GREENSBORO - ACC basketball will certainly be getting a lot of national exposure in the 2013-2014 season. Of the 149 games, 83 of them will be aired nationally as ACC Commissioner John Swofford revealed on Thursday.
And the Tar Heels will be getting their fair share of attention as usual. Carolina will be featured in one of the two “Saturday Primetime Presented by DIRECTV telecasts” and College GameDay in the ACC when UNC heads down Tobacco Road to face Duke in Cameron Indoor on March 8.
The Tar Heel regular season tips off at home with a contest against Oakland on November 8. A possible matchup against Louisville looms in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament in November, and the scheduled showdown in the Dean Dome with the University of Kentucky Wildcats on December 14 are two no one will want to miss.
With the new additions of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the league, the ACC has only strengthened its reputation as the nation’s strongest college basketball conference.
Three of the top five winningest programs in NCAA Division I basketball history are now in the ACC. And the league is getting the exposure that reflects that kind of pedigree.
CHAPEL HILL - National college basketball writer for USA Today, Eric Prisbell, played a key role in uncovering information about Haydn “Fats” Thomas and his relationship with PJ Hairston.
Prisbell comments on who he thinks Thomas is and why he has a relationship with the basketball players like PJ Hairston.
“Who he is, is a guy who operates in the shadows, in anonymity really and he builds relationships with these high profile, some of them high profile in the area, for the purpose of partying” said Prisbell.
The NCAA is currently investigating to see if Thomas was a booster representative of UNC Athletics. The NCAA can already suspend Hairston for several games due to his recent arrest for possession of marijuana, but if the NCAA declares Thomas a booster, Prisbell says UNC basketball next year could be under further investigation.
“Well I think if “Fats” Thomas is declared a booster, I think that’s a game changer and that’s problematic for both Hairston and the North Carolina basketball program, but I think that’s a real stretch at this point. I don’t think we’re going to see that” Prisbell said.
UNC did not contact Thomas after Hairston was arrested and have yet to investigate their involvement together. Instead, Prisbell says the University is looking to see if sports agent, Rodney Blackstock, had any involvement in PJ Hairston receiving benefits.
“The NCAA and North Carolina are not just looking at “Fats” Thomas’ relationship with PJ but they’re looking at Rodney Blackstock’s relationship with PJ” Prisbell claims.
UNC and the NCAA continue to investigate Hairston’s involvement with Thomas and Blackstock. Prisbell says he has yet to find a connection involving benefits between Blackstock and Hairston.
“He has known PJ and his family for a long, long time because they’ve both been from Greensboro, but I have yet to find any evidence of an improper benefit between Blackstock and PJ” said Prisbell.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/eric-prisbell-comments-on-hairston-and-thomas/
The “K” in Mike Krzyzewski‘s nickname could also stand for “King.”
The Duke basketball coach has climbed to the top of his own personal and professional mountain as the highest-paid employee at his university and, metaphorically, overseeing his empire on the top floor of the six-story tower that sits next to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Entering his 33rd season as coach of the Blue Devils, there are now calls for a higher calling for Coach King. Former Duke Coach Bucky Waters says he has accomplished all he needs to on the bench and should go to Washington to provide the kind of leadership he has demonstrated throughout most of his career.
If not Washington, then certainly to the NCAA, which does not have separate “commissioners” for football and basketball. If it did, Krzyzewski would be the perfect candidate to lead his sport – help rewrite the rules book, negotiate the age limits imposed by the NBA and generally bring order to a billion-dollar sport that has been rocked by recruiting chaos and off-court scandals.
It may look easy for Coach K these days, with private Duke, USA Basketball and his own corporation funding an entourage of assistants and staff members to meet every need of Krzyzewski and his extended family. Whatever shade of blue your blood runs and whatever you think of the man, he has overcome tough times to lead what appears to be a charmed life.
He began at Duke in 1980 as a no-name third banana to Dean Smith and the flamboyant Jim Valvano at N.C. State. Both men won national championships before Krzyzewski fashioned a winning season with the players he recruited. A group of prominent alumni calling itself the “Concerned Iron Dukes” lobbied for his dismissal, convinced he was the wrong choice to recapture Duke’s glory days of the 1960s.
He was not chased out of town by Carolina’s preeminence, like so many other coaches at Duke and State. In fact, Krzyzewski used his training as a West Point cadet and his service overseas to hunker down behind what he referred to as enemy lines. When his oldest daughter called from middle school to come get her because of teasing from other students and teachers, Coach K did go to the school – to bring her a Duke shirt and made her put it on. He went on to raise a family that’s every bit as tough as its leader.
Gutsy athletic Director Tom Butters, who hired Krzyzewski off a Bobby Knight recommendation, awarded a new contract to the head coach when the Iron Dukes wanted his head. Right on cue, Duke began winning and went on a dominating run of reaching seven Final Fours in a nine year span between 1986 and ’94, including back-to-back national championships in 1991 and ‘92.
The man who began at Duke earning $48,000 and buying cheap suits off the rack while living in a modest home in northern Durham was seemingly set for life, electing to stay at Duke after turning down the first of many NBA offers. But that life was to begin again over the next few years.
It started with a debilitating lower back injury, from which he came back too quickly after surgery, and missed most of the 1995 season when his Duke program crashed and burned deep in the ACC standings. He returned in 1996, but by then Dean Smith had regained his place as the king of coaches, taking four teams to the Final Four in the 1990s and winning his second national championship in 1993. Even after Smith retired in October of 1997, Duke had yet to regain its full measure of prominence.
Much of that was Krzyzewski still coaching in pain. You could see it on his face, as he grimaced through games, standing up, sitting down, squatting in front of his players and, occasionally, barking at a referee. After taking an undefeated 1999 ACC team back to the Final Four, Coach K was apparently so numbed by pain-killing medication on the bench that he could not keep his players from letting the game slip away to UConn.
The back eventually healed but not before two hip replacements corrected his gait that was affecting other parts of his now 50-year-old body. Fighting back to good health, he led Duke to a third national championship in 2001 and nearly won a fourth before that lead slipped away – again to UConn – in the 2004 semifinals. Krzyzewski and Duke watched Roy Williams and Carolina win two NCAA titles before Coach K got his fourth with an overachieving team that capitalized on a great draw and beat Cinderella Butler on the last play of the 2010 Dance.
By then, Krzyzewski was already an international figure, having taken over as America’s coach in 2006 and won our first Gold Medal since 2000 by convincing a bunch of NBA millionaires to play as a team in Beijing in 2008. USA Basketball had been in shambles, thanks to so many ladles in the soup when former UNC star and iconic coach Larry Brown had to replace nine players just before the 2004 Games in Athens and settled for the Bronze medal amid much embarrassment.
Asked by USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo to stay on through the 2012 Olympics in London, Krzyzewski did so and maneuvered a talented but undersized NBA all-star team through improving international competition to win yet another Gold.
Now, at 65, he’s back at Duke trying to build one more national champion that would move him into second place behind only the legendary John Wooden (10) of UCLA. The Blue Devils may not be good enough before Coach K retires or moves on to Washington or to lead NCAA basketball, but overcoming a tough start and a physical breakdown has made what seems like a charmed life more of a sustained, successful and satisfying journey for the new King of Coaches.
Of all the quality kids who have come through the Carolina Basketball program over the last half century, none was any more real than Mitch Kupchak, the Tar Heels’ star center and ACC Player of the Year in 1976.
Kupchak faked nothing. He came from a blue collar background in the middle of Long Island, where wealth abounded to the north, south and east. He admired Dean Smith and entrusted the to-be Hall of Fame coach with his future as an underdeveloped basketball player.
As a freshman in 1973, Kupchak was lost and admitted it. Things got better as a sophomore starter during a second straight season when despite winning 47 games over two years Carolina remained overshadowed by N.C. State’s national championship team. Then the worm turned for Kupchak and the Tar Heels.
In 1975, junior Kupchak, sophomore Walter Davis and freshman Phil Ford led the Tar Heels back to the ACC Championship, defeating David Thompson and State in a taut title game in Greensboro. Kupchak shed tears of joy that night and, two weeks later, tears of heartbreak when Carolina lost in the Sweet Sixteen to an inferior Syracuse team.
