wear the blue, and know that you’re never out of it. 

Sunday night was something special.  It proved that when battered and bruised, there is still some magic in the argyle. 

There’s the unmistakable aura that emanates from the rafters.  And legends making their mark.  Legends on the court.  And a legend on the bench.

There’s Tyler being Tyler.  There’s ol’ Roy pleading for “just one stop”.  There’s a senior named Q whose huge heart prevails.

And there’s The Streak.  53-0.  Somehow, someway, there’s still The Streak.

Sunday night was truly something special.


Merry Carolina Christmas

December 27, 2007

Loyal readers of UNC’s official sports website, www.tarheelblue.com, know that every Tuesday the site publishes the Tar Heel Mailbag. Since Christmas fell on a Tuesday this year, THB solicited stories from readers about their favorite Carolina Christmas memories.

My mom pointed out the call for UNC stories, and we immediately knew that we had a memory that was perfect in every way. So I spent a few minutes a couple weeks ago recounting Christmas 2006. When we woke up on Christmas morning a few days ago, it was a great treat to see our story on Tarheelblue, along with the link to the video. Thus far, more than 1900 people have viewed the video!

I’ve copied the whole entry below. The Mail Bag can be found here. The video can be found here.

Like many Carolina families, ours has a long lineage of Tar Heel roots. Counting my wife, parents, and sister, we are 100% Carolina blue blood, having all matriculated through Chapel Hill. After the kids moved out of the house, my parents decided to take on another challenge and hosted a foreign exchange student for a school year.As luck would have it, our new “brother,” Vlado Milanovic, turned out to be a basketball fanatic. Through the wonders of satellite television, Vlado had grown up watching hundreds of NBA games with this family, right from his home in Bar, Montenegro. When he arrived in Greensboro, NC for the start of school, Vlado had understandable trouble with the intricacies of the English language – but he could name the starting point guard for every NBA team!

After only a few weeks in North Carolina, Vlado had been indoctrinated in all things Carolina. And while he enjoyed football Saturdays at Kenan, you could really see his eyes light up when he learned about the rich history of Carolina basketball. It wasn’t long before Vlado would fall in love with Lawson’s quickness and Hansbrough’s tenacity. And like any true Tar Heel, he developed a healthy disdain for our friends in Durham who wear a darker shade of blue. As basketball season ticket holders, my parents were able to take Vlado to several UNC games, where he was able to experience the pageantry and passion that make college basketball such a special game.

Yet there was one game that was impossible to find tickets for – UNC vs. Duke. We took special care to explain to Vlado that a Duke ticket is like gold in Chapel Hill, and that extra tickets just didn’t exist. Yet, through a little Christmas magic (and a whole lot of luck!), my mom was somehow able to secure one extra pass to the coveted event. So on Christmas Day the whole family could hardly wait for the big moment – when Vlado would open his final gift. As he opened the gift wrap and then stared in disbelief, I was worried that the young guy was going to hyperventilate. In his utter excitement he had seemingly forgotten to breathe – until he was finally able to scream with joy, “North Carolina/Duke game YESSSSSSS!!!!!!”

Needless to say, it was a Christmas moment this family will never forget. Words will never do it justice – that’s why we’re so glad we caught it on video. You can see our unforgettable Carolina Christmas memory here.

Jason Ray: Life Lived to the Full

October 16, 2007

Many Carolina fans remember the Tar Heels loss to Georgetown in last year’s NCAA basketball Elite 8.
Yet true Tar Heel fans also know that the loss paled in comparison to the tragedy of a few days prior, when Jason Ray was hit by a car and lost his life.  Ray was the “man behind the mask”, serving as UNC’s fabled mascot Ramses.

As news spread of the accident, there were numerous accounts of Ray which all painted him in the same light – as a giant of a man who had a unique air about him.

ESPN has composed an incredible look at Ray and the many lives that were changed forever through his death.  The piece is excellent, and worth the 20-30 minutes it will take to read the whole thing.

As I read the article yesterday, I was overcome with a deluge of emotions.  I never knew Jason Ray personally, though I found out soon after the accident that we attend the same church in Durham and that one of his roommates is an acquaintance of mine from UNC.  The article is incredible, though, because by reading it you get such a powerful look at Ray and who he really was.  He was a man who lived life to the full, compelled by his faith, and was committed to sharing this life with others.  In the end, that’s exactly what he did.

