Five Tar Heels Representing United States Field Hockey in Olympics

Five former Tar Heels have been selected for the 16-member team that will represent the United States in women’s field hockey at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil this August.

Jackie Briggs, Rachel Dawson, Katelyn Falgowski, Kelsey Kolojejchick and Caitlin Van Sickle were named to the team on Friday.

This will be the third time Dawson and Falgowski will be representing the US in the Olympics.

All five played for the Champions Trophy team that won a bronze medal in London last month.

After entering that London tournament as the No. 7 team in the world, the tournament victory pushed the US up to fifth.

The United States opens Olympic play on August 6 against Argentina – the second ranked team in the world.

Stroman On Sports: An Olympic Challenge

The 2016 Olympics is fast approaching, and all the eyes of the sporting world are soon to descend on Rio de Janeiro – but with concerns about pollution, poverty, disease, and a lack of infrastructure, it’s increasingly unclear whether Rio will be ready.

Deborah Stroman is a sports commentator and a professor at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. She and WCHL’s Aaron Keck discussed the state of the Olympics (including her experiences at Olympics past)…


…as well as the state of Tar Heel men’s and women’s basketball.

Olympic Medalist and Chapel Hillian Nick McCrory Retires

23-year-old Olympic medalist and Chapel Hillian Nick McCrory announced his retirement from diving earlier this year. But he’s not putting the sport behind him just quite yet.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make after diving for 15 years, but he recently came to the conclusion that it was time to call it quits.

“It was really hard and a decision I didn’t want to make. I don’t remember not diving in my life. It’s always been a huge part of what I do and who I am so that was really tough and huge adjustment,” Nick says.

Nick’s decision was partly due to a degenerative knee condition that he’s been battling for several years. Eventually, the condition became too much to work around.

Nick McCrory in action!

Nick McCrory in action!

Nick’s mother, Ana McCrory, says that his time spent training and competing shaped him as person, and she believes that his experiences will benefit him as he moves forward.

“It was a wonderful, overall, wonderful experience for him and one he’ll never forget. And its really shaped him as a person, you know, its taught him how to interact with other people from different cultures. As well as how to control his.. you know he was always such an active child, and he had to learn a lot of self control and diving certainly did that for him,” Ana McCrory says.

Nick is currently living in Indiana, where he is preparing for medical school applications and volunteering alongside his coach, Drew Johansen.

“Well I mean I love coaching and Drew knows that. One of the things that I liked about him as a coach is his technical approach to the sport and how detail oriented he is. One of the things that he does is watch a lot of diving videos to help become a better coach. He knows that I love the technical side of the sport and coaching in that way, so that was kind of how the connection got made,” Nick says.

Ana McCrory can tell that Nick is really enjoying helping out Coach Johansen.

WCHL's own Ron Stutts in studio with Nick McCrory and his medal.

WCHL’s own Ron Stutts in studio with Nick McCrory and his medal.

“He loves working with kids, loves teaching them, you know, all those diving skills that he knows. He gets great pleasure from seeing the kids learning things that he has taught them, so that’s been really nice,” Ana says.

Nick doesn’t know if this will lead to a career in coaching, but he hopes he’ll be able to stay involved with diving as he moves on to the next chapter in his life.

“I’m still figuring all that out. I do love to coach, I love the sport of diving. I don’t know right now if that’s a thing I’ll end up doing for a career. But whatever I end up doing, I do hope to stay involved in diving in some capacity whether it’s coaching on the side, or helping whatever program I am living nearby or various other things. I think diving is such a special thing that I always want to be involved in, in some way,” Nick says.

Russia Tops Olympic Medal Count, US Second

The 2014 winter Olympics, marking the 22nd winter games, came to a close yesterday, and the United Statse did not fare in the medal count the way it expected.

The host country, Russia, took the most medals, including the most gold medals. With 33 overall, the Russians took five more than the next highest count held by the Americans. The Russian Federation bested Norway for the most gold medals, 13, and took one more silver medal than Canada with 11.

