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 upset with his effort. I wasn’t aware of that, but at Carolina there are two things that will get you taken out of a game. One is taking a bad, unselfish shot. And the other is not hustling. Coach Smith used to tolerate most mistakes and not pull someone out of a game. But if you took a bad shot and then turned around and let your man beat you down the court, you were sitting on the bench at the next whistle. For other stuff, you might get a pass. But not for those
On our staff with Coach Smith, when we were extremely upset – or extremely happy – we never showed the team the tape right after the game. By waiting a day, sometime you find out you didn’t play as poorly as you thought or as well. After a big win or disappointing loss, subjective feelings can come into play, but you want to look at it more objectively and coach your team that way. Coach Smith never said anything to the team right after a bad game, or even a good game. He wanted to grade the tape and look at it objectively first. I think that’s something he learned early in his career, to be sure before you criticize or praise a player.
When you’re talking about Coach Williams, he’s been coaching basketball most of his adult life and nobody knows more about his team and players than he does. He’s with them almost 24 hours a day and there is no one who wants to win more than he does. Maybe you can tie Coach Williams in your love for North Carolina, but no one can beat him on that! We were ripe to lose at BC, if we weren’t ready to play. But we were very efficient in the first half, as efficient as I’ve seen us all season. Even though I wasn’t keeping track, I bet we were playing close to a point per possession, and our percentage loss of ball was very low, too.
The coaches did a great job getting the team ready because, like I said, that was a dangerous game. I’m sure there was a very hard practice after the State game, but by then the focus was on improving. Besides the coaching staff, our tradition and pride helped us come the way we did against BC.
These next two home games are very important so we can get to 6-3 in the ACC, but we have to play them one game at a time . . . and one possession at a time. It’s like going to the free throw line for two shots. Don’t think about making both of them; think about making the first one, then think about making the next one. That’s how we have to play these next two games.
Phil Ford was a three-time All-American at UNC, 1978 ACC Player of the Year and went on to be the NBA Rookie of the Year and an NBA all-star.