The Lull Before The Storm

Those of you who have tried to follow developments regarding the basketball coaching situation at UNC may have trouble with my description of the current state of affairs as being a "lull" but remember this. Nothing means anything until it is compared to something. So what am I trying to say? I am saying that the turmoil that will follow the resolution of the coaching situation will be intense, bitter and prolonged no matter what the outcome is. The split is deep among the Carolina fan base and I can't imagine a return to normalcy ( no such word) anytime soon.

There are several reasons for the split but make no mistake, it's there. I have given a lot of thought in an attempt to determine if there are reasons for the schism other than dissatisfaction with UNC's W-L performance for the past two years.

First, there was a problem from the outset, Matt Doherty was selected with less than the complete backing of the UNC fan base for reasons that are well known. Many Carolina fans who were not enthusiastic about his selection attempted to be supportive and things seemed to go well until that fateful day at Clemson. Something dramatic happened in the Carolina dressing room at halftime but I have been unable to uncover just what it was. An ugly rumor started shortly thereafter that, if true, raised serious questions about MD's fitness to continue as UNC's basketball coach. So I think we can safely say that the length of the turmoil has been a contributing factor to the intensity of the current situation.

Secondly, the internet has played a role in this affair but there are a few things I would like to say about the internet. Most of you know that I am rather advanced in years and I was one of the ones who resisted the internet when it first came along. It was years after most younger people had fully accepted the internet that I even found out what e-mail was. Finally, I bought some web TV equipment because I wanted to follow developments of various UNC sports activities more closely than was possible through newspapers and other publications. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the internet but there have been frustrations also. It took some time before I realized that not everything is true that appears on the internet even if the poster says the information came from an "inside source." Finally, I decided that the credibility of internet information is directly related to the credibility of the poster. The only way you can determine the credibility of a poster is to observe what they write over a period of time and then decide. It's not much different from what you do in your personal relationships. Some of us assume that everyone is honest and truthful until we are shown otherwise while others of us assume everyone is dishonest and untrustworthy until they earn our trust. There are a few differences with the internet such as posters changing names, having multiple identities and even engaging in staged arguments with one's self to make a point. I don't think we have to contend with that problem in our face to face relationships. Back to the question, Frank. My point is that the internet is not going away and we all need to learn to live with it including members of the UNC Athletics Department. I wonder if they thought there weren't intense discussions about UNC athletics before the internet came along. The internet has just brought these people together and they are force to be reckoned with since they are oftentimes the most avid supporters of UNC Athletics.

Thirdly, even though it is hard to believe, I think there are some supporters who bemoan the fact that DES is not still in the position of power and influence that he once was, and they are determined to get a member of the "family" back in the saddle. You might think Matt Doherty is in the family but I don't agree. Maybe he is technically but there are several things that cause me to think he is not a bona fide member of the family. Enough said. What's hard to digest is that these people may be capable of fabricating or, at least, exaggerating things to suit their own ends.

Fourthly, I don't think that currently there is a high degree of confidence in our Athletic Director and progressively each day, less and less confidence in our Chancellor. The coaching situation is huge and relates to far more than whether we make it to the NCAA's or not. Fund raising, national publicity, faculty contentment and General Assembly relations are all involved and a unified university community is essential if we are to escape with success in dealing with these constituencies and problems.

So, there may be other reasons for the turmoil such as a generational battle, young fans who may want to see one of their own head up the program and achieve success but the above list constitutes the way I see it. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I am not going to go through the same level of emotional involvement next year that I have this year, no matter who is the coach.

On another subject, I had lunch with Phil Ford and a small gathering of other Tar Heels this past week here in Richmond. What a thrill to sit and just talk about Carolina basketball and the good old days. I didn't press for inside information but you can bet that I was tempted. Phil is a fine fellow who seems to have his life in order now and I'm proud that he is still associated with UNC. Maybe I'll post some photographs later.

I had intended to write briefly on the war in Iraq, but I have run out of space. Thoughts about the war consume a lot of my time, maybe even more time than I spend on the UNC basketball situation, if that's possible.