Bye Bye, Big 10 Terps

Amidst the chaos that has become college athletics, Carolina defeated Maryland Saturday in truly a tale of two halves. The Tar Heels played perhaps their best 20 minutes of basketball to begin the game and ended with perhaps their worst.

Depending on when they officially bolt for the Big 10 and the 2014 basketball schedule, this could well have been the Terrapins’ last trip to the Dean Smith Center as a member of the ACC. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, a Kansas protégé of both Larry Brown and Roy Williams, took what he considered to be one of the best jobs in the country two years ago. When the Terps, along with Rutgers, join the Big 10, who knows what kind of a job it will be.

For sure, trips to Columbus, Ann Arbor and Iowa City will never match those January games in a warm climate on Tobacco Road. And the load of talent in the Metro Washington-Baltimore area will surely have second thoughts about playing in an unfamiliar conference as opposed to the rivalries they’ve been watching all their lives.

But it’s all about money these days, and Maryland’s athletic department had to stave off bankruptcy by dropping seven varsity sports before opting out for the Big 10, which has guaranteed the university at least $20 million more per year than the ACC in television revenues beginning in 2017. The Terps promptly reinstated four of those sports.

So when the near-capacity crowd at the Smith Center began cheering “ACC! ACC!” at the end of Carolina’s 62-52 victory, it was clear that Maryland is a lame duck. And Turgeon’s Terps were pretty lame in the first half, committing 15 turnovers that the Tar Heels converted into 14 points while Reggie Bullock was single-handedly outscoring them.

Bullock came out firing, hitting two “3s” and a regular field goal before Maryland could even hold onto the ball long enough to attempt a shot. Bullock had UNC’s first four field goals as his 21 points in the first half were more than Maryland’s team total (42-20) and had the fans amped for a blowout and perhaps a chance to get out into the spring weather a little early.

The Tar Heels also duplicated the aggressive defense they played three weeks before against UNLV, stealing the ball from the shell-shocked Terps nine times. Maryland made nine field goals, went 0-7 from the arc and, frankly, was lucky to be down just 22 at the half. The crowd got further aroused by an appearance from the 2012 UNC football team, which is calling itself the ACC Coastal Division champions after finishing in a three-way tie with Miami and Georgia Tech.

Having already printed up t-shirts boasting as much, it seemed a little defiant since NCAA sanctions kept the gridders out of the post-season. But there is so much unrest and speculation about the future of the ACC these days, reminding UNC that it wasn’t eligible to win anything last season seems like a waste of time and energy. Will there even be an ACC title to compete for in the next few years? If not, maybe Maryland made the right decision to get out while the getting was good. Aside from the money, the Terps can resume their once-heated football rivalry with Penn State, which has won 35 of the 37 games they used to play. Ouch.

The second half was a reversal of fortunes as Carolina made just one more three (from Bullock, his only points of the period) and missed 26 of its 34 shots. Maryland kept clawing around and turned it over only six times, allowing the Terps to make a moderate late run. In fact, if P.J. Hairston had not rebounded James Michael McAdoo’s missed free throw and fired it out to Marcus Paige for his sixth assist to JMM underneath, Maryland might have really made it interesting.

The Tar Heels are improving individually but as a team still look pretty lost on offense. When Bullock is getting his college high (24) and McAdoo is recording a double-double (19 and 11), they can be “pretty doggone good,” as Roy Williams said afterward, choosing to focus on the first half and not the second. But when the shots stop falling and the offense bogs down, the 35-second clock is their enemy and the lane starts to look like the subway at rush hour.

Freshman J.P. Tokoto hit his only shot and was the lone Tar Heel to make more than he missed. They continued their dogged defense, especially against Ukrainian seven-footer Alex Len, who was held to 10 points and five rebounds. The pivot committee of Desmond Hubert, Joel James and Brice Johnson managed to contain Len, who will be playing in the NBA some day.

The pro draft could bypass Carolina completely, which only bodes well for those regulars returning, those substitutes improving and those recruits coming. The Tar Heels are scrapping for their lives as they try to make scoring easier than hitting from outside. As the hot-cold Bullock proved, it’s still a game where the sum must be better than the parts.

Image by Todd Melet

King Of Coaches

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.

Coach K at the Olympics
  • Most wins of any major college men’s coach.
  • Four NCAA championships and numerous other ACC titles.
  • Two Gold Medals as coach of the USA Basketball Dream Team.

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.

Dirt Bags We Know

Gregg Doyel first got my attention when he was a punk sports writer for the Charlotte Observer, obviously trying to make a name for himself.