Greatest. Office Prank. Ever.

September 20, 2007

Not necessarily the most intricate or most impressive, but best because it was done to one of the all-time most hated Dookies, Danny Ferry.

It’s a beautiful thing to see his office decked out in Carolina Blue.

UNC-Penn Random Musings

January 4, 2007

With yet another easy non-conference victory for the Heels, I think it’s safe to say that everyone – players, coaches, fans, media – is ready for some better competition.  ACC play should do the trick, even if the league as a whole is not as strong as it has been in past years (I really think this is true – maybe more to come on this in later weeks).

Some random musings from last night’s game:

Great to have Bobby and QT back.  I was shocked to see Frasor in the game, as the pregame reports all had him slated as OUT.  Bobby looked as if he hasn’t skipped a beat – he’s really been shooting well this year.  We may need some big outside shooting in the late February, early March time frame.

Quentin looked comfortable and quick – but doesn’t he always against the Penns of the world.  I really love Q’s character, and hope that he can find a niche on this team.  Maybe it’s just 3-5 minutes of passing and defense.  Maybe it’s the behind-the-scenes stuff in practice.  Whatever it is, I think QT can get it done.

Invisible last night: Ginyard and Green – but with the depth of this team, it’s easy to be invisible on a given night.

Ellington approached serious “I think it’s going in every time he shoots” status when he started off 4-5 from 3.  Too bad he cooled off in the 2nd half – I think he makes 6 3’s in an ACC game this year.

Wes can’t buy a big shooting night.  I think he’d pay big bucks for one.

Line of the Night: Alex Stepheson: 9 Min, 3-4 FG, 8 points, 1 rebound, 2 blocks.

Even better Line: Dewey Burke: 2 min, 2-2 FG, 6 points.  And Biscuits for everyone!

What was up with Len Elmore being completely mesmerized by the Carolina diving on the floor in warm-ups thing.  The team’s been doing it for 3 years now, before every game.  I’ve been to games that Len’s been broadcasting and seen them dive before the game.  Yet, Elmore thought he should use that as his talking point for the whole game and then the production guys thought it’d be an even better idea to show the footage from pre-game every time.  We get the point – Roy likes guys to dive on the floor for loose balls.  Thanks for the tip.

Only thing shown more than the pre-game dive footage: John Edwards.

Big props to Copeland.  Loved the hustle and grit from Cope and the Blue team.

Best word to describe this year’s team: explosive.

Bring on the ACC!

“Going Home” to the Dean Dome

December 29, 2006

I went to the UNC-Rutgers game last night with two of my great friends and former roommates from college.  It was awesome to be with Rob and Daniel, and for one night, it felt like we had never left.

We took the same back road shortcuts in to avoid the inevitable Dean Dome traffic.  We snuck around the same parking attendants and found a great spot in Married Student Housing.  As we walked up the stairs of Kenan-Flagler,
we swapped the same old stories and memories, ones that have been repeated hundreds of times but never seem to get old.  While waiting to meet some friends, there were more “where is he now” moments and a general feeling that was never stated
but always understood: we had gone to the greatest University on the face of the planet, and it felt good to be back.

Inside the Dome, it felt good to watch a game with them again.  The first half was filled with some absolutely horrendous bricks from Rutgers and good, but not great play from the Heels.  But in between air balls and alley oops, there were enough inside jokes
and laughs from the past to make it a highly enjoyable experience.  It didn’t matter that we’re spread all around the country now and that “the roommates” don’t get together as frequently as we’d all like to.  We’ve so much history together that by simply sitting in
Dean’s Dome we were able to go home again.  It’s like we had never left.

And then it hit me – it wasn’t just the conversation that was familiar.  With every passing game, this year’s team reminds me more and more of 2004-2005.

I’m hardly the first to draw comparisons between the two – how can you not with such incredible talent filling both teams.  But while it’s easy to think of how Ty is like Ray or whether Tyler could match up with May, the most telling thing for me is that this year’s team is starting to bear the mark of a Roy Williams team, just like the NCAA Champs did in 2005.

