NC In June: Fewer Employed, Jobless Rate Flat

More than 8,500 fewer people in North Carolina were employed in June compared to May, although the state’s jobless rate remained flat, according to the state Department of Commerce.

North Carolina’s 6.4 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June is now 0.3 percent higher than the national average and ranks the state tied for 32nd with Alaska. Bordering states South Carolina and Virginia are tied at 17th with 5.3 percent, Tennessee at 36th with 6.6 percent, and Georgia at 44th with 7.4 percent.

Unemployment claims in North Carolina fell by more than 2,100 people from May to June. Over the year, the number fell by more than 89,000 people, dropping the jobless rate from 8.3 percent in June 2013 to 6.4 percent this year.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate saw a small increase in May from its lowest point of 6.2 percent in April. That marked a low of more than five years, dating back to the start of the Great Recession.

County-by-county unemployment rates in North Carolina are scheduled to release July 30. To see the full breakdown of the state’s unemployment rate, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/june-fewer-employed-jobless-rate-flat/

The Eerie Quietness Of A Once Thriving Island

Portsmouth where? Maine? Virginia?

Like many North Carolinians, my friend had not heard of Portsmouth, North Carolina. He was resisting my push to visit Portsmouth in connection with a planned trip to Ocracoke Island to participate in a program for public school teachers organized by the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, known as NCCAT.

Take out a state road map, I said, and look for an island just south of Ocracoke. You will see Portsmouth Island, and on it is marked the town of Portsmouth.

Portsmouth is just a small village with a few old buildings: Houses, a store, post office, church, a former lifesaving station, and a graveyard.

But no living people.

By the 1970s only three people remained on the island and they are long since gone.

The buildings, maintained by the National Park Service, stand as reminders of what Portsmouth once was: a thriving and important commercial center.

Portsmouth lies to the south of Ocracoke Island, separated by Ocracoke Inlet, which, according to the late Dirk Frankenberg’s recently reissued classic, “The Nature of North Carolina’s Southern Coast,” is “the only inlet on the Outer Banks that has been open continuously throughout recorded history. It was a major entry into North Carolina’s coastal sound and estuaries in colonial times—first for pirates and smugglers” including Blackbeard, who was killed at the inlet in 1718. After the Revolutionary War, “the inlet became important as a transshipment site for materials used for developing the land resources of North Carolina and southern Virginia.”

The village, established in the 1750s, Frankenberg wrote, “played a major role in the maritime commerce of North Carolina for the next century.”

Local pilots were necessary to guide ocean-going boats across the shallow inlet. Later, facilities grew up to accommodate the need to transfer goods between larger ocean-going ships and the smaller boats that delivered cargo to local ports near the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.

Over time a sand build-up made the Ocracoke Inlet more tortuous, and Frankenberg wrote that it was “quickly abandoned for the clearer channels of Hatteras and Oregon Inlets that were opened by the hurricane of 1846.”

My friend agreed to add Portsmouth to our trip. Our three-hour ferry ride from Swan Quarter got us to Ocracoke just in time to join NCCAT leader Alton Ballance and his group of teachers on a boat that gave us a long, cold ride across the inlet to Portsmouth with guide Rudy Austin.

Austin told us about each building and the people who worked and lived there. But other than his voice there was no sound. The eerie quietness surprised and then delighted us.

Ballance told us about once spending the night alone in the deserted village, feeling the spirits of the dead and departed villagers and trying to imagine what they were like and how they lived.

Later I remembered how Michael Parker’s book, “The Watery Part of the World,” set out a fictionalized version of the last three people who lived on the island. In Parker’s version, university researchers visited a couple of times each year and asked questions about history and life on the island. They recorded the answers and preserved the distinctive way the threesome spoke. Their answers were not always totally honest, and their brogues became more pronounced for the outsiders they called “the Tape Recorders.”

The history lessons and the spur to imagination that came from our visit to Portsmouth make such a trip easy to recommend, notwithstanding the difficulty in getting there.

But, says guide Rudy Austin, be careful about going in the summertime when mosquitoes and other bugs “will eat you alive.”

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch.” During UNC-TV’s Festival, when regular programming is preempted, Bookwatch Classics (programs from earlier years) airs Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). Next week’s (March 6) guest is Gwendoline Fortune, author of “Growing Up Nigger Rich.” That same day at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Bob Garner will discuss his new book, “Bob Garner’s Book of Barbecue: North Carolina’s Favorite Food.”

