Part of 'A Unique Family' has been publishing excerpts from Return To The Top on the 20th Anniversary of Dean Smith’s 2nd NCAA title season in 1993. Check the “Hoop it Up” section for all the excerpts from this fantastic series. 

By George Lynch, UNC ‘93

In the end, the coaching staff had a lot to do with how all of our talents and personalities meshed together so well. Assistant Coaches Bill Guthridge, Phil Ford, Randy Weil and Dave Hanners all had that competitive spirit that means so much during the course of a long and tiring season.

Before or after every practice, Coach Ford would often challenge one of us to a game of H-O-R-S-E or something just to keep us sharp, to keep us humble and to remind us that he could still play. He liked to point out that he’s the one with the No. 12 hanging in the rafters!

Sometimes when we played H-O-R-S-E at the Smith Center, he would first tell me to go stand on the baseline, turn around and look up. Then he’d say, “Okay, whose name and number do you see up there?” That was his way of trying to psyche us out, but it was also something that the guys got a kick out of. We laughed about it, but we always knew that being remembered – especially at a school like Carolina – was one of the highest honors you could achieve. We knew that winning the NCAA Tournament would give us that opportunity, and that was our ultimate goal.

The next year, when they had our national championship banner hanging up there, I wanted to come back and play Coach Ford one more time. Before we played, I was going to make him walk over to our corner of the Smith Center, turn around and look up. Then it was going to be me asking, “What do you see?” That’s something we’ll always tease each other about.

But the truth is Coach Ford and the rest of the staff had an important part on this team, too – showing up for practice every day, enthusiastic and ready to work hard. That’s the way it is here and that’s the way it should be. Whether you’re the head coach, an assistant, a manager, a star player or the last guy on the bench, you know that you played an important role in our success.

As soon as you come into this program, you feel like you’re part of something important, something unique. You realize there’s a lot of history and pride on the line every time you put on a Carolina uniform. It’s like it’s your duty – and privilege at the same time – to try to carry on the tradition that was built here before you. During the season, many of the former players called just to encourage us. We talked to Kenny Smith, J.R. Reid, Steve Bucknall, Ranzino Smith and just about all of the guys who played here in the last few years. Everyone wanted to keep in touch just to see how you’re doing. Sometimes they’d call to give us a few pointers or to tell us what to expect at a certain point, but the main thing was just to wish us luck and say they were all pulling for us to have a great season.

It’s no joke when people talk about the unique atmosphere that surrounds the Carolina basketball program. The minute you sign a letter of intent to attend the University of North Carolina, you’re part of a big family. When you’re not going well, they’re all there for you and willing to help in any way they can. The other side of that is when you win, you win for yourself and your team – but you win for the rest of your family, too.

It was a great feeling at the end, watching Coach Smith cut down the nets in New Orleans. He’s the man who held this family together over all these years. Our team had been through some tough times with Coach. We played hard every year I was at Carolina, and we had nothing to be ashamed about, but it was definitely hard watching Duke win those back-to-back national championships. After that, I think Coach Smith and the players all felt it was time for North Carolina to win another one. Winning conference championships and regular-season titles were nice, but that’s pretty much common ground around here now. It was time for something different, something bigger, and we did it.

Ten years from now, when you look at the history of Carolina basketball or the history of the Final Four, we’ll be there. All of us – Scott, Matt, Henrik, Travis Stephenson – the whole crew. The great wins over Arkansas and Cincinnati, and then Kansas and Michigan; they’ll all be there forever. When we’re sitting back many years from now, watching Carolina teams in the future, we’ll be able to tell our kids and our grandchildren about the time we were there, about the time we won it all.

The original Senior Diaries were  b   y Travis Stephenson, Matt Wenstrom, Scott Cherry, Henrik Rodl and George Lynch, as told to contributing editor Lee Pace.

Heels Loose On, Off Court. Part I

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 Matt Wenstrom, UNC ‘93

The 1992-93 Tar Heels will always be remember as a collection of great basketball players. What many people couldn’t see, however, was that this was a team of fascinating characters. The personalities meshed so well off the court as the talent did on the court. There’s no doubt that was a major influence on us developing the chemistry all championship teams have.

