Chapelboro.com 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.http://chapelboro.com/return-to-the-top/part-of-a-unique-family
All season long Chapelboro.com’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.http://chapelboro.com/return-to-the-top/heels-loose-on-off-court-part-i
“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.http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/is-perry-roast-in-north-carolina
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 http://trianglehomesecurity.com. 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.
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.
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.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/davis-should-go-now