A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/the-eerie-quietness-of-a-once-thriving-island/

Coaching, Tradition Helped Heels Rebound

I know our fans were disappointed, as was I, with the loss at State. But we can’t lose sight of who we were playing against. That’s a veteran team with two seniors and two juniors and two really good freshmen. You know, most of their lineup will probably be in the NBA next season.

And here we are — a very young team in a hostile environment. Plus, they don’t like us very much. I wouldn’t like a rival school either if we hadn’t beaten them in six years. But Carolina teams, no matter how bad we might be playing, are never going to give up. We turned a blowout into a close game, and we made their fans very nervous at the end. I think that will give us confidence when State comes to the Smith Center in a few weeks.

You also have to like how Dexter and Marcus bounced back at Boston College. Man that was a trap game if I’ve ever seen one, especially the way BC plays and tries to control the tempo. State had a trap game at Virginia, which plays the same style as BC, and they lost.

I feel badly for P.J. because he really came out on fire against BC. I heard someone say that he only played seven minutes in the second half at State because the coaches were upset with his effort. I wasn’t aware of that, but at Carolina there are two things that will get you taken out of a game. One is taking a bad, unselfish shot. And the other is not hustling. Coach Smith used to tolerate most mistakes and not pull someone out of a game. But if you took a bad shot and then turned around and let your man beat you down the court, you were sitting on the bench at the next whistle. For other stuff, you might get a pass. But not for those

On our staff with Coach Smith, when we were extremely upset – or extremely happy – we never showed the team the tape right after the game. By waiting a day, sometime you find out you didn’t play as poorly as you thought or as well. After a big win or disappointing loss, subjective feelings can come into play, but you want to look at it more objectively and coach your team that way. Coach Smith never said anything to the team right after a bad game, or even a good game. He wanted to grade the tape and look at it objectively first. I think that’s something he learned early in his career, to be sure before you criticize or praise a player.

When you’re talking about Coach Williams, he’s been coaching basketball most of his adult life and nobody knows more about his team and players than he does. He’s with them almost 24 hours a day and there is no one who wants to win more than he does. Maybe you can tie Coach Williams in your love for North Carolina, but no one can beat him on that! We were ripe to lose at BC, if we weren’t ready to play. But we were very efficient in the first half, as efficient as I’ve seen us all season. Even though I wasn’t keeping track, I bet we were playing close to a point per possession, and our percentage loss of ball was very low, too.

The coaches did a great job getting the team ready because, like I said, that was a dangerous game. I’m sure there was a very hard practice after the State game, but by then the focus was on improving. Besides the coaching staff, our tradition and pride helped us come the way we did against BC.

These next two home games are very important so we can get to 6-3 in the ACC, but we have to play them one game at a time . . . and one possession at a time. It’s like going to the free throw line for two shots. Don’t think about making both of them; think about making the first one, then think about making the next one. That’s how we have to play these next two games.

Phil Ford was a three-time All-American at UNC, 1978 ACC Player of the Year and went on to be the NBA Rookie of the Year and an NBA all-star.
 

image via Todd Melet

http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/ford-corners/coaching-tradition-helped-heels-rebound/

Just A Little Bit of History Repeating

College basketball, perhaps more than any other sport, lends itself to the drawing of parallels. Whether it be in the comparison of players, coaches, or teams, fans are always looking to weigh the present against the past. This is completely understandable, especially given the highly cyclical nature of the sport. For elite programs, the difference between a successful season and a sub-par one is often dictated by how much talent can be retained from one year to the next. With the flashing lights and prodigious paychecks of the NBA serving as constant temptations, the nation’s top college players annually make a decision to stay or go that determines whether the upcoming season will be boom or bust for their respective alma maters.

Of course, as Carolina fans we all know where this season fits in the college basketball cycle. The departure of four of the starting five players from last year’s squad to the NBA has left a tremendous void to be filled on the hardwood in Chapel Hill. What’s worse, Tar Heel fans everywhere are still trying to rid themselves of the sour taste leftover from an incredibly frustrating and unfortunate turn of events in last year’s NCAA tournament.

But for Roy Williams, trying to rebuild from scratch after a mass exodus of talent is far from a novel concept. This season marks the third time in eight years that the Heels have faced sweeping on-court personnel changes as a result of migrations to the NBA. In the wake of national championship runs in 2005 and 2009, the Heels found themselves in circumstances that almost perfectly mirror those of today, boasting few experienced scorers and plenty of fresh faces.

