Chansky’s Notebook: Heeee’s back!

The Hornets are giving Tyler Hansbrough one last chance.

Psycho T knew exactly what he was doing when he stayed at UNC all four years. A bruising power forward in college, Hansbrough figured he would be an undersized pro, and he opted to stick around and become the Tar Heels’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder. Good move. He never considered turning pro early and for that, plus his ferocious style of play, was beloved in college. As the ACC Player of the Year as a junior, a four-time All-American and the 13th pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, he made his guaranteed money and now is in the twilight of his NBA life.

For me, he never looked comfortable as a pro, because he was the quintessential college star. A young man of few words who did his talking on the court, he never took a possession off and only missed a couple of minutes for rest in every game.

What better place to see his basketball career end, or see if he can rekindle that fire back in the state he electrified for four years – leading Carolina to two Final Fours, one national championship and, perhaps more important, four straight victories at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Ah, the good old days.

Hansbrough being signed by Charlotte means that owner Michael Jordan and GM Rich Cho are trying to bring fans back to Time-Warner Cable Arena, after missing the playoffs last season, with a popular name. Hansbrough had his worst season as a pro in 2015, coming off his lowest scoring and rebounding averages and declining numbers in every other category in his second year with Toronto after five in Indiana. Now it’s on to Charlotte.

Hansbrough joins a cast that already includes Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, two big men who do what Hansbrough does, only better. Best plan for Psycho T is to be a popular sub bounding off the bench to show the same kind of aggression he did at UNC. At the very least, he should be comfortable back in the building where he had some of his greatest post-season games. Remember his o-rebound and buzzer-beater over Virginia Tech in the 2008 ACC Tournament semifinals and his two jumpers that buried Louisville in the East Regional Final two weeks later?

Sad to say for one of the greatest Tar Heels ever, but Hansbrough is now a journeyman pro. Let’s hope he can draw some fans, make some magic and not have that journey end too soon.  If he’s heading for his last hurrah, it should where he got his first.

Chansky’s Notebook: Make Your Own Noise

Larry Fedora hopes his passion will trump pessimism.

UNC’s football coach met the media at Pinehurst Tuesday and was asked immediately about telling recruits what HE thinks about the future of the Tar Heels. Fedora is saying he is confident that the NCAA won’t keep his team from playing as many games as it deserves to play.

Fedora has been getting commitments from kids who are excited about their four or five years in Chapel Hill. Obviously, they think the future is bright or they wouldn’t have committed. Fedora isn’t even talking much about the NCAA, unless asked; he’s leaving that to rival recruiters. He’s going positive about all UNC has to offer on and off he field.

What else is he to do? Well, maybe you should sign at Duke or State because we’re afraid of the big, bad NCAA? The smart money is on no sanctions that affect the current Carolina team. Why would they? These kids had nothing to do with what went on here in the past. Fedora is the new coach looking only forward.

The 2015 Tar Heels actually got three votes to win the ACC championship and even more to capture the Coastal Division. They have most of their offense returning and a defense that only has one way to go under new coordinator Gene Chizik. There is a lot to be optimistic about, and Fedora is an optimist.  He knows only one speed, so why not show confidence and present his vision of Carolina football? Other schools may be trying to dissuade kids from coming – that’s what they are hanging their hats on, Fedora says – but he’s spinning a far more positive story. And succeeding. Imagine what he will do when the NCAA cloud is finally lifted?

Fedora asked for, and received, a seven-year contract when he took the UNC job after his last regular season at Southern Miss. He knew it might be rough sledding at first and it has gotten progressively tougher since going 8-4 and tying for the Coastal championship in 2012. The team bottomed out going 6-7 last year and, frankly, looked like some players quit the last two games. That toasted Fedora.

Until someone says something different, the Tar Heels have everything to play for in 2015. His job is to keep his eye on the ball and beat South Carolina in Charlotte on September 3. If so, it will be hard to hear anything else above all that noise.

Chansky’s Notebook: Spieth’s Good — And Human

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

Jordan Spieth’s bad shots showed how good he is.

He may have missed winning the third leg of golf’s grand slam by one stroke on the old course at St. Andrews, but based on how poorly Jordan Spieth putted in the last round shows just how dominant he will be moving forward.

Spieth had six three-putt greens and one disastrous four-putt after leaving the ball 100 feet short of the pin on the windy 8th hole. He blew the putt off the back of the green, came back within five feet and missed again for a double-bogey five. He had six other greens in which he took three putts to get the ball in the hole.

Yet, after missing another short putt on 17, he stepped to the 72nd hole in the British Open with a chance to tie and win in a playoff. How could this kid, who left Texas after his freshman season, been anywhere near the leaders after putting so uncharacteristically poorly? It shows how good he is and, with just a normal day of putting, would have won leg No. 3 by at least three shots.