One of the biggest disappointments for the US was in hockey. Hockey powerhouse Canada, which took the gold medal, knocked the United States out of the gold-medal game with a 1-0 decision in the semifinals. After that heartbreaker, the Americans were trounced in the bronze-medal game 5-0 to Finland.

The US women took the silver medal in ice hockey after falling to Canada, 3-2 in overtime.

Shaun White was also expected to take gold again in the snowboarding halfpipe, but he missed the podium by two points.

In all, Americans brought home the fourth-most gold medals, nine, seven silver medals, and the most bronze medals, 12, totaling 28.

The next chance for winter Olympians takes place in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February 2018.

In two years, the summer Olympics head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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.

Kupchak's Living Legacy

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.

Kupchak with Jerry West
(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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.

Let the Games Begin!

There is a commercial running on television right now for a credit card company where citizens of a fictional town pool their card reward points and host a community celebration for the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

I’ll hand it to their marketing company — the commercial is exhilarating. It perfectly conveys the Olympic spirit of coming together, rallying for your team, and the sweeping feelings of national pride that flow every four years with the Olympics. The commercial is so inspiring that it prompted Megan Wooley, who works in the Planning Department at the Town of Chapel Hill, to call me up and propose an idea. She had seen the commercial and thought: Why don’t we hold a community celebration in downtown Chapel Hill during the Opening Ceremony just like the commercial?

We immediately put our ‘team’ together. We found a wonderful partner and sponsor in Kildare’s Irish Pub, and honestly, where better to host an international celebration than in our downtown Irish pub? Kildare’s manager Margaritte Malfy and her staff completely embraced the event and added their own ideas.  Kildare’s kitchen crew has created a special international small plate menu featuring beer & food pairings from Ireland, England, Mexico, Belgium, and USA.

Megan started contacting every local international group, community organization, and friends with an international connection and invited them. We have ordered decorations, organized Olympic games (bingo & trivia), and kid’s craft activities.  And since fashion is key to the Olympics Opening Ceremony – we decided dressing up as a favorite Olympian or in national attire deserves a prize!  Kildare’s will have the televisions tuned in to the ceremony all evening; but we envision this as a social gathering of friends and family, and definitely friends-to-be.
No Olympic trial wins are needed for this event — the event is FREE, open to all, and certainly family-friendly. Join us on Friday, July 27 from 6PM to 9PM at Kildare’s at 206 West Franklin Street. Parking is easy — especially when it’s FREE and just across the street from Kildare’s at University Square. There is a designated area of the lot marked by the blue lines and signs for free parking starting at 6PM every night of the week. For more details on parking, visit
When Megan had the idea to gather the community to celebrate the Opening Ceremony, she naturally thought that it should be held on Franklin Street.  Just like the Olympics, downtown Chapel Hill invokes those feelings of pride and the desire to come together with your community and rally for a win — it truly is the heart of our community.

I’ve been with the Downtown Partnership for five years; but only two months as the Executive Director. Professionally, these have been the two most exciting months for me since I’ve been here. I have felt my own great surge of energy for downtown. But what’s been most inspiring for me is the volume of conversations that I’ve had that start with …”I have an idea for downtown…”

Some people –like Megan– have ideas for events, some are focused on issues that need improving, and some people have seen something unique in another city and think it might work here. These conversations mean that downtown Chapel Hill is always on people’s minds, and they feel empowered and motivated to get involved. Even when the conversations are steeped heavily in what needs improving downtown, it comes from their desire for our downtown to be the best it can possibly be.
When Megan called me and proposed her idea, my answer was an immediate yes. It’s too early on in my ‘game’ to say no to anyone who has an idea for our downtown.  And I still want to hear more ideas and thoughts from everyone. Even if there are perceived obstacles or limitations that may prevent that idea from becoming a reality — I want to hear from you!

10,000 athletes will walk in the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony on Friday, and every one of them believes they will return home a victor.  Right now, we all feel that downtown’s possibilities are just as endless, inspiring, and medal-worthy. 

So: Let the Games Begin!