Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dean Smith, UNC and the Carolina Way at the Heights

I've always liked North Carolina Basketball.  Although they enjoyed the same kind of success as the hated Duke Blue Devils, UNC always seemed like a nicer, more benevolent alternative to ACC Basketball.  UNC had Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Vince Carter.  Duke had Christian Laettner and Cherokee Parks.  Enough said.  I always liked North Carolina.

That's why Dean Smith's passing saddened me so much.  More than Roy Williams, Dean Smith was an icon.  He made North Carolina Basketball.  Jesus, they named the Tar Heels home court after the man, instead of after some tobacco company!  You can read a lot of better obituary-type odes to Dean Smith.  He was the first Deep South program to recruit a Black player.  He was the catalyst that gave us the shot clock (Because of his 4 corners offense). And he was the believer of the "Carolina Way."

Which made it somewhat ironic that we saw the Boston College game versus the Tar Heels just hours before he died.  The Tar Heels, still ranked No. 12 in the Country despite losing convincingly to the Virgina Cavaliers earlier in the week, was looking for an easy win as they went into their showdown with Duke in a couple of days.  Boston College, mired in the bottom half of the league with a losing record (1-9 in conference) was checking out how Billy Curley's (Take that Tar Heels!) students were doing down in the South Shore.  Similar to our Duke game last year, we were looking forward to the opponent more than the home team.  Although, Roy Williams doesn't have the same cache as Coach K, we were still interested in seeing how Dean Smith's successor works his 5.

Chestnut Hill, MA.  3pm.  We enjoyed great seats, right next to the BC band in Section C.  Close enough to see the action but so close that the annoying drunk college students were getting in our way because they wouldn't sit down.

It was a great game to begin.  For a Saturday afternoon, the crowd was pumped up considering the enduring legacy of Conte Forum is that they don't sell beer at the games.  A little bit had to do with the fact that the Tar Heels were making one of their first appearances at the Heights (and brought all of their fans with them), a little had to do with the fact that it was Saturday afternoon in the middle of 4 feet of snow.  What else were we going to do?  The boys were just as pumped up too.  Although they couldn't name anyone on the current roster, they did know Harrison Barnes and Michael Jordan, and that made it better than BC.

Now BC was led by a high scoring guard named Olivier Hanlan, BC's 6'4" Junior from Puerto Rico.  He's really the only Eagle who has a chance to go to the next level.  It wasn't a fair fight, when you think about it.  But that didn't stop BC from making a game of it.  At the end of the First Half, the game was tied at 36.

The Human Slinky was our halftime show.  What the Hell was that?

North Carolina comes out in the Second Half ready to take over.  They break out a run at the beginning of the half to take a 13 point lead.  North Carolina's strategy of playing all of its big men together seemed to finally be working.  Even Justin Jackson, the Freshman who runs like he's 50 years old got in on the action.

At the end, despite a couple of mini runs by the Eagles, The Tar Heels prevailed by 11 points, 79-68.  North Carolina even broke out some of the 4 corners delay tactics at the end as they were drawing the shot clock down.  The Carolina Way, indeed.

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