What’s remarkable is that it’s happened so quickly.  Think back to the Gonzaga game – is there any doubt that the present day Heels would knock the socks off the team that lost in NYC?  In the last few games, there has been a visible commitment to competing at the highest level on the defensive end.  Rutgers was called for numerous 5 second violations and even failed once to bring the ball past halfcourt in the allotted 10 seconds.  Even when UNC gets beat on dribble penetration, you can see a fire and desire to improve.  The team seems to be soaking in every bit of whatever it is that Coach Williams is teaching in practice, and then applying it to the court against the opposition.

It’s important to remember that for all the inherent gifts and athletic abilities of the 2004-2005 team, they were nothing if not mercurial.  Before they were cutting down the nets in St. Louis, they were the 2003-2004 Heels, a team that seemingly never bought in to Roy’s style and played without the discipline necessary to achieve greatness. It took close to a year for a team filled with the future 1st Round picks, but once they bought in, it was special.

That’s why it felt so good to see the progress that the current squad has made in such short time.  Maybe it’s because the majority of the team is so young.  Maybe it’s because they’re all Roy’s recruits.  Regardless, there’s no doubt that the team is buying in, and with Coach Williams at the helm, that means greatness is right around the corner.

It’s certainly dangerous to put too much stock into early season wins, and there will undoubtedly be some bumps along the road.  But this team is finding its identity, and for every Tar Heel fan out there, that’s an exciting thing.

We have, after all, seen it before.

UNC-FAU: Dean Dome Demolition

December 20, 2006

Poor Rex Walters.

Rex isn’t used to this. Not after a stellar college career that included Big-8 Championships, a Final Four, and individual accolades. Not after being a 1st round NBA Draft pick and completing a nine-year professional career.

Rex Walters is a competitor. So much so that Roy Williams categorized Walters as one of the 3 fiercest competitors he’s ever coached, along with two of the Carolina family’s favorite sons – Michael Jordan and Raymond Felton.

And so it had to feel so strangely uncomfortable Walters to be sharing a sideline with Williams and losing by 47 points.

At halftime.

Yet that was the reality for rookie head coach Rex Walters and his Florida Atlantic Owls. They came to the Dean E. Smith center on December 19, 2006 and ran into an aggressive and well-oiled Tar Heel machine. The Tar Heels were running on all cylinders last night, showing every bit of the fine tuning that no doubt has taken place during the recently completed exam period.

The result was an absolutely comprehensive victory for Carolina that showed, at least for one night, just how great this Tar Heel team may end up being.

The game was over almost before it started. Carolina stretched a 4-3 lead with a 30-2 run, and eventually led at halftime by a Smith Center record 47 points. During the first half demolition, every Tar Heel strength was shown off in almost hyperbolic fashion. Hansbrough seemed stronger, Wright longer, and Lawson faster than ever before. Carolina scored seemingly at will, using an impressive array of layups, dunks, and wide open jump shots.

But perhaps the most encouraging characteristic of the first stanza was UNC’s stifling defense. For a team with such immense physical talents, Carolina has struggled mightily at times in stopping the opposition. Yet in the first half against the Owls, Carolina played the kind of in-your-face D that could make even ol’ Roy smile.

The Heels forced 15 turnovers and held FAU to 24% shooting from the field in the first half, and along the way showcased the ability to tip, deflect, or at least obstruct almost every pass that Rex Walter’s team attempted to make. As a result, Florida Atlantic began to throw the ball all over the court and the Carolina unearthed a valuable secret: playing good defense can be pretty fun – especially when it leads to high-flying dunks and fast break points.

Alas, there was nothing that Coach Walters could do to stop the bleeding. He did the right things, calling timeouts and trying to teach his team in spite of the scoreboard. To his credit, Walters didn’t stomp and scream or show a hint of disappointment – he’s been taught far better than that.

On a night when his team was completely outclassed, Rex Walters showed that he’s not just a fierce competitor or proven winner. He’s also a man who’s learned to see the big picture and understands how to accept defeat with dignity and class.

And that, more than a 50 point win, will surely make Coach Williams very proud.