We were a very loose team. We were focused and serious when the opening tap went up each game but we were always relaxed and having fun until then. I think Carolina basketball is an outstanding mixture of discipline and free-wheeling fun. We may look to the public like the “IBM of college basketball” as some people call us. We’re also the “Toys ‘R Us”. It’s like Coach Smith says, “The disciplined person in society is the free person.” We’re given a very disciplined structure in which to function that, in turn, provides us with the freedom to be ourselves.

We had a lot of fun with little pet superstitions that most everyone on the team had. I insisted, for example, on sitting on the fourth seat on the left on every bus we rode. I put two sticks of yellow gum in my left sock every game (Juicy Fruit, but we called all gum by their colors, not their names) and my mouthpiece in my right sock. I wore the same beat-up old pair of shoes all year. Scott Cherry played the same music before every game, beginning with Jam by Michael Jackson and continuing with luminaries from American music such as Hip Hop Hurray by Naughty by Nature. Travis Stephenson even crossed the line (from country) before games and listened to Scott’s rap music. Scott was also the last one to pick up his uniform from our equipment manager before our home games – no matter how late it was. And Derrick Phelps was the last one to get dressed. Sometimes he’d be listening to music and we’d say, “Derrick, are you going to dress tonight?”

One of the funniest superstitions that arose during the march to the NCAA title was that Travis’ mother, Helen, found a head-sip penny entering Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem before the ECU game. After we won, she insisted on finding a heads-up penny in the arena. She found one minutes before we tipped off against Michigan in the Superdome; what she didn’t realize was that Travis’ father, Gene, had been discreetly tossing pennies ahead of them, hoping his wife would find one and that it would be heads-up.

All of our clowning was done in good fun and within the overall context of what we’re at Carolina for: get a degree, number one, and wins basketball games, number two. We get away with it because we all like each other and get along so well. You can’t joke around with people unless there is a real affection among all of them. We know each other so well, there’s not much you can get away with without hearing about it .You just have to suck it up, take the abuse and come up with something better yourself.

I knew coming into the season we’d be a better team than the year before. We lost Hubert Davis, who was a great, great scorer. But I knew how well Donald Williams was shooting. You knew scoring would not be a problem. I knew we were good; all we needed was a little edge, a little luck. That’s eventually what happened. Every championship team gets breaks. You just have to be there when the breaks come. People talk about the “luck” we got with Chris Webber calling the timeout that Michigan didn’t have in the NCAA championship game. Maybe we made our luck by forcing them with good defense to waste a timeout earlier in the second half. Maybe we made our luck with a great double team by Derrick and George Lynch that forced a super athlete to panic.

One of Coach Smith’s thoughts for the day was, “One of the last human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” Each of us had the power to choose every day what kind of attitude we would take onto the court. We could have a bad attitude if we lost the night before or if someone had a bad game or if someone wasn’t getting the minutes he wanted. We could also make the best of any situation, which this team did very well, all season long. Coach is very big into the mental side of the game. He feels you can push the human body only so far physically and that the next great frontier in coaching will be the mental side of the game.

We were really competitive among ourselves in practice. Eric (Montross), Kevin (Salvadori) and I killed each other every day. There were a lot of collisions in the paint, a lot of pushing and hitting. It had to have helped Eric in a game, because what he got in practice from Kevin and me was as rough as what he saw from anyone else.

Basketball players never get as much playing time as they’d like. It’s hard to make noise about playing time if you’re only losing four games a year. I could have gone somewhere else and had more points and rebounds after four years, but I wouldn’t have gotten as well-rounded an experience as I did at Carolina. I’m a firm believer that there’s more to life than basketball.

NEXT: Finishing first in the ACC, including two great wins over Florida State.

Is Perry 'Roast' in North Carolina?

“After what he said about our barbecue, he is a dead duck in North Carolina.” A Democrat was celebrating the report that Texas Governor Rick Perry once made a disparaging remark about our favorite food. According to a news report that quoted one of my favorite books, “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue” by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, Perry, when he ate Eastern North Carolina barbecue in 1992, said, “I’ve had road kill that tasted better than that.”