Spieth had only played St. Andrews once as a kid and never since he turned pro. He stayed home last week to win the John Deere Classic by a gazillion shots while practicing for St. Andrews on a hundred-thousand dollar simulator that showed him every angle of every hole as he practiced on the massive video game. The one thing it could not simulate, however, was the wind that cost the tournament an entire day and made some of the holes seem like 600 yards long.

But, as he did in winning the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, every time Spieth made a bogey, he followed it with at least one birdie, sometimes two straight. Except on the very last hole, where he yanked his tee shot way left and then was short on his 100-yard pitch shot to leave him with an improbable putt to tie and make the playoff a foursome instead of a three ball.  Zach Johnson, who doesn’t hit it very far compared to most pros, hung in there and still brought the Claret Jug back to the U.S. with a gutsy four-hole score of one under.

But, clearly, Spieth gave Johnson and two or three others a chance to win because he did not close the door when he had a chance. This kid is so talented, so confident in his game and so smooth, that it is not a stretch to say he is the next Tiger Woods without all the drama and with a longer career than Tiger will have. Don’t be surprised if Spieth crushes the field at the PGA at Whistling Straights, Wisconsin.

And then does win the grand slam one of these years. He’s that good, but also proved he’s human.

Chansky’s Notebook: Planetary Response

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

Earth to Jay and Mary.

Well, I see that Jay Smith and Mary Willingham used my column on Sylvia Hatchell as another excuse to rehash the entire academic scandal on their website, which has about as many readers as their convoluted tell-all book. They claim I say Sylvia should leave with grace because I am in a plot with Roy Williams, Larry Fedora and the rest of the athletic administration to turn the attention away from men’s basketball and football.

Well, Earth to Jay and Mary. Did you bother reading the rest of the column past the truth that women’s basketball is likely to get hit by the NCAA harder than any other program? All the experts who have studied the NOA in its detailed entirety have come to the same conclusion. But there are two other major reasons I believe Hatchell’s tenure at UNC will end sooner than later. One is using her friends to speak out against not getting a contract extension from Bubba Cunningham, and the other is that women’s basketball spends and loses way too much money.

Hatchell has three more years left on her lucrative long-term deal, foolishly given to her by Dick Baddour on his way out the door as AD. And she is in the cross hairs of the NCAA probe, much more so than Williams and Fedora, despite what Jay and Mary would have you believe. She does not deserve, or frankly need, an extension right now, and should have worked behind the scenes trying to convince Bubba otherwise. And if she failed, she still could have gone out with grace.

There is no way any program will be allowed to lose $2.5 million moving forward. That is fiscally irresponsible, and Cunningham’s job is to fix it. Hatchell’s program also has the highest cost-per-athlete among all woman sports. Taking the fight public and any NCAA sanctions will only hasten her departure.

Jay and Mary believe there was an 18-year covert scheme to keep athletes eligible here, and in propagating that ridiculous theory continue to demonstrate how little they know about major Division 1 athletics, and a minute percentage of underprepared recruits that every school admits to stay competitive. Did Carolina cross some lines that it will pay dearly for when the NCAA metes out penalties? Yes. But is it as widespread and anywhere close to the story they have spun that has done major damage to a great university’s brand and reputation? It’s not about the truth anymore for them. It’s far more about winning their argument.

Chansky’s Notebook: Delany’s Journey Remarkable

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

Jim Delany is a most improbable most influential man in college athletics.

A list came out Thursday on, where 12 of the supposedly smartest people around college sports picked the most influential of their peers. It’s a  curious collection, because it omits giants like John Skipper, the UNC grad and president of ESPN who controls college basketball and football by what teams and what times they put on TV. And Kentucky’s John Calipari, who has almost perfected the one-and-done philosophy while changing the college game, is also left off.

The list is generally not sports specific, although Coach K, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are named. There are more NCAA officials, conference commissioners like John Swofford, athletic directors, agents, apparel barons and attorneys litigating some of the biggest cases in sports.  Judging from the caustic comments below the article, some think they got the list almost completely wrong. But another Tar Heel, Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delany, is at the very bottom as No. 1.

Delany is mega-powerful, having started conference expansion and his own Big 10 Network, which helps his league spit off more money to its schools than any other, somewhere in the 40 million per-year range. And he’s not afraid to make bold statements, like his white paper on reinstituting freshman ineligibility in football and basketball – called a Year of Readiness – that has no chance yet is provocative given the academic improprieties rampant in college athletics.

But Delany’s professional journey is the most amazing. He was a reserve for Dean Smith’s Tar Heels who was mad at the coach for not playing him more. He slipped into law school and made it through, worked in the state attorney general’s office, as an NCAA investigator and became commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference at age 31. When Wayne Duke retired and the Big Ten was ruled by power coaches Bo Schembechler and Bobby Knight, no one wanted the commissioner’s job. But Delany took it and 25 years later has become certainly one of movers and shaker in the college game.

