… The NBA just finished its regular season with the highest average attendance in its history (led by Detroit!!). It’s a safe bet that very few citizens of The Tar Heel Nation are NBA fans right now. C-Blue Oompah Loompahs from one end of Franklin Street to the other are weepin’ and moanin’ over “Mass Exodus ‘05”. Goggle-eyed loonies lament, but BobLee Swagger and Ol’ Roy Williams are cool ‘cause we know “it’s just a hiccup, not a hemorrhage”.
I know I said we are cutting back on “sports stuff” but we will make exceptions when “sports stuff” moves “off the sports page and onto the front page”. That has certainly happened with Tar Heel Basketball right now. For our readers with other life priorities, we beg your indulgence, as we administer CPR to college basketball fans.
In random order we will address the realities of the current circumstances and clearly illustrate why both the chops-licking of rivals and the teeth gnashing of Carolina fans are, as always, being waaaay over done.
Whining about “NBA earlys” is like complaining about “the designated hitter” … after 25 years it ain’t like “Golly, where did this come from?”
James Worthy – 1982 … UNC early-out following Dean Smith’s first “ring ceremony”. That was 23 years ago. The fuzzy cheeks on the Internet were unborn at the time. College basketball has since enjoyed its greatest popularity growth. As a bona fide “elite” collegiate basketball program, UNC regularly sees its top players “leave early”. “Experts” in sports bars will argue forever over the what-ifs had various players stayed “just one more year”. Carolina’s most significant “early outs” were Stackhouse and Wallace after just their sophomore seasons. As the first “two and gones” their departure convinced Ye Olde Legend that “his era” of team building and “family” had indeed passed.
It was impractical for Dean to retool “his system” to accommodate this sports cultural reorganization. However for the next generation of “super coaches” 15-20 years his junior, such “retooling” was a necessity if success was their objective. These “super coaches” include Krzyzewski, Pitino, Izzo, Calhoun, Tubby, Boeheim, Olson, and, the now “monkeyless”, Ol’ Roy Williams.
These sports cultural tsunamis are not that uncommon. Dean was at the epicenter of the previous “sea change” in college basketball – the emergence and dominance of the black athlete in major college basketball through the 70s. Dean, of course, led that move with the recruitment of Charlie Scott in 1966. Had he not aggressively done so, UNC certainly would never have enjoyed its 35+ years of “eliteness”. There were vocal critics of that evolution … as there are vocal critics of the “leave early” reality. The game is bigger than its players … always has been and always will be.
“Mass Exodus ‘05” will affect college basketball’s immediate future. But no more so than the decisions of LeBron James, Carmello Anthony, Dwight Howard, Sebastian Telfair, J.R. Smith, and Shawn Livingston effected this past season.
UNC’s top players will continue to leave early for the same clichéd reasons these “youngsters” left. An NBA lottery pick is guaranteed more income before he is 25 than a UNC “graduate” with a degree in African American Studies (or “Communications”) will make in his lifetime, assuming he does not win a Mega Power Ball lottery. Do the math.
The difference right now goes back two years to Bonnie Bernstein’s interview with Ol’ Roy in The Superdome. Ol’ Roy didn’t “care about Carolina” until it was too late to recruit what would be rising Juniors. Matt was not able to corral phenoms as he was “maligned and beleaguered” through his farewell season. The fruits of that meager harvest are Rayshawn Terry and David Noel. You will NEVER EVER see such an “empty pantry” again in the Ol’ Roy Era.
While some silly UNC fans arrogantly think Ol’ Roy has only been “a big time coach” for two years (is “Kansas” a Division 1 school?), he has actually been a premier coach and EXCELLENT recruiter for 18 years. Ol’ Roy will be recruiting on a two year cycle from now on.
NCAA basketball no longer relies on “superstars”. Dominant “big men” and “the next MJs” don’t even bother to enroll any more. It is a game of team chemistry and COACHING. Note the coaches in this year’s rounds of 16 and 8. Only stat-geeks could name 5 players among those teams. Coaches are now the established “Superstars” … Lute, Rick, Eddie, Jim, Jim, Tom, Tubby, Mike, and Ol’ Roy. None of those coaches are “leaving early”.
As I have stated in earlier praise of Ol’ Roy … he has a plan and he has surrounded himself with trusted aides who understand that plan and are committed to it and to him. When Ol’ Roy “stayed” that first time he proved he is a man of conviction. He forsook his born and raised home (NC) to be true to his conscience and his inner voice. Ol’ Roy has “sand in his gizzard”. Tar Heels who never understood that earlier decision, will never understand Ol’ Roy.
Ol’ Roy put that bunch in their place in early March when they warned him “don’t let us down” !!! To paraphrase Ol’ Roy … “Let YOU down? … why? … So you can go down to the coffee shop and brag? …” Ol’ Roy stuck it up the butts of the howler monkeys … and ya wonder why I LUV THE GUY!
John Bunting had his “T.A.’s knee at the one”. Roy had his “Villanova traveling call” … the thinnest of margins between “a hero heralded by backslapping bandwagoners OR an also-ran with a monkey on his back”. It’s not “fair” but the $$$ are pretty good and you have good seats for the games.
Roy knew this “mass exodus” was inevitable regardless of how March unfolded. What he had to hope for was scoring his elusive net cutting before it happened. He knew better than anyone that “winning the big one” would come down to 2-3 keys moments over those 3 weekends. The aforementioned traveling call, Rashad’s steal vs Wisconsin, Scott and Felton hitting clutch FTs, and Marvin’s hands finally being soft on the tip-in. Change any one of those and it’s a different situation today in Tar Heelia. Of course, a ¼” and Kurt Heinrich wins Roy a ring back in 2003 too.
If Roy was still “ringless” the Roy Doubters would be rompin and stompin all over the Internet and doomsayers would be whinin’ like a plaque of locusts. But it DID happen the way Roy knew it had to back in late February. The “ring and the banner” will buy Roy the window to reload next year.
Roy’s Young Boyz next year will exceed the expectations of all but the looniest of the loons. Look for him to add 1-2 additional front courters, grabbing a Euro, an Aussie, or a JuCo if necessary. No more idiotic squawking about “he won with Matt’s players”. That bunch will find new catch phrases to squawk about. It’s what those silly beasts do.
Roy has been an “elite coach” for 10+ years. Pundits and idiot fans be damned. He knew it and his peers knew it. No one applauded “I’m staying ‘00” more than Mike Krzyzewski and Gary Williams. Roy knows how to recruit AND how to coach college basketball in “the new millennium”. There is no “best coach in college basketball” … but Carolina is damn fortunate to have Ol’ Roy Williams because “there is not a better coach” in college basketball.
By the way, I have copyrighted the phrase “Just A Hiccup, Not A Hemorrhage” … if Dave Glenn tries to steal it, he’ll rue the day he challenged B.L. Swagger.
Who was Spencer Haywood?
Do you think Sean, Raymond, and Marvin know what he did?
#23 from Garden City, LI was, of course, Don McCauley … now associated with The Kenan-Flagler Business School. Originally recruited by Bill Dooley as a Defensive Back.
BobLee hits the road big time the next two weeks … Chattanooga, New Orleans, Williamsburg, and Greensboro. Harder to hit a moving target. This is “Monday’s column” because I don’t have the patience to deal with “dial-up” on the road.
Swagger Enterprises is close to closing a couple of “big deals” … but can’t jinx’em by spilling the beans just yet.