Sure enough, after the North Carolina barbecue road kill story started circulating, Perry’s campaign, which had been sailing along at a pace that made Perry look like the sure nominee, took a nosedive.

The news reports said his debate performance was sub-par. His opponents attacked his decision to require girls in Texas to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus associated with vaginal cancer. They jumped on his advocacy for tuition support for illegal immigrants attending college in Texas. Then Herman Cain crushed him (37 percent to 15) in the Florida straw poll, and Mitt Romney did the same in Michigan (50 percent to 17).

“Don’t mess with Texas,” Perry says. Maybe he will have to learn, “Don’t mess with North Carolinians and their barbecue.”

If he wants some background about the political implications of “messing” with our barbecue, he can talk to our former attorney general and secretary of state, Rufus Edmisten. According to “Holy Smoke,” Edmisten “learned a painful lesson” when he was running for governor more than 25 years ago. At the time, somebody heard him saying, “I’ve eaten enough barbecue. I am not going to eat any more. I’m taking my stand and that is it.”

Today, Edmisten can laugh about his mistake. “Holy Smoke” quotes him, “I’d be eating barbecue three times a day for a solid year, and I got up one night and, in a very, very lax moment—the devil made me do it—I made a horrible statement. I said, ‘I’m through with barbecue.’ Well, you would have thought I made a speech against my mother, against apple pie, cherry pie, the whole mess.”
It was not a joke during the campaign. On September 20, 1983, a Wilmington Morning Star editorial, titled “Swine cooks the Rufus goose” took him to task, “If his opponents have the sense God gave a yam, they will mount Mr. Edmisten on a spit and roast him patiently on hickory coals until he is done, And then they will pick his bones.”

Now, another North Carolina commentator, Jeffrey Weeks, makes a similar suggestion in response to Perry’s “road kill” comment. “If Rick Perry wants to bring his campaign to the Carolinas we, of course, won’t reject him. We’ll welcome him with good ol’ southern hospitality. We’ll even show him how to cook real barbeque, not with a cow (Lord have mercy) but with a pig. And I know just the pig we’ll roast. ‘Governor’ Perry.”

So is Perry’s campaign mortally wounded? Is it “toast”—or, as Weeks suggests, “roast”?

Not so fast.

A couple of weeks ago former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs surprised me with his comments about Perry. Although he declined to speculate about which possible Republican presidential candidate would be easier or harder to beat, he cautioned not to underrate Perry. Gibbs thinks that Perry could be a strong candidate in the general election, notwithstanding his seemingly over-the-top positions on Social Security and North Carolina barbecue.

What Perry has, according to Gibbs, that the other Republican candidates lack, is “that he is comfortable in his boots—like Ronald Reagan.”

If Gibbs is right, Perry will not be thrown off course by his campaign’s recent downturns, and this time next year, he will be a formidable challenger to President Obama.

