A packed house at the Smith Center welcomed the UNC men’s basketball team as they returned to Chapel Hill.
With the 2017 NCAA championship in the books, UNC fans filled the Smith Center one last time Tuesday night to celebrate the return of their conquering heroes.
The Tar Heels won Monday night, defeating Gonzaga 71 to 65 and bringing the school its first title since 2009. The team came up short of the championship last year, falling to Villanova on a buzzer-beating three pointer by Kris Jenkins. Senior point guard Nate Britt addressed the packed house.
“Last year, when we went on our run, I was watching the Snapchats and Instagram posts of you guys celebrating and enjoying the success we had as a team and a university,” Britt said. “And it hurt so much that we couldn’t come back and celebrate that with y’all because we lost.
“And this year we brought it home. This is for y’all.”
The Smith Center was the team’s first stop after returning from Phoenix, the site of the 2017 Final Four. State troopers escorted the Tar Heels from Raleigh-Durham International Airport after the team landed. Five players were originally scheduled to speak in front of the crowd, but junior forward Theo Pinson – known for his antics with a microphone – was not going to be silenced. After junior Joel Berry finished speaking, Pinson seized his opportunity, grabbing the microphone from Berry and stealing the show.
“They tried to not let me get this mic,” Pinson told the crowd. “I just want to thank everybody for supporting us. And it’s been one hell of a year. And I love these guys.”
Monday night’s victory gave head coach Roy Williams his third national championship, becoming one of just six coaches to do so in college basketball history. It also marked his 100th NCAA tournament victory, an accomplishment a fellow Tar Heel congratulated him for.
“But I will read you one text that I got [Monday] night,” Williams told the crowd. “‘I’m so happy for you and the team. You raised the ceiling to the roof tonight.’”
Williams was quoting the text from Michael Jordan, who issued his now famous “the ceiling is the roof” quote earlier this year. Jordan was not in attendance at Monday night’s championship game after he attended the title game against Villanova in 2016.
“He’s like me,” Williams said. “He’s a little superstitious.”
Photo via Associated Press