Phil Ford

Bright Futures

You hate to end the season the way it did for our team, but when you think about it, only one team is happy when the season is over. Everyone knows we were caught short in some areas with the guys leaving early last year, and what you want your team to do every season is improve as it goes along. I think we did that and I’ve said before this may have been Coach Williams’ and his staff’s best coaching job. We caught Kansas when they were tight in the first half and if a few more of our shots went down we could have been ahead by much more than nine points. If so, that would have made it hard for Kansas to win, no matter how well they played in the second half. But it wasn’t to be, and now with one and a half “bad games” behind them Kansas could be dangerous for the rest of the tournament. Winning 25 games was pretty amazing, when you consider how unsure we looked in December and January. When we went small, the game was in the hands of the shooters and we won a lot of contests by shooting the ball really well. But, as they say, if you live by it you may die by it someday. It gives us great momentum going into next season,...

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No. 3 Heels WBB To Face No. 6 Delaware in NCAA 2nd Round

CHAPEL HILL – UNC takes on Delaware at 7 p.m. Tuesday night in Newark, a home game for the Fightin’ Blue Hens who are riding high on a 26-game winning streak. And it’ll be a hostile environment in the Bob Carpenter Center. Delaware’s first round match up against West Virginia was a sell out. Delaware (31-3) has only dropped three games this season, were perfect in conference play, and claimed the Colonial Athletic Association title. UNC (29-6) barely escaped No. 14 seed Albany on Sunday. Carolina gave the Great Danes 18 points off turnovers, shot 34.5 percent from the field, and...

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A Dangerous Eight Seed

Anyone who was channel surfing last Sunday had to stop and marvel at the Carolina-Miami game and how great that first half was. Even if they didn’t know the teams. That’s how good, and at such a high level, the ACC championship game was played. Both teams scored better than a point per possession, shooting so well and really not turning the ball over much. That’s almost unheard of. If there are four teams in the country playing better than Miami going into the NCAA Tournament, I don’t know who they are. That Miami won both the ACC regular season and the tournament, and isn’t a No. 1 seed, something seems wrong about that. I think all the ACC teams were seeded too low. How’d you like to play N.C. State as an eighth seed? When they’re playing well, they are as talented as any team in the country. Richard Howell played so well in Greensboro and looked like he was really hurting. We have one tough draw in the first game. Villanova beat all the best teams in the Big East — Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown. So we have our hands full with them. But we’re capable of beating anyone as long as we’re making shots. That’s different from past years, when we could rely more on inside scoring and rebounding. But our coaches have done a great job...

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FORD CORNERS: A Silver Lining

The Duke game was ugly, there’s no doubt about that if you are a Carolina fan. But, with young kids, that can happen when the unexpected happens. We’re still trying to figure out our roles and we had been playing well. After the great win at Maryland, maybe coming home to the Smith Center made us thought it would be easier at home and we expected to win. Duke came out on fire and got the big lead. When that happens, a young team can hit the panic button and try to get it back all at once. We definitely lost our poise instead of trying to stick with it, play better defense and chip away at the lead. But there was a silver lining. I’m not sure we can play any worse or Duke any better. If we had played like we’d been playing the last six games and still got beat badly, there would be some concern. But, if we play again this weekend, I like our chances to give them a good game. When teams are hitting those 3’s, they are hard to beat. And Duke was unconscious that night. For us to be good, we need Reggie and/or P.J. to be unconscious from outside, and both had been shooting really well coming in. The loss will also insure we’re ready to play Friday against the...

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Senior Game Memories

Photo by Sally Sather Senior Night is so special in college basketball. I think Coach Smith started the tradition way back in the 1970s, when his seniors were not only recognized before the game they also got to start even if they were non-scholarship players. Dexter Strickland will have the stage to himself Saturday night as the only scholarship senior on the Carolina roster this season. Leslie McDonald would have been if he hadn’t re-shirted one year with an injury and, of course, John Henson would be a senior if he did not turn pro after his junior year. Dexter has had an excellent career and is playing his best basketball right now. He has 31 assists and three turnovers in the last six games and has moved up to fifth in the country in assist-turnover ratio. He has played very unselfish basketball for the sake of the team and he deserves a big thank you from our fans, as well as walk-on senior Frank Tanner. Every other year, our Senior Game is against Duke, which makes it very difficult to go out with a victory since both teams are usually very good. My senior game was 35 years ago, and we played a Duke team that was on its way to the ACC tournament championship and Final Four. When Tom Zaliagiris and I went out to center court...