2 Steps to Career Passion and Fulfillment

We all have things of significance that happen in our lives. However, what is significant to one person maybe not even register in the memory banks of another. This happened to me one time when I caught up with a college friend who reminded me that we had been pulled over by a police officer while I was driving to visit my aunt and uncle in the small town of Hillsdale, MI. I do not get pulled over often, in fact I can count the times on one hand … I think…. I say that because I had no recollection of the event. Perhaps it was because the policeman did not give me a ticket that I do not remember.  
In life, this is true for ourselves as well. We are bombarded with experiences every day that form who we are. When trying to determine your career path, it is the memories that stick with you, for better or worse, that often provide the most insights into the area that will ignite your passion. For example, you may know the name Susan Komen because it was her death that inspired the ubiquitous pink ribbon and Race for the Cure. However, you may not know the name Nancy Goodman Brinker. Nancy is Susan’s sister and the force behind the pink ribbon movement. Nancy felt if Susan’s doctors had been better trained in treating breast cancer, her sister might still be alive.  It was through her pain and love for her sister that she found her calling. Not everyone who loses a sister devotes their life to finding a cure, but for some, it is a signpost to their passion and life’s calling.
When people find their passion, they find themselves. This is a process that takes work and dedication and a willingness to go on a different path than your mother may like you to go on. On my Art of Potential show I had an incredible interview with Jim McNeely on this very subject. Below are his thoughts on signposts and passion:
“In all people’s lives, there are signposts that helped to shape the person that they have become.  These signposts can be a simple event that quickly brought attention to something that became a passion or a series of events that opened new worlds of interest or ignited a passion.  For me there were a few, a triple homicide in the quiet town I grew up in, a chimney fire on a Christmas eve night and a fraternity house fire that claimed the lives of three of my classmates.  These events put me in touch with feelings I had about bad things happening in the lives of good people.  Although I did not know it at the time, opportunity would come where I could make a difference in this arena.  My first opportunity came with a college work-study job – where I worked as a student security supervisor.  My second opportunity came as a result of a plan I devised to create an opportunity for myself after hearing a customer rave about their newly installed security system. 
When I came in touch with my passion I realized that with a measure of ingenuity I could learn a new business that catered to the driving belief that I didn’t want to see good people harmed by fire, burglary or home invasion.  Today I am a sub-dealer for Advantage Security representing ADT, the largest security provider in the world.  I am big believer that if you want something strongly enough and are willing to step out on faith to go after it, things will work out in your favor.  If you are out of work, think about the things you are passionate about and ask the question, how can I use this passion to serve my fellow man?  The answer will come if you are committed to taking the steps to find the answer.  Take inventory of your strengths and make them the cornerstone to taking action to the preceding question.  As I took inventory of my strengths I reconnected with my passion to write and teach and as a result I started a blog that has been recognized as one of the top fifty blogs on home security and personal safety called Home Safe Home: the Home Security and Personal Safety Site.

I also started giving free personal safety seminars to homeowner association groups and other civic organizations that needed information on my subject matter. Be willing to volunteer; you never know what doors it may open up.
The world needs more people with a pioneering spirit that are willing to create their own opportunities.  You can bargain with the world for a penny or you can demand what you are worth.  Think about what you want in life.  Write it down and act with what you have to get it.
Utilize all the free tools at your disposal.  Network on business sites like Linkedin. Join groups that are related to the field you are passionate about.  Read trade magazines to stay abreast of industry trends and seek out mentors that are already successful in that field and ask them questions.
Don’t be afraid to work your way up from the bottom; you won’t be there long.  Use creativity and make yourself standout.  People with passion and faith take risks and they know that they will receive their reward.  When searching for a job don’t go into the situation just looking for a paycheck- go with the attitude that you are going to be essential in solving a critical problem that the employer has.  If you help people get what they want-you will get what you want!
The best advice I ever received from my mentor was to never be afraid to ask for help.  You can accomplish more with the combined efforts of others than you can on your own.  If you get stuck in your quest, seek out someone that has the answers and ask for their help.  Not everyone wants money, there are many people that get their reward just from being able to assist-but you will never know that until you ask.
The world needs more people that are willing to get up and go forward after being knocked down. Keep striving for the top and summit will soon come into view.  Once you have arrived don’t forget to reach back and help others.”

Jim is a living, breathing example of a man who followed his passion and as a result, cares deeply about his work.  He got there by identifying a problem he felt strongly about, he proposed a solution and is now working on eradicating the problem. The vehicle for his success is his own business This is how people find career fulfillment because they believe what they are working towards has value. To learn more about this process, I highly recommend listening to the Art of Potential show we did together.