In 2006, a young Carolina team led by charismatic senior David Noel surprised just about everyone with their success. With Noel holding the reins and a tenacious freshman named Hansbrough doing the heavy lifting, the 2006 squad fought their way to a 23-8 overall record and, in my mind, will always be synonymous with their upset victory over Duke in Cameron Indoor on J.J. Redick’s senior night. What made that team all the more fun to watch was the fact that they lacked any burden of expectation. Having lost seven of their top nine scorers from the previous year, the ‘06 Tar Heels faced something that UNC fans very rarely set: a low bar. Satisfied to have a fresh banner hanging in the rafters, the Carolina faithful viewed each of the team’s 23 wins as icing on the previous year’s cake.

In stark contrast, the 2010 Tar Heels struggled mightily to coalesce into a functioning unit. Though the individual pieces were there (the team’s roster featured seven McDonald’s All-Americans), young talent couldn’t make up for a complete and utter lack of definitive leadership. The team floundered in conference play and ultimately limped to a 20-17 record. Accepting a bid to the NIT, the Heels saw flashes of brilliance from a baby-faced John Henson during a four game win streak that put them in the tournament final against Dayton. The Flyers, though, would prove too much to handle as they sent the boys in blue packing and graciously ended the need for murmured discussion of just what to do with an NIT banner in the Dean Dome.

So now the question asks itself: Will the ’13 Tar Heels emulate the successes of David Noel and company by shaking things up in the ACC? Or will they allow early conference losses to Virginia and Miami to set the tone for the rest of the season and struggle to find any true identity? Many Carolina fans are more than ready to proclaim that the sky is indeed falling and that this year represents “2010 all over again”. After witnessing the toughness demonstrated by the Heels in the final minutes of their recent win in Tallahassee, however, I beg to differ. This team has shown a will to win and a level of composure far greater than that of the 2010 squad.

This is not to say, by any means, that we are where I would like us to be. Though Roy’s boys put on a rebounding clinic during Saturday’s game at FSU, they still struggled with turnovers and poor free-throw shooting. What’s more alarming, they still seem to have no idea how to guard the perimeter or fight around a screen to close out on a 3-point shooter. But on the bright side, these are things that can be worked on.

Despite a lackluster start to the season, I’m far from panicking over this year’s Heels. As fans, we need to be patient as our team endures necessary growing pains. With what they lost in the offseason, it’s completely understandable that this group is a little rough around the edges. I still have confidence in them because I see glimpses of something the 2010 team never displayed: chemistry. In watching our team play you can’t help but sense their camaraderie and feel that they genuinely understand what it means to wear Carolina blue. I believe the Heels will right this ship. But then again, I’m an optimist. I remember 2006.

You can follow Alexon Twitter @ajcollette

image by todd melet

http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/view-from-the-risers/just-a-little-bit-of-history-repeating/

Too Early To Call It

Man, oh, man, let’s not give up on our freshmen and young players. After my first few games at Carolina, some of the newspapers were writing, “Is this Ford an Edsel?”

Anytime you lose four players from your team who were drafted in the first round, it’s going to affect the team that is coming back. And that’s not age as much as the contribution they’ve made in the past.

We really don’t have anyone back who was counted on to make the big basket, the big assist, or get the key rebound. Transitioning from a role player doesn’t happen overnight, and developing chemistry with a new group takes some time.

If Kendall, Harrison or John Henson all came back, the chemistry would have been evident from day one, but starting over from scratch takes time. James Michael is getting a lot more attention than he did when playing with Harrison, Henson or Zeller.

We have the talent, and they’re all good kids who want to win. But they were all role players or substitutes in the past. Becoming a leader or go-to guy has to develop over time, especially if you have players were once great scorers in high school who might say, “I’ve done this in the past, so I can do it again.”

I do think we have the pieces — people who can defend, rebound and shoot, although we didn’t shoot well Sunday night at Virginia. But we run good stuff offensively and defensively, and we’ve been winning for a long time so you know it works.

We won’t lose confidence. Roy and his assistants are too good as coaches to let the team lose confidence. As I said, we have the system that has worked in the past and they will find a way to make it work again.

You have to give the other team and THEIR defense credit. It depends who we have in the game. With some of our big guys, teams are going to give them the outside shot. And that makes it more difficult to get the ball closer to the basket, which is always our first option.

Coach Smith used to say, “The other team has coaches, too.” What he meant by that is that they are scouting us and know our strengths and weaknesses, and Carolina is always going to get the other team’s best shot on the road, whether we’re winning or ranked or not.

Another thing Coach Smith always said was we’re creatures of habit. So we have to develop good habits and then react to the situation. If you have to think too much on the basketball court, you’re going to get beat. And Coach Williams has always been about just playing and reacting to the situation.