Delany may not be No. 1 with everyone, but that he is even on the list and at the top after his improbable journey is remarkable in itself.

Chansky’s Notebook: A Good, Easy Schedule

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

The Tar Heels have a familiar, and pretty easy, non-conference basketball schedule.

If Carolina is permitted to make a run for the NCAA Championship in 2016, the Tar Heels have a favorable early schedule to build up their record and their RPI. The names are big, but names NOT on the schedule are more important. Like Kentucky, which is in the same building but not the same game this season.

The opener is in Annapolis against the Temple Owls, who conjure up memories of their last two tilts against UNC when Dean Smith was coaching. The last one was at the Meadowlands in 1991 in the NCAA East Championship. The Heels won to snap an eight-year Final Four drought. The match-up before that was not so nice, a 17-point home loss to the top-ranked Owls of Coach John Chaney in 1988.

Carolina plays UCLA for the 11th time, having won 7 of the last 10 meetings with the Bruins. No more Wear twins or Larry Drew, and the Heels should be heavy favorites in the CBS Sports Classic in Brooklyn. Kentucky, which plays Ohio State in the other game of the doubleheader, is next season’s opponent in Las Vegas.

The headliner of the non-conference slate is against Maryland in the Dean Dome. The Terrapins, now of the Big Ten, are a top five preseason pick, just like UNC, and it’s another renewal between Roy Williams and his protégé Mark Turgeon.

Playing Fairfield should make long-time Carolina fans remember that nerve-racking game against the 16th-seeded Stags in Winston-Salem in the 1997 NCAA Tournament. The Heels pulled away in the second half as Smith tied Adolph Rupp’s career record of 876 victories. They made Smith the winningest coach in college history two days later against Colorado.

There have been two memorable victories over Tulane, the Smith Center opponent on December 16. One was a triple-overtime thriller in 1982, when sophomore Michael Jordan would not let his team lose in Carmichael. The other was a four-overtime marathon, 113-106, in New Orleans in 1976.

And Carolina gets Texas under new coach Shaka Smart in Austin, where the Tar Heels have never beaten the Longhorns but are 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament on UT’s home court, including Rick Fox’s buzzer-beater over No. 1 Oklahoma in 1990.

“The game is over! The game is over!” shouted Woody Durham. Remember?

Chansky’s Notebook: Improbable Comeback

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

A-Rod is having an amazing season, but an all-star?

Who would have guessed that Alex Rodriquez would have come back from a season-plus suspension to do what he’s done for the New York Yankees? A-Rod will be 40 at the end of this month, and he has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations . . . except maybe his own.

A .280 batting average with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs is good for anyone after 83 games, but for a 40-year-old guy who hadn’t played since the 2013 season and doesn’t dare use performance enhancers anymore, well, it must be a shock for the Yankees, who hoped A-Rod would just walk away from his $27-million contract.

And if he weren’t carrying such a tarnished reputation as a repeat PED user and, worse, a liar who apologized with hand-written notes to everyone but his sixth-grade teacher, A-Rod would be a sentimental choice to make the American League all-star game roster. But there is little sentiment left for this guy.

He is playing for his legacy and an aging team that barely leads the American League Least, and whether he and the Yankees can keep it up for the second half of the season will be big storylines after the all-star break. A-Rod said he would walk to Cincinnati to play in what would likely be his last All-Star Game, but he is better off taking three days off than risk a lukewarm reception from a mixed crowd.

American sports fans are forgiving if those they once booed can make them cheer again. And A-Rod has done that in the Bronx. He went from cat-calls in the first few weeks of the season to curtain calls after hitting dramatic home runs for the team that did not want to pay him but has now agreed to give his bonuses to the charities of his choice.

Isn’t it ironic that we haven’t heard a peep from the beloved Yankee captain, Derek Jeter, since he retired? And that left-side infield combination that were once oil and water is now left with whatever praise baseball fans can muster for the man they once called A-Fraud in his own locker room.

He is still not a likable character, but let’s give credit where it’s due.

Chansky’s Notebook: Get A life! Well, No

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

Should professional athletes be allowed to have a life?

A long, long time ago, a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox named Jim Lonborg won the Cy Young Award and the girl, starlet Mamie Van Doren. Well, in the off-season, Jim and Mamie went on a skiing vacation, and the pitcher – who was not a downhill racer – tore up his knee and was pretty much never the same pitcher again.

I remembered that, and the clauses some professional athletes have about engaging in dangerous activities while they are under contract with whoever pays them—and makes millions more off them. Jason Williams, the star Duke guard and first round draft pick of the Chicago Bulls, wrapped his motorcycle around a telephone pole, nearly died and never played basketball again. You see him on ESPN now, where he confirms he was a much better basketball player than broadcaster. The Bulls paid him about three million bucks when they did not have to.