Davis Should Go — Now

UNC can still begin moving beyond its regrettable football scandal of the last year, regardless of its final fate from the NCAA. Ohio State has conveniently provided Carolina with the model it should use in order to separate a scandalous past from a brighter future.
The Buckeyes, whose transgressions aren’t nearly as severe as those charged to the Tar Heels, immediately looked ahead by removing decorated head coach Jim Tressel after he bore responsibility for the violations by several of his players. The school installed assistant Luke Fickell as interim coach for the 2011 season.
The dirty laundry Ohio State still must deal with is off to the side and out of the public’s face, while its fans can focus on the new season without the controversy hanging over their heads on a daily basis. And perhaps Tressel’s firing and the Buckeyes vacating all of their 2010 wins, including the Sugar Bowl championship, may lessen their forthcoming NCAA penalties.
Carolina should do the same – immediately – before practice begins in August. Few objective observers truly believe that Butch Davis will survive the NCAA and academic allegations, for which he bears responsibility as the head coach and CEO of the football program but has yet to admit. Chancellor Holden Thorp, to this point a staunch supporter of Davis, told the Raleigh News and Observer that the Michael McAdoo plagiarism case “is another sad part of the whole episode.”
So Carolina’s leadership has two choices:
  1. Allow Davis to coach the 2011 season under constant inquiry and suspicion over what else may come out and what will result from the October 28 hearing with the NCAA.
  2. Remove Davis as head coach, let coordinators John Shoop and Everett Withers coach the team and give the players and fans a break from the non-stop controversy.
If Davis coaches this season, he will face the media at least 50 times after the Operation Football press confab on July 25 in Pinehurst — between training camp, weekly teleconferences and live press conferences and after each of UNC’s 12 games, home and away. There will be constant questions over what has transpired, what may yet be revealed and the NCAA hearing. It’s unreasonable that Davis and Carolina can stonewall their way through such an inquisition.
Even if they can, does the team really need that distraction?
If Davis were removed, UNC’s pile of dirty laundry would be “off to the side” and the Tar Heels could play football out from under the cloud of controversy. How refreshing that would be at this point. Whatever advantage UNC has by Davis’ presence would be negated by the side show he will create after emerging from being virtually underground for the last 7 months.
Making such a move would also give Carolina a chance to plan for the future, and there is an obvious way to do that, as well. Whoever’s in charge at UNC these days (and that’s debatable) should say, “Enough is enough” and start repairing a tarnished image.
“That so many who have nurtured and protected that reputation for so many years . . . haven’t publicly called for Davis’ head is the saddest part of the whole sorry episode.” – Scott Mooneyham, Greenville Daily Reflector

Dick Baddour, who is in the last year of his contract, could announce his retirement effective next June 30 and spend his remaining time in office dealing with the dirty laundry and preparing for October 28. UNC could begin a search for a new athletic director, whose first duty would be to hire a head coach. The next AD should come from the outside with experience in hiring coaches and overseeing those hires when necessary, an area where Baddour failed miserably.
Carolina has a history of no contingency plan that has resulted in the hiring of Carl Torbush, Matt Doherty and John Bunting, all of whom were eventually fired.
Where will UNC be if, next December, the NCAA hands down the major penalties that most knowledgeable pundits are predicting? Georgia Tech received four years of probation and a $100,000 fine for one player receiving impermissible benefits totaling $312. Two years ago, Michigan got three-year probation because its coaches exceeded the weekly 20-hour limit for practice. Clearly, the Tar Heels’ violations are more numerous and egregious.
“Butch Davis and North Carolina could face NCAA penalties more severe than USC even received.”Sporting News

No school has ever been charged with its associate head coach and recruiting coordinator (John Blake) being a paid by an agent while on the university payroll. Since that is unprecedented, there is no telling what kind of sanctions will follow. Also, the academic fraud among players and accused tutor Jennifer Wiley being hired privately by Davis are serious sins in the eyes of the NCAA, according to reports.

“ . . . if proven, those violations rank alongside any of the last decade.” – Sports Illustrated, July 11, 2011
By the terms of his contract and from the hue and cry of alumni, whose university’s reputation and integrity have been seriously compromised, Davis could never be retained if Carolina receives a major NCAA probation. But if UNC waits until November or December to fire Davis and does not have a new athletic director in place by then, what coach would want to come under such a chaotic situation? Certainly, a lame-duck Baddour hiring the fourth football coach of his tenure is not an option.

It is time for UNC to take stock of its current position and begin planning for the future. The Ohio State model looks like a good one to emulate.

That’s my opinion on the UNC football scandal, what’s yours? Comment below.