He does what he does, likes the high tempo and to push the ball up the court. But if you realize your team can’t do that as well as you want, do you change the way you play and try to win games now or try to keep getting the players to improve so it will pay off in the long run? I know this: Coach Williams doesn’t like to lose, so he’ll make some adjustments. But up-tempo is still his game.

And, remember, it’s a long season and Carolina teams always get better as season goes along, unless there is an unfortunate injury like we had at the end last year.

We’re also playing four freshmen, who take in so much at the beginning and have some success while they’re learning. But with most freshmen, that plateaus when competition gets tougher and some hit a wall. Going into other arenas in the ACC is always tougher, whether your team is good or bad, young or old. It comes down to a matter of poise, playing consistent defense and scoring enough points.

We have capable scorers in McDonald, Hairston, Strickland and Bullock, and I think Marcus is a good shooter. But except for Reggie, they haven’t shot it well yet consistently. If one kid has it going that night, we will look to get him the ball with screens and plays and try to ride him.

And we definitely need to get to the basket and get fouled. It’s hard to win games without shooting free throws. In our history, we’ve lived on making more free throws than the other team attempts. It’s an important part of our history, and I’m sure we’ll get back to that.

But it’s still early, so let’s all be patient.
 

Phil Ford was a three-time All-American at UNC, 1978 ACC Player of the Year and went on to be the NBA Rookie of the Year and an NBA all-star.
 

(image by Todd Melet)

http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/ford-corners/too-early-to-call-it/

Heel, Ram, Gym, Java

 
OK, for our game against football arch-rival NC State, stories about a Heel, a ram, a gym and java.  First, the timeless question, “What’s a Tar Heel?” Well, there are several versions but, for the one I’ve heard most, let’s return to NC’s colonial history. We have a lot of pine trees and, along the coast where our state’s history began, tall long-leaf pines. 
 
Those “boys” were the basis for our colonial economy—tar, pitch and turpentine.    Visitors to North Carolina recounted and recorded the spectacle of seeing many barefooted North Carolinians who regularly walked through these long-leaf pine forests and, because of it, bore tarred resin on the bottom of their heels. 
 
The tree and naval stores became so associated with our colony and state, it, of course, became not only our state’s nickname but this University’s moniker. Now for many years, being called a “Tar Heel” was a slap in the face.  The term implied a backward rube but, interestingly, the Civil War helped to change all that. The story goes that it was in the spring of 1864 when, after a battle in Virginia, a group of Virginians and North Carolinians hooted at one another.  After being teased about whether there was any tar left down in the Old North State, one North Carolinian retorted that maybe some more should be found and placed on the heels of the Virginians so they might stick better in the next fight.  The exchange was communicated to Robert E. Lee who smiled and mused aloud, “God bless those Tar-Heeled boys.”  Hence, like tar, our nickname stuck and honorably so.
 
So now that we’ve talked about the Tar Heel thing, what’s the story behind a ram as our mascot?  Back in 1924, cheerleader Vic Huggins reasoned that if Georgia had a bulldog and NC State had a wolf—well, the Heels needed something.  Huggins persuaded athletic business manager Charlie Woollen to fork over $25 and the search began.  Shipped from Texas to Chapel Hill and introduced at a pep rally before the VMI game…Ta-Dah…

                                                       

 
…a not-so-impressive Rameses made his debut. But why a ram? Two seasons earlier a bruising fullback, Jack Merritt, led Carolina to a 9-1 record.  So bruising he was nicknamed “the battering ram.” A-ha—Huggins’ inspiration. Rameses’ first game was November 8, 1924.  Carolina was locked in a scoreless tie with a then-powerful VMI team. Late in the game, Bunn Hackney was called upon to attempt a field goal. Before going in, he rubbed Rameses’ head and then promptly drop-kicked a 30-yard field goal to win the game, 3-0. Rameses’ storied presence began. Now, from a ram to a gym.   
 
Woollen Gym, which was home to the 1957 National Champions, was a nice facility but Head Coach Frank McGuire wanted better.  He wanted one to rival NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum.  It would take a while.  In 1955, there were leaks and it was going to cost $20,000 to get ’em fixed.  UNC officials complained but were told the state didn’t have the money.  Well, the VP of UNC, William D. Carmichael, had a solution. 
 
The Monday, following a Saturday home game against State, word came in that $20,000 had just been allocated from the Emergency Contingency Fund.  What happened in the course of 2 days?  Well, it seems Carmichael got some tickets for the State game and gave them to members of the Appropriations Committee of the General Assembly.  It rained like crazy that Saturday and their seats just happened to be directly under the leaks.  Problem solved. And finally, that java thing.
 