So now we have the world’s No. 1 golfer, Rory McIlroy, playing soccer with some of his buddies when he should have been at the practice range. McIlroy, who was just having 20s-something fun making like Carli Lloyd, ruptured his ankle and may now miss the British Open at St. Andrews in two weeks. Since he is not under contract with anyone but himself, it was Rory’s decision to play soccer and, thus, his own consequences to pay.

New York Giant defensive end Jean Pierre-Paul did what a lot of people do on Fourth of July, set off fireworks when they are not trained pyrotechnics. And now Pierre-Paul is in the hospital with hands so badly damaged he may miss the start of training camp next month. He may also be out the $14.8 million the Giants were willing to pay him as a franchised player, except JPP did not sign the contract tender before he lit the match. Now, his deal may go up in flames.

Athletes, like dancers and singers, are supposed to protect those parts of their bodies that make them and others millions. But they are also entitled to a life, correct? Correct, unless you own the team or the contract that pays them those millions for what they do for a living. Not what they do in their spare time.

Chansky’s Notebook: USA! USA!

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

That may have been the greatest 16 minutes in the history of soccer.

If you turned on the women’s World Cup finals Sunday night from the opening kick, you may have seen something that has never happened before and may never happen again. Four goals against world-caliber competition by a team that did everything right, including picking the sun side of the field to shoot into in the first half.

Four goals – three by Carli Lloyd – later, the US Women were on the way to their third World Cup and first in 16 years. I’ve said before I don’t like the game because it lacks scoring, but it did not in Vancouver with the world watching. The spacing, the passing, the precision of our women in those first 16 had me and the millions watching in bars, on city streets and at home screaming with arms raised.

Lloyd, the 32-year-old ex-Rutgers star who now has 69 international goals and seems to be in the right place at the right time, had a hat trick that turned her 16 minutes of fame into a legendary lifetime. She was once a turnover-prone player who now never comes out and wore the captain’s arm band until she graciously turned it over to her iconic teammate Abby Wambach late in the game.

Lloyd sliced through the defense to drill Megan Rapinoe’s corner into the net.  Two minutes later, she emerged from a scrum in the box to guide another set piece past the stunned Japanese goalie. After Lauren Holliday scored in the 14th minute off a turnover, Lloyd cleared a long ball over the keeper who had wandered out too far and seemed to lose it in the sun shining through the roof at BC Place, which was a decided advantage for the USA! USA!

Japan had cut the lead in half when Carolina’s Tobin Heath, one of six Tar Heels on the team, turned another miscue into the goal that started the celebration and avenged losing to the same empire that won on PKs in 2011. Yes, Hope Solo gave up a goal for the first time in 550 minutes over four-plus shutouts, but a shout out goes to UNC’s Meghan Klingenberg and the back four defense that kept many shots from ever reaching Solo, who won the golden glove in the ceremony that took forever before these wondrous women finally had the medals around their necks and hoisted the World Cup trophy.

We watched history, indeed.

Chansky’s Notebook: Are The Clouds Clearing?

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

Another sign the worm may be turning at Carolina.

Last April, the best two-sport athlete in North Carolina committed to Duke because his favorite school, UNC, was still mired in the NCAA investigation. Last week, Chazz Surratt of East Lincoln High School in Denver, NC, de-committed to Duke and said he was flip-flopping to Carolina.

It may be another indication that the Tar Heel football and basketball programs won’t be hit with serious sanctions by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions when it metes out penalties sometime in early 2016. If so, take that, Brandon Ingram!

Surratt is a super athlete, a chiseled specimen with speed to burn and a great throwing arm. The 6′ 2″ rising senior quarterback led East Lincoln to a 16-0 record, passing for 4,338 yards and 51 touchdowns last season, while also rushing for 1,239 yards and 22 touchdowns on 156 attempts.

Surratt committed to Duke on April 21 over offers from Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, NC State, Tennessee, Wake Forest and West Virginia, among others, as well of course from Larry Fedora and the Heels. Too much negative recruiting about UNC caused Surrat to commit to David Cutcliffe and the Devils.

His mother confirmed that her son turned away from Duke last week and committed to Carolina on the same day. And while he will sign a football scholarship next February, he will also be invited to try out for the basketball team and give Roy Williams more depth in the backcourt, where Surratt averaged 20 points for East Lincoln last season. He was named the state’s best two-sport athlete by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

An AP all-state selection for both football and basketball, Surratt ended his sophomore season with 2,590 yards on 178-of-273 passing (that’s 65-percent) with 28 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1624 yards and 34 scores on 208 carries (a 7.8-yard average). Likely red-shirted in football, he will play behind Mitch Trubisky in 2017 and then take over when Trubisky graduates. It may be another omen that those dark clouds over Carolina are finally clearing.