All season long Chapelboro.com’s “Hoop It Up” will be republishing select excerpts from Return To The Top on the 20th Anniversary of Dean Smith’s 2nd NCAA title season in 1993. Check back on Monday of each week for the next RTTT.
By George Lynch, UNC ‘93
I have always thought that Carolina Basketball teams over the years have had the talent and the confidence to win the national championship. Each team had a great coach who gave his players the opportunity to win. This year, it was just a matter of us going out, executing Coach Smith’s philosophy and having a little bit of luck along the way. When all of these happen, Carolina teams are usually very tough to beat. This year, it just seemed like everything fell into place.
I’ll never forget the feeling I had after the championship game in New Orleans. The whole team went to Bourbon Street to celebrate, but it was really hectic down there and we got separated pretty quickly. I went back to the team hotel kind of early, but it was impossible to get to sleep. We had just won the national championship, and Donald Williams and I were supposed to appear on the Good Morning America show the next morning.
My body was very tired, but I kept thinking I was going to miss something if I went to sleep. I tried to catch SportsCenter on ESPN to see the highlights of the Michigan game, but I couldn’t really focus on the screen because so many things were running through my mind. I couldn’t believe that my college career was over, and I couldn’t believe it ended exactly the way I hoped and dreamed it would. I’ll never forget this season, and I’ll never forget this team.
All year long, from the first pickup games last summer through the final seconds of the championship game, we had confidence that each player would step up and do his part. Everyone came to play, and on most nights we had enough guys playing well to make us very difficult to beat. With the guys we had, it was hard not to be confident. On any given night, we had eight or nine guys who could step up and have a big game.
Of course, everyone knows Carolina always has talented players. The key this season was to use all of that talent in then most productive way. When you come to Carolina, it takes a whole lot to understand Coach Smith’s philosophy and to appreciate the fact that there is a reason for everything he does.
My freshman year, we played a lot of juniors and seniors who understood the way Coach Smith looked at the game, and they were given a lot of freedom on the court. My sophomore season, the year we went to the Final Four, we had three seniors (Pete Chilcutt, Rick Fox and King Rice), but we had a “red light, green light” shooting system because everyone else was so inexperienced. That year, a good shot for some players was a bad shot for Coach Smith, so we played by a different set of rules where the players didn’t have as much control.
This season, he gave us a lot more freedom because most of the players have been here three or four years and we understood his philosophy. It may sound strange, but it often takes three or four years to understand what is a good shot and what is not a good shot.
I was even taking bad shots early my senior year. I had a horrible game against Michigan in Hawaii when we lost by one point. I hit only 5 of 18 field goal attempts and many weren’t very good shots. I took to heart one of our thoughts for the day. “There are four things you can do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it and forget it.” I think I did all four with my mistakes in the first Michigan game, and that helped me the rest of the season.
It takes a lot of discipline to go out there and think like Coach Smith while you’re sweating and competing at the same time. But I think this team did it as well as any I’ve ever seen. We were very unselfish and we always played together. And I think Coach Smith saw that in us. So he changed the rules a little bit, left it up to us to take the rights shots in the right situations and, in a way, allowed us to determine our own destiny.
NEXT: Lynch on Hanging The Banner