The Josephus Daniels Student Stores was named for the publisher of the Raleigh News & Observer.  He was, also, Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of the Navy.  On top of that, he was a member of the temperance movement. That being said, he axed the rum ration for the US Navy.  Sailors were not pleased.  The new stimulant was coffee and, out of anger and frustration, men of the US Navy derisively asked for “a cup of ‘ole Joe.”  Enjoy your “ole Joe” and, while you’re at it, enjoy the game. 
http://chapelboro.com/huddle-up-2012/historic-walk-to-kenan-stadium/heel-ram-gym-java/

It Would Be Hog Heaven!

The University of Arkansas has a perfect solution to its problem with philandering football coach Bobby Petrino. Fire him and hire Butch Davis.

Think about it. Davis is an Arkansas grad and former player there (until injured early in his career) and has since been a coaching “fixer” for problem college and pro football programs.

And Davis has some recent history with Arkansas, leveraging an alleged opportunity to return there after his first season at Carolina (2007) to get a $291,000 raise and contract extension. Some people said it was a head fake by Davis’ new agent Jimmy Sexton, but nevertheless it proved effective enough to extract the contract bump following an inaugural 4-8 record with the Tar Heels.

And the head-coaching careers of both men run strangely parallel.

Petrino was 41-9 in four seasons at Louisville, then hired by the Atlanta Falcons where he quit in the middle of his first season, which star quarterback Michael Vick missed after being suspended for his role in an illegal dog-fighting ring in Virginia. He bolted the Falcons to take the Arkansas job, and left a livid locker room behind.

Petrino was hailed as the savior of Razorback Nation and has challenged Alabama and Auburn in the murderous SEC West, going 20-5 the last two seasons. But his career is in serious jeopardy after covering up that he had a 25-year-old woman employee of the football program on the back of his motorcycle when it crashed in rural Arkansas last weekend. Petrino, 51 and married with four children, has since apologized for an “inappropriate relationship” without elaborating further. The story seems to get more damning for Petrino every day. 
 
Davis’ first head-coaching job was at Miami, where he cleaned up a probation-laden program left to him by predecessor Dennis Erickson. By the time he fled five years later, Miami had been ranked as high as No. 2 in the country, played in the Sugar Bowl and had a roster of stars that would win the national championship in 2001 under his successor Larry Coker. Davis then went to Cleveland in the NFL and left midway through his third season amidst a maelstrom, his players saying the same uncomplimentary things about him as the Falcons heaped on Petrino. In 2006, Davis arrived in Chapel Hill as the savior of Carolina football, and you know the rest of that story.

Davis did not have the success on the field that Petrino has had at Arkansas, but he signed great recruiting classes and won eight games his last three seasons. His controversy, the NCAA scandal that led to his firing last July, also involved a woman in her 20s, the infamous tutor Jennifer Wiley who wound up in the middle of UNC’s academic fraud while also employed by Davis and his wife as a private tutor for their teenage son Drew. At worst, you can call Davis’ relationship with Wiley as “professionally inappropriate” and nowhere near what could turn out to be the case with Petrino and former Arkansas volleyball player Jessica Dorrell.

But Arkansas AD Jeff Long may find himself in the position where he has to fire Petrino if, according to a clause in the coach’s contract, he “negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (university’s) athletics programs in any way.” I would say Petrino wiping out on his chopper with a girl half his age riding shotgun and then apologizing to everyone in sight violates that contract.

What is it with these multi-million-dollar coaches who do such stupid things? And I do not include Davis in that group, because his sins may have been more of omission than commission in overseeing a program that is now on a three-year NCAA probation.

How can they be so dumb to put themselves in a position that could not only jeopardize their careers, but their families? From the late Joe Paterno to the still very-much-alive Rick Pitino, errors in judgment occurred that makes you wonder whether some coaches believe they are either above the law and/or rules or oblivious to them.

Google “coaching scandals” and the list runs from household names to less-known coaches who were no less stupid. Petrino is the latest, and whether he keeps his job or not the respect he has built in Arkansas will be largely eroded. How many times will he have to confront the question in the homes of recruits?

That could cause Long to fire him, after all.

If Long then hired Davis, who has since taken a nebulous job with the Tampa Bay Bucs because he wants back in college coaching someday soon and would be a hero coming home to rescue the program, it would be a win-win for him and his old school. As the new head coach at his alma mater, Davis would let UNC off the hook for the $1.8 million in severance pay he is still owed.

Hog heaven for everyone except Petrino.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/it-would-be-hog-heaven/