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A Season Of Possibilities

I can’t remember an ACC season quite like this one.   There are so many possibilities — the only thing guaranteed is Miami will finish first. The other four teams could finish anywhere from second to fifth. It’s amazing when you think about it. It’s been this close in the past, but when I played there were seven teams in the ACC and someone got a first-round bye. And that meant all but one team had to win three games to win the ACC tournament. Now, if you don’t finish in the top four, you have to win four games, which would be hard for any team.   Who would have thought the State game against Carolina would have been that much of a turnaround. Carolina looked like a completely different team. We were so efficient offensively and so active on defense. We even did a good job on the offensive boards against a much bigger team.   Along with Carolina, most of the teams have improved so much. Joe Harris is one good player at Virginia. He reminds me of Mike O’Koren with all his savvy and the way he moves so effortlessly. He looks like he’d be a fun guy to play with, and he’s the key to Virginia staying at the top of the league all season.   And for the Tar Heels to go to...

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State "Awfully Tough"

Ford playing defense as a freshman against N.C. State in 1975 They said I wasn’t a very good defensive player my freshman year, although I thought I was trying very hard. Maybe Coach Smith didn’t agree, because we sure played a lot of zone that season while I was “learning” to play defense! But through my playing days, and into coaching, I developed such a respect for the players and teams that play good defense. It is so important in basketball, which was illustrated by our last two victories over Virginia and Georgia Tech. Even though Virginia shot the highest percentage (58%) of any Carolina team under Coach Williams in a victory, we played good defense in three important segments of that game. First, getting back into it after falling behind by 10 in the first half, then outscoring them 8-0 to open the second half and, finally, holding them off late after it seemed they were making every tough shot. Fortunately, we were so efficient offensively against Virginia (we had to be in order to win). They are really good and Joe Harris is so underrated. Honestly, they have enough talent to win the ACC Tournament. And it was a great win because we HAD to beat Virginia after losing up there in January. Playing the small lineup with P.J. in there most of the time with Reggie...

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"Like A Heavyweight Championship Fight"

I am glad I waited until after the Duke game to write this column. I’m not sure I would have known what to say about the Miami game! Even though we lost at Duke, that was much more of the Carolina team we’ve all been used to seeing for years. Wasn’t it interesting to watch two hall of fame coaches matching wits, going against each other with strategies and counter strategies? I wasn’t surprised when Coach Williams started P.J. because it’s a good match up against Duke. Give Coach credit for realizing that and putting his best players on...

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"We Always Have A Chance"

Playing at Miami Saturday is the toughest game we’ve had and may be the toughest game of the entire season. They’re awfully good, very big and talented and, man, can they get out and run. And they’re so experienced with six seniors who play so well together for Coach Larranaga, who’s done a fantastic job this season. Do we have a chance? Sure we do. How many games have we won over the years where people said we had no chance, no shot? Number 1, we have to make shots. We can’t go down there and expect to win without taking good shots and making a high percentage. And we can’t turn the ball over and let them get into their transition game, where they make layups and dunks with their crowd going wild. The only two games Miami sells out are Duke and Carolina, and after what they did to Duke we can’t let them get going. And our key players can’t get into foul trouble. Our defense has to be aggressive but smart, making them take tough jump shots with a hand in their face. And when they miss, we’ve got to rebound the basketball. (Reggie) Johnson and (Kenny) Kadji and (Julian) Gamble are a load in the middle, and all four of our big men have got to contribute, play tough “D” and box out. But,...

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Coaching, Tradition Helped Heels Rebound

I know our fans were disappointed, as was I, with the loss at State. But we can’t lose sight of who we were playing against. That’s a veteran team with two seniors and two juniors and two really good freshmen. You know, most of their lineup will probably be in the NBA next season. And here we are — a very young team in a hostile environment. Plus, they don’t like us very much. I wouldn’t like a rival school either if we hadn’t beaten them in six years. But Carolina teams, no matter how bad we might be playing, are never going to give up. We turned a blowout into a close game, and we made their fans very nervous at the end. I think that will give us confidence when State comes to the Smith Center in a few weeks. You also have to like how Dexter and Marcus bounced back at Boston College. Man that was a trap game if I’ve ever seen one, especially the way BC plays and tries to control the tempo. State had a trap game at Virginia, which plays the same style as BC, and they lost. I feel badly for P.J. because he really came out on fire against BC. I heard someone say that he only played seven minutes in the second half at State because the coaches were...

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