At the time, he wrote a story claiming the problems surrounding UNC’s basketball program in the early 2000s were all Dean Smith’s fault. Smith had been retired for five years but Doyel insisted Smith was still behind the scenes pulling the strings like some puppeteer.

As with numerous columns he has written since as the loosest cannon at, Doyel was dead wrong. In fact, Smith had just about wiped his hands of his former program after Chancellor James Moeser foolishly vetoed the hiring of Larry Brown in 2000.

Carolina’s brief basketball swoon was on Matt Doherty, the coach Moeser did approve, who of course lasted three years before getting fired, which allowed Roy Williams a second chance to come back and return the Tar Heels to national prominence.

When the UNC football scandal broke in the summer of 2010, Doyel jumped in with both feet, calling Butch Davis something like the “turd in the punch bowl.” His opinion that Davis had to go, if not his characterization, turned out to be true after UNC decided its reputation was more important than keeping Davis. As you know, I agreed with that move.

Doyel (who went to Florida) says he is hesitant to talk trash about Carolina because his sister went here and lives near here. And he likes Roy Williams, one of the few coaches left who gives Doyel the time of day. Yet, after admitting that he only got interested in the academic side of the case upon seeing the alleged Julius Peppers transcript, Doyel did what he often does – take the easy way out with lazy, inflammatory journalism.

Even for his standards, Doyel’s latest tirade is pretty unconscionable and fits what he was hired to do during the Wild West days of the Internet – just throw stuff out there and see if it sticks. He took the Peppers transcript story, jumped to a mile-wide conclusion and predicted both Carolina football and basketball are “going down.” Doyel backs up little of what he says, using the News & Observer reports to form his own absurd opinions.

Who at CBS Sports allows such irresponsible writing?

Doyel then went on a Charlotte radio show Wednesday morning and said he thinks the only two schools in the country offering African Studies majors are Kansas and Carolina and the common thread is Williams. Ah, wrong again, Greggie. The number is 93, including Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard and Yale, Cal-Berkeley, Michigan and Virginia 

I’ve seen the supposed Peppers transcript. If it is indeed his, all it shows is that Peppers did poorly during his (red-shirt) freshman year (1998-99), which is hardly unique for under-qualified athletes. Obviously, he had to get his grades up in summer school to play in 1999, but there is no evidence that Peppers did it by cheating or being given grades in any course.

Other than that, a copy of Peppers’ transcript at one moment in time means nothing, for these reasons:

  • So what that Peppers was an AFAM major or took AFAM courses – what does that prove?
  • Afro-African American Studies has been taught at UNC for more than 15 years, with no improprieties uncovered before 2007.
  • Athletes have been taking the same courses at UNC (and other schools) forever. In fact, most students look for easier or “crip” courses and sign up for them with their friends. Didn’t you?

Despite what else comes out from a period when Carolina earned an NCAA probation, vacated 16 victories, lost 15 scholarships plus a bowl game and changed football coaches twice, most of the athletes who haven’t been implicated do the work, finish the class and get a grade. There is nothing to suggest otherwise.

If you don’t like the fact that some of them are admitted as academic exceptions, are steered toward easier courses and need help from tutors and sympathetic professors, blame the escalation of big-time college athletics into a money-driven enterprise. It is not exclusive to Carolina, not by a long shot.

Reluctant to respond, hiding behind privacy laws, or whatever, UNC needs to stand up and set the record straight about what Tar Heel athletes are supposed to be doing, and what most of them do. Or this is going to spin out of control to the point where more dirt bags like Doyel can claim on national websites that this is “maybe the ugliest academic scandal in NCAA history.”

Puh-lease. Worse than the Minnesota and Georgia basketball scandals and the Florida State football final exam scandal?

It’s the job of media like the News & Observer to investigate such stories, publish the facts they find and ask further questions. It’s not Gregg Doyel’s job to defame an entire athletic department over a few guilty parties for a nebulous period of time without any substantiation whatsoever.

“UNC football — and probably basketball — is going down,” Doyel wrote in his column. “For starters, there are some banners at the Smith Center that need to come down.”

Don’t think so. In fact, if his editors at ever wise up, Doyel is the one who needs to go down for writing such drivel.

