JUST AS THIS WAS THE SEASON where college basketballdom discovered the wonderful innovation of stopping every game with 14 minutes left to go in the first half to spend several interminable minutes determining whether a toe was on the three-point line or not (which is, I am sure, what all of us fans watch basketball for), now is the time for me to put this season under review.
I hate to be the one to say it -- but if I don't who will? Roy Williams is a bad loser. Now, don't get me wrong, he is not a sore loser. Williams is as gracious in defeat as any coach -- and far better than many. No, he is not a sore loser; he is a bad loser. He doesn't know how to do it -- which could be construed, generally, as a good thing. Seriously, until this season, he hadn't had much experience at it. This did mean, however, that he did not know how to rescue a sinking ship -- all his previous ships just went plowing through the water like destroyers at battle speed.
Williams has always had, he says -- and I believe him -- to deal with teams with inflated egos. He never had to massage wounded ones. He has always had to push team egos down, never boost them up. (Based on what I have seen and heard of the incoming freshmen, he won’t have self-confidence problems with them.)
In more than one basketball conversation in this post-season, I have heard local fans of both blue persuasions say that Coach K would have done better in the same sinking situation. Au contraire! They seem to have forgotten, or, more likely, if Duke fans, repressed their memories of 1994-1995. I haven't -- of course. I was there for "the season Krzyzewski's back went out."
For those of you who need your memories refreshed that was the year of two coaches – absentee Krzyzewski who went nine and three and conscript Pete Gaudet (who earned about $300 a week as a "restricted earnings coach") who went four and 15. My lovely, talented and Duke-degreed wife thinks it was the Clemson loss that put his back over the limit.
[My wife and I well remember the season if for no other reason than we attended the February 2, 1995 game between Duke and UNC at Cameroon Indoor Stadium, standing in the student section, rooting for our beloved Tar Heels. (This made possible because she was a ticket-holding Duke law student and one of her classmates was money-grubbing enough – imagine that! -- to sell his ticket to me, Tar Heel fan.) This game was projected to be no contest, by the records and the rankings, as it was between one of the best teams in major college basketball (that would be UNC) and one of the worst (that would be Duke). Instead, it ended up being a game for the ages, one that when ESPN made a reel of a dozen or so college basketball highlights included three plays from this glorious game (which, incidentally, UNC won 102 to 100 in double overtime).]
Roy Williams’ back didn't go out this season but you may remember him wearing his Alexander-Julian-designed arm sling for his painfully torn labrum -- whatever that is. When Roy Williams had surgery on his left shoulder, the Tar Heels were ranked No. 11 in the AP poll. The Tar Heels finished the season as runners up in the also-ran NIT. (And, you know, when you think about it, "barely better than Butler," really doesn't sound all that different from "not quite as good as Dayton," does it?)
Which leads me to the following anecdote I heard recently after a tennis match at Hollow Rock. Note that this is hearsay, not admissible in a court of law. During a concert in Chapel Hill a few days before, one of the band members, in a lull between songs, asked from the stage, "Say, what's up with the Tar Heel basketball team?" Got only a general moan. When he brought it up again, someone from the audience yelled out: "We'll be alright. . . . Just wait 'til last year."
Gary D. Gaddy is proud to say that he and his basketball-loving wife attended every home game of Matt Doherty's 8-22 season.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday May 14, 2010. Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday May 14, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy