Bourbon Street Agenda

All season long’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 Henrik Rodl, UNC ‘93

New Orleans would be different from Indianapolis. I could feel that Sunday on the trip back from the Meadowlands after winning the NCAA East Regional. And I knew it even more on Tuesday when we gathered for practice after taking Monday off.

We all went crazy two years before when we beat Temple to earn that trip to the Final Four. It had been nine years since Carolina had been to the Final Four, and the pressure to return had gotten pretty intense. It seemed like getting to Indy was the victory that year. We practice hard but it almost seemed like that whole week was one big victory lap – we were taking a bow for just getting back to the Final Four.

Ten of 15 players on this year’s roster were seniors and juniors and had been to Indianapolis, and we approached Final Four practice week with a much more business-like demeanor. Our practices were just like they’d been all year – enough cracking on each other to have fun and keep things loose, but when Coach Smith blew the whistle to start practice it was serious business. That continuity told me we weren’t in for any surprises when we got to New Orleans.

Coach Smith downplayed the rematch with Coach Williams of Kansas from the beginning of the week. That had been a much bigger issue two years before when the seniors had been freshmen and Coach Williams was still at Carolina. This year, I was the only player on the team with any connection to Coach Williams. I was introduced to Carolina basketball about nine years before when Coach Williams taught at a camp in Germany. He had tapes of Carolina games and that’s when I became a Tar Heel and Michael Jordan fan. I had never experienced anyone who could be friendly but tough as well. I respected him from the outset and wanted to learn more about this place called North Carolina.

We didn’t leave for New Orleans until Friday morning, Coach preferring to stay in Chapel Hill, practice and go to class and not get caught up in all the hoopla in New Orleans. I think that was a smart thing to do – a very smart thing to do. The environment – the bars, the music, the food, the crowds – could make it difficult to concentrate on basketball. We landed in New Orleans, went straight to the Superdome and, after practice and press conferences, we checked into the hotel InterContinental. The atmosphere started to sink in as a jazz band in the lobby was playing our fight song when we arrived. Almost immediately, some of us walked down St. Charles Avenue, across Canal Street and over to Bourbon Street.

Coach Smith occasionally will put us in a hotel away from the crowd if he’s worried about distractions. We stayed well out of town in Indianapolis in ’91, but New Orleans was so jammed full of people there wasn’t anywhere else to go. So we stayed at the Carolina-designated hotel, with our athletic department staff, Educational Foundation group and fans. Our fans are great, don’t get me wrong, but it was a change having to sign autographs every time you went for a team meal or get off the elevator. It was especially difficult for guys like George Lynch and Eric Montross. I give those guys credit for being patient with all the fans’ requests and still being able to keep their focus and not get side-tracked.

Scott Cherry and Pat Sullivan did their excellent job of keeping us loose in the locker room before the Kansas game. After we’re all dressed and waiting for the coaches to come in, Scott and Pat would start throwing a basketball around like they’re the Harlem Globetrotters. The problem is they’re not as good as the Globetrotters, and there is no telling where the ball would end up. Usually, it bounced off a wall or someone’s head. It was good for a few laughs and a diversion.

Coach Smith came in a few minutes before we went out for warm-ups. He went over a few key points and then said, “If you don’t know how to play basketball by now, there’s not much time to teach you.”

Fortunately, he taught us pretty well. The Kansas game was a solid, all-around performance. There were no nerves like two years before in Indianapolis, no long scoring droughts that killed us then. We got out of the block well, withstood a little run by Kansas midway through the first half, then maintained the lead the rest of the game. Donald Williams hit a big 3-pointer with us ahead by three and 2:43 left in the game. That lifted the margin to six points and was the key basket. The final was Carolina 78, Kansas 68.

Afterward we dressed and watched the first half of the Kentucky-Michigan game in some seats designated for us behind media row. That was one of the few times we were able to relax and have some fun. We turned around and waved to our families and friends in the stands. Then at halftime we went back to the locker to get our bags and leave. Walking out, all the Carolina fans on the far side saw us and gave us a standing ovation. That was worth a few goose bumps.

We had no strong feelings about who we’d like to play Monday night in the championship game. But once Michigan won the second semifinal in overtime, I guess there was a consensus of satisfaction for the match-up. We’d show in Hawaii we were as solid as Michigan and everyone relished the opportunity to play them again.

Coach Smith did a classy thing Sunday before practice at the Superdome. NCAA officials had asked each coach to bring his five starters to the press conference, but Coach Smith said he’d like for Pat, Kevin Salvadori and me to go as well. We played eight players  pretty consistently all season, and Coach was kind of making a statement that a team doesn’t get to the championship game with just five players. We should have taken all 15 players.

NEXT: Rodl’s diary on the NCAA Championship game against the Fab Five.

Jersey War Clinches Final Four

All season long’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 Scott Cherry, UNC ‘93

The East Regional in the Meadowlands was another four-team tournament, with us Arkansas, Cincinnati and Virginia. No matter what we thought going to Winston-Salem a week earlier, we knew this weekend would be a challenge. Arkansas and Cincinnati were both cat-quick, athletic teams like Florida State, the teams that tended to give us trouble. And should we meet Virginia again, we knew we’d beaten them three times already and a fourth time would be difficult.

We checked into the Park Lane Hotel, overlooking Central Park, on Thursday. One of the great things about playing basketball at Carolina is that you travel first class in every respect. The coaches figure, as hard as we work and as much as we bring to the university in terms of recognition and revenue, without being paid anything beyond our scholarships, we at least ought to stay in the finest hotels and eat the best food. The Park Lane is one of the classiest hotels in the city, and it’s a super experience, especially for guys who haven’t been in New York much. We had a team meeting on the 41st floor, overlooking Central Park, and while the New York guys were sitting around the table before the meeting began, everyone else was looking out the window marveling at the view.

The games that weekend were a testament to the adaptability of our team to play up tempo styles, the individual abilities of each of our starters and key reserves, to our ability to play great defense in key situations and, finally, to the coaching of Dean Smith.

We were mind-boggled by some of the comments coming out of Arkansas during the week. One of their guys said they’d pressure us like we’d never seen before, in our faces, 94 feet, for 40 minutes. If they could pressure better than Florida State, we said, bring them on. Their comments were repeated many times during the week. They just fueled the fire already in us.

The game was just as we figured — nip and tuck, fast-paced, anyone’s game. We rallied from 11 down in the first half to tie it at halftime at 45. There was a flurry of transitions early in the second half that showcased what a wonderful blend of diversified athletes our team had become. For example, Eric Montross made a great pass, three-quarters court into the corner to Brian Reese, who flew by his man on that lightning-quick first step for a layup.

Our first big defensive play came with 2:34 left in the game, the Tar Heels up by two. We played tight for 45 seconds and forced them into a hurried, leaning shot with a hand in the face as the shot clock went off. That was huge. We went down and scored and we were up by four.

When Arkansas hit a three-pointer to cut it to 75-74 with 51 seconds left, we called a timeout and listened to Coach Smith go to work. I don’t know how many times we’ve seen it over the years, and I only had a four-year frame of reference. But Coach set up a play that everyone knew would work, and of course it did to perfection.

It was a backdoor play from George Lynch to Donald Williams. Coach told our guys what to do and what the Arkansas guys would do in response. It worked just like he drew it up. When George picked up his dribble at the top of the key, the Arkansas player expected a pass his way and broke in front of Donald to pick it off. Eric’s move supposedly to help George was significant, as he took his man with him, leaving a lane for Donald, who made a back door cut and caught George’s perfect pass for a layup.

The Cincinnati game had us a little worried in the first half when they broke on top by 15 points, 29-14. Nick Van Exel was hitting everything he looked at, including one 3-pointer falling out of bounds. We had a hand in his face most of the time, but he still made 6-of-10 three-pointers anyway.

We had rallied to cut the lead to one at the half and Coach told Derrick Phelps at halftime to stay on Van Exel and forget about helping or trapping. Derrick was walking around the locker room, saying, “He’s mine now. He’s mine now.” That shut Van Exel down and he got only two more points for the rest of the game.

A lot was made about Brian missing a dunk at the end of regulation with the game tied, but the officials said it would not have counted anyway. George got in everyone’s face in the huddle and told us we were only five minutes from New Orleans, True to his word, George refused to let us lose and Donald came through with two big three-pointers. When we finally won, 75-68, George was named MVP of the regional with 21 points, 14 rebounds and six steals in the game.

There was a little difference of opinion about whether to cut down the nets. A couple of guys wanted to but several others said no.

“Let’s wait till next week,” someone said. “We’ve got more work to do.”

We were pleased to have won. But satisfied? No way.

NEXT: Henrik Rodl’s diary of a weekend in The Big Easy.

Reason For Optimism

With the 2012-13 season well under way, it’s safe to say there’s a lot to discuss about Carolina Basketball! I look forward to the opportunity to share my perspective on our program, as well as offer a different point of view on other NCAA programs around the country. First of all, let’s start with a few observations about our Tar Heels.

This team is young with a LOT of potential: Joel James is a 6’10” Freshman with raw talent that will improve quickly alongside the coaching staff at UNC. Marcus Paige, a phenomenal player/scorer at the high school level, is adapting his playing style to Coach Williams’ system. It’s tough to compare him to a PG like Kendall Marshall because their styles are so different. Brice Johnson, a 6’9” Freshman out of SC, is incredibly athletic with room to “grow.” J.P. Tokoto is a high flyer that shows sparks of greatness in his limited minutes this year.

The stability on this team stems from Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland and a young James Michael McAdoo. Keep in mind that McAdoo came off the bench last year to relieve, arguably, the best frontcourt in college basketball from 2011! When opponents put together their scouting reports last year they were trying to stop Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes (4 of the top 17 draft picks in last year’s NBA Draft). No one was watching out for the crafty big man that could guard the top of the key for easy steals and break away dunks! Now that every team is gunning for McAdoo, he will have to adapt his game to continue to produce, both offensively and defensively.

Really, the point I’m trying to make is simple… calm down! We haven’t started off undefeated and we haven’t run anyone out of the gym this year, but it doesn’t mean we have a bad team. In casual conversations with friends and colleagues (..and reluctantly checking the message boards…) people are questioning whether it’s time for Coach Williams to step down. Quite frankly, that’s silly! College basketball, specifically recruiting, has changed so drastically in the last 20 years that it’s difficult to have the consistency you saw from teams and programs in the late 80’s and early 90’s. When Dean Smith, Rick Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski were walking into kids’ homes, they were recruiting high school seniors to BACKUP players like George Lynch, Eric Montross, Tony Delk, Antoine Walker, Christian Laettner and Grant Hill. You didn’t see nearly as many freshman having an immediate impact on the court (yeah, I know Michael Jordan won a championship his freshman year so there are exceptions to the rule).

With Social Media, YouTube and all internet news sources nowadays, college fans know more about an incoming freshman than ever before. The expectations are set so high that it can be nearly impossible to live up to the hype. And in reality, most “5-Star” recruits ultimately want to end up in the NBA, and they use the NCAA as a stepping stone to reach their goals. Kids aren’t typically recruited to top programs these days and expected to stay for 4 years.

A perfect example is UK’s National Championship team from last year that started three freshman and two sophomores, all of which declared for the NBA Draft following the season (this season they are 9-4 and we are 10-4: Striking similarities)! Take a step back and realize that when you have 4 of the top 20 NBA prospects on your team and they leave, you most likely won’t follow that season with a National Championship. Coach Williams and his staff are still doing a great job, and the bar should still be set higher than any other program, but the reality of college basketball is – You can’t win it all every year!


image by Todd Melet

Cocktails For Cancer

Cancer affects us all. But a special few of use take the time to do something to work towards a cure. Back in June of 2007, I photographed the wedding of Leah Fowler to Justin Waldrop. It was apparent to me then that they had an extraordinarily large and close network of friends and family.  

Leah and Justin Waldrop at their June 16, 2007 wedding reception at The Carolina Club.

From left to right are Brian Fox, Courtney Scott Fox, Leah Forbes Waldrop and Justin Waldrop.
Leah and her best friend, Courtney Scott Fox, have both been affected by cancer. Courney’s mom passed away due to colon cancer and Leah’s mom is a breast cancer survivor. Rather than just sitting idly by, these amazing women actually did something about it, along with the help of their friends. This year marks the 6th year and final year they will host Cocktails for Cancer. The event, which takes place on August 25, 2012 at The Great Room at Top of the Hill, raises money for the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Since 2007 they have donated roughly $65,000, dividing the money towards treating breast, colon and gynecological cancers.

Putting on an event of this size takes a lot of work! The 2011 cocktails for Cancer Committee Members were Leah Forbes Waldrop, Courtney Scott Fox, Kristin Kinney, Allison Taylor, Amanda Waldrop, Anne Procopio, Betsy Lash, Emily Braxton, Erin Donohue, Ivy Simon, Jennifer Cox, Jordan Rosado, Judy Maddry, Lin Carmichael, Meg Lanier and Tiffany Durham.

Left: Mackenzie Cox with Eric Montross. Right: Mackenzie Cox, 11, spoke at last year’s event about why she makes necklaces to raise money for cancer research. Her grandmother lost her battle with colon cancer four years ago.
Carolina legend Eric Montross will be the MC for the live auction portion of the evening, as he has done every year. You may purchase tickets from their website as well as at the door the day of the event. Tickets for the 2012 event will be $50 per person and 90 a couple. There is a silent and a live auction in which you may purchase a wide range of items. Some great offerings this year are UNC/ Duke tickets and a dinner for 6 in your home by chef Justin Cole. While contributing to a worthwhile cause you can also dance to The Fabulous Daddy O’s. I hope to see you there!
Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. If you know of someone or something that should be documented please write to me at