Carolinas Connections

A gala wedding party was thrown at Litchfield Plantation in South Carolina last weekend, and among other things it was a great example of why people who live in both Carolinas argue and joke over which is the REAL Carolina. Each state has so much to offer, no wonder so many people claim them both.
Because the bride is the daughter of former UNC basketball player and assistant coach Eddie Fogler, the Carolina mix was evident from the moment everyone arrived. Besides almost 200 friends from both states, many were people who live in North Carolina and summer in South Carolina.
Here are some of the uncanny connections.
Emma Lee Fogler was conceived in Chapel Hill, grew up in Wichita and Nashville (where her Dad coached) but for the last 18 years lived in Columbia, where Fogler finished his coaching career with eight years at South Carolina. Emma’s new husband is Boyd Jefferson (B.J.) Phillips, her high school sweetheart who went on to play football at NORTH Carolina.
Phillips, in fact, is the subject of a great UNC football trivia question. He played games in consecutive seasons in Kenan Stadium for DIFFERENT teams. After graduating from UNC in three years, Phillips got his Masters at The Citadel, where he played his last season of eligibility and returned to face the Tar Heels in 2009. (FYI, quarterback Mike Paulus is the other player with such a distinction, transferring to William & Mary after the 2009 season and nearly leading the Tribe to an upset over Carolina in 2010.)
The crowd in the bar at the elegant Carriage Club gathered around the TVs, watching the end of the NORTH Carolina game in the NCAA Baseball Tournament and the start of the SOUTH Carolina game. Both teams advanced and are in opposite brackets of the College World Series that starts Saturday.
“Carolina won today,” said so many people. “Which Carolina?” was a popular retort.
The Tar Heels’ first game in Omaha is against Vanderbilt, where Fogler’s son, Ben, is going on a golf scholarship this fall after growing up a Tar Heel fan. Ben, one of the top-ranked juniors in the Carolinas and a straight-A student, wanted to go away to school and chose Vandy because, frankly, it did a better job recruiting him than recently retired UNC golf coach John Inman. 
Robin Fogler, a UNC graduate, and her daughter planned most of the wedding, from the short-but-sweet ceremony in a small church with family ties in nearby Murrells Inlet, to the fabulous flowers and incredible food. But when they needed to hire a great band, Eddie turned to his old fraternity brother in Charlotte, Larry Farber, at East Coast Entertainment. Farber delivered with the six-piece Rhythm Nation, which kept the dance floor under the massive tent rocking all night.
Out there shagging was Roy Williams, the UNC Basketball coach in a stunning Carolina Blue sport jacket, and his wife Wanda. The Williams’ drove up from their beach home at Wild Dunes; Roy would not miss the wedding of his former cohort’s daughter as much as he would not miss attending the CWS to support Mike Fox. In between, Williams played in the Coaches vs. Cancer tourney at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. In the midst of it all, Williams is conducting the Carolina Basketball School (camp) and paying attention to his potentially top-ranked 2012 team that is spending the summer in Chapel Hill.
Williams’ love for his alma mater runs so deep that he often tries to be in three places at the same time. He was approached, but not bothered, by numerous wedding guests who live in the Carolinas and have some ties to Chapel Hill and the Tar Heels. Gracious as ever, Williams shook dozens of hands and posed for repeated pictures. He and Wanda paid special attention to former UNC coach Bill Guthridge and his wife, Leesie, who also attended and are both healing up after recent medical procedures. That’s what true Carolina coaches do, look after each other like members of the same family they represent.
After 30 years in coaching, during which he won SEC championships and national Coach of the Year honors at Vanderbilt and South Carolina, Eddie Fogler retired from the sideline 10 years ago. He remained living outside of Columbia and raised a beautiful family, while staying connected to the game through TV color commentary, tournament administration and, most recently, helping colleges find new basketball coaches. His latest assignment was at Penn State, which hired Patrick Chambers but not before granting 70-year-old Larry Brown an interview.
Brown is currently out of coaching and living in Philadelphia after leaving the Charlotte Bobcats last season. The former UNC player and Hall of Famer was Fogler’s freshman coach in 1967, and they remain friends. Fogler’s old freshman teammates were also at the wedding, Jim Delany, Commissioner of the Big Ten, and Rich Gersten, a second-generation Tar Heel whose 90-year-old father Bobby was captain of the 1942 UNC team and played in the 100-year anniversary alumni game in February of 2010.
Fogler and I have been friends since we were fraternity brothers at UNC and, in 1979, opened Four Corners sports bar on Franklin Street. Fogler was Dean Smith’s chief recruiter at the time but got his boss’ blessing to be a silent partner because Smith wanted Fogler to make more money than he was earning from the state in those days.  So Fogler kept coaching and usually stopped in after practice.
On one of those days, he met the stunning young hostess we had just hired. They began dating and the rest, as they say, is Carolinas history.
What’s your favorite crossover Carolinas story?