Kupchak faced career-threatening back surgery in the off-season and remembered lying in the operating room ready to take a massive needle in his spine when Smith walked in wearing a hospital gown and mask. Smith placed his hand on Kupchak’s shoulder until his star center fell asleep.
Recovered from the surgery, Kupchak went on to a stellar senior season, leading UNC to an 11-1 record and first place in the ACC. But after being named the league’s best player, Kupchak’s college career ended with more heartbreak in ACC and NCAA tournament upset losses to Virginia and Alabama, respectively.
Kupchak (and three other Tar Heels) did earn a Gold Medal under Smith and Bill Guthridge at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
His teammates, coaches and great friends Kupchak made in Chapel Hill were ecstatic when the Washington Bullets picked him 13th in the 1976 NBA draft. He signed a huge contract for those days and immediately got tagged with the nickname of “Rich Kupchak” by his buddies.
Two years later, Mitch and Wes Unseld led the Bullets to the 1978 NBA title. How could life have turned out any better for the thoughtful, hard-working kid from New York, who always seemed wise beyond his years and remained quiet and conservative even in his new-found fame and fortune?
But, in truth, life was just beginning for Mitch Kupchak.
His four solid seasons in Washington led to a (then) massive long-term offer from the Lakers, urged by Magic Johnson who told team owner Jerry Buss that Kupchak was the missing piece to an NBA championship. Twenty-six games into his first season, Kupchak blew out his knee and would not play again until 1983. By then, “Big Game” James Worthy had come from Carolina to join the Lakers’ front court.
But Kupchak had made contingency plans by including in his contract a job working in the Laker’s organization when he was done playing.
While rehabbing his mangled knee, Kupchak began apprenticing Lakers legendary General Manager Jerry West and was soon to become his protégé. He retired in 1986, a year after winning another NBA Championship, and became West’s assistant. He also finished his MBA at UCLA, helping his readiness to run a pro franchise.
While working with West, and then taking over as GM in 2000, the team has won seven more of the Lakers’ 17 NBA titles by first trading for the rights to 17-year-old Kobe Bryant (originally drafted by Charlotte, of all places) and then Shaquille O’Neal. Kupchak has also survived some tough stretches that included six seasons without a championship and Bryant’s trial for alleged rape in Colorado.
Dozens of NBA stars and journeymen moving in and out of the Lakers organization, plus the two championship tenures of Coach Phil Jackson, have kept Kupchak in the headlines more than he wanted. Having failed to win the last two NBA titles, he was looking for a major re-haul this off-season.
After signing free agent point guard Steve Nash, Kupchak pulled off what even he called a “grand slam home run” by trading for center Dwight Howard and giving away relatively little to sign Superman. With an aging Bryant, all-star forward Pau Gasol and a deep bench that includes former UNC star Antawn Jamison, Howard and Nash have created Showtime II in Los Angeles.
At 58, with wife Claire and two teenage children, Mitch Kupchak’s one-time simpler life remains full and fulfilled but far from finished. Learning from Dean Smith and Jerry West will keep you going strong for a long time.
Soccer Triumph and Tragedy
Congratulations to UNC’s Heather O’Reilly and Tobin Heath for helping the U.S. Women’s soccer team to the Gold Medal in London, avenging a loss to Japan in the World Cup two years ago. It marked the USA team’s third straight Gold Medal, the third for O’Reilly and the second for Heath.
And our deepest condolences to the family, teammates and friends of former UNC men’s soccer captain Kirk Urso, who led Carolina to its only NCAA championship in 2011. Urso died suddenly this week in Columbus, Ohio, where he was playing professional soccer.
The best thing about the new movie and best-selling book, “The Help,” may be something other than the compelling story and the view into the relationships between white women and their black servants.
These basketball stories were tiny cracks in the wall of segregation. But it was the accumulation of many tiny cracks that helped bring down that wall. So, every one of those little cracks in is worth remembering and celebrating today.http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/basketball-and-the-small-cracks-in-the-wall-of-segregation/