Category Archives: UNC Tar Heels

Butch Davis should return to Heels’ sidelines

Butch Davis should not be fired.

I was one of the first to say it. Allow me, then, to be one of the first to say I was wrong.

When the NCAA violations and player-agent relationship revelations were coming to the surface at the beginning of this football season, and I was in the “Fire Butch Davis” camp. You don’t cheat at our University. Not at North Carolina. Maybe Davis didn’t know what was going on, and maybe there was nothing he could’ve done about it had he known it was going on, but the head coach of a major college program is the face of that program. And it was his signature hiring of the shady assistant coach, the one who brought these violations onto the University in the first place.

Maybe everybody is doing it, and maybe the system is broken. Those are points that can be argued, and have been throughout a tumultuous NCAA vs. College Football season. The problem was North Carolina found itself not merely in the middle of it, but at its epicenter. And that’s not the kind of scrutiny proud Tar Heel alumni will stand for.

Until now.

Davis’ job at UNC still probably isn’t on the firmest ground even after a trhilling Music City Bowl 30-27 double-ovetime victory over a .500 Tennessee team on Dec. 30. And, for all of the reasons mentioned above, maybe it shouldn’t be. If Davis is let go, I as one UNC alum will understand. It’s the price he and the University would have to pay for the ugly repercussions that led to 14 Tar Heels’ players being suspended — seven of them for the entire season — because of the NCAA problems. Winning is nice, but not at the cost of shame and rules-breaking.

But it was that win over the Vols that was emblematic of what the Heels were like as a football team — as a direct, highly-visual representative of the University — that enables those aforementioned proud alumni the opportunity to consider moving past the Season That Coulda Been with an ounce of actual pride in the process. Yes, there were injuries, quite of few of them, in fact, but every team every year deals with significant injuries. And the depth and talent issues in any given week that the Heels faced were brought on by none other than the program itself.

Still, UNC played the season with a vigor and relentlessness that we all want to see out of our teams each time they step onto the football field — and the composure they showed in a chaotic fourth quarter and overtime against Tennessee was stunning. There is one thing worse than a team allowing its vast talent to waste away and string fans along through a season of underachievement. And that’s a team that licks its wounds, shrugs its shoulders and turns it back on trying because it feels defeated the moment the opening kickoff is in the air.

The Heels never gave up on a season in which its promise was derailed for good before the opening game. Through the tumult, through the harsh stares and hard questions, the Heels kept on playing football and going forward through the season with a fight and a manner that can make fans and alumni, if not proud, then at least appreciative.

The players booted from the team for various reasons may have been the story of UNC Football this season. But at the end of the season, they weren’t the faces of the program.

And for that, Butch Davis deserves a second chance to rebuild North Carolina Football — the right way.

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Filed under ACC, Alex Podlogar, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, North Carolina Tar Heels, Sports, Sports columns, UNC Tar Heels

The PODcast, July 20

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.07.20-11.59.01-dedit.mp3″

In Part I, the guys from Sanford’s sports talk radio show look into the possible UNC NCAA violations, talk some LeBron and MJ, and begin chatter about the major losers in golf.

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.07.20-12.30.00-d.mp3″

In Part II, the golf discussion hits center stage before another wild – and newsworthy — Sarda Segment.

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The PODcast, May 7

http://podlogar.podhoster.com/download/1782/18077/2010.05.07-08.59.01-dedit.mp3″

In Part 1 there’s some area baseball chatter before breaking down the moves at Grace Christian.

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.05.07-09.30.00-d.mp3″

The rally for Los Suns. Does UNC have a transfer problem? What kind of style basketball must the Heels play now? Also, the NBA playoffs are broken down before a little something hastily called the Sarda Segment.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Grace Christian, Lee County High School, Major League Baseball, NBA, NBA Playoffs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels, WDCC 90.5 FM

Bryan Lee and Cam Thomas go way back — before the NFL

North Carolina's Cam Thomas was drafted by the San Diego Chargers on Saturday. And his high shcool was there.

Interviewing for his first head coaching job, Bryan Lee was shown around the North Moore campus. Wanting to get a look at some of the potential players he might be coaching in the fall, Lee was brought to the gym to witness a few kids playing hoops.
That’s when he first saw Cam Thomas.
A mountain of a sophomore, Lee knew Thomas would be the foundation of his Mustangs program. He knew he would have a monster on the defensive line, one even the Albemarle and Thomasville coaching staffs would salivate over.
Lee also knew he had found a way to get North Moore into the end zone a lot more than the handful of times the Mustangs hit paydirt the year before.
One problem — Thomas’ mom wasn’t so sure about her son playing football.
Lee can be persuasive, though, and after getting the job and employing some careful conversations, Lee got his man among boys in pads and onto the practice field.
On Saturday, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Lee, in person, heard that player’s name announced over the public address system at the NFL Draft.
“That was a pretty amazing moment,” Lee says. “A once-in-a-lifetime moment, actually.”
A moment, it must be said, didn’t have to happen.

Thomas was drafted in the fifth round by the San Diego Chargers, a team with serious Super Bowl aspirations this coming season, with the 146th selection overall. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound rock of a nosetackle from North Carolina told Lee when the two talked not long after the announcement that he’ll report to the team on May 6.
“He’s said all the right things, the things he’s supposed to say, but it’s still just Cam being Cam,” Lee says. “He really put it in perspective. He said that when he got the call, a door opened for him, and now anything’s possible. And now it’s time to go to work.”
Lee said Thomas understands the odds he’s up against. Not every fifth-rounder makes the team, even ones like Thomas who rank among the top of their class as a run-stopper.
But Thomas knows all about long odds. He’s been over them with Lee before.
“We never really talked about Sundays when Cam was in high school,” Lee says. “Look, I was a first-time head coach. I didn’t really know what a Division-1 college player looked like, much less a professional athlete.
“But we talked about football getting him to the next level so that he could get an education, and what he could do with that.”

Two years ago, Thomas came to see his coach one more time before Lee moved closer to his hometown in southern Illinois.
It was a happy reunion, one that started when Thomas unfolded himself out of his $800 car.
The truth is, Lee and Thomas have talked about a lot of things over the years, and well before Lee moved on to Southern Lee to build the Cavaliers program while Thomas battled through a coaching change in Chapel Hill to play in all 27 games his last two-plus seasons.
As a lineman and a running back, Thomas starred under Lee at North Moore, though Lee likes to point out that it was really the other way around. Whatever. Southern Lee fans have a pretty good idea what Lee was about, moreso now that he’s gone.
But none of that, really, had anything to do with why Lee felt like he had to be in New York to hear his former player’s name called.
Lee can remember driving Thomas to his official visits to colleges. He can remember taking Thomas to the site of his ACT test.
He can remember the same short-sleeved white shirt and clip-on tie that Thomas wore each and every time he needed to dress up.
“This wasn’t a kid who had a lot of steaks in the freezer,” Lee says of Thomas’ upbringing. “To say he came from humble beginnings is an understatement. But he has an amazing mother and a great stepfather, and he was more fortunate than 90 percent of the kids out there because he had parents who kept him on the straight and narrow.”
And Thomas has already talked about what he hopes to be able to do for his family now.
“The financial door is open now, and he knows that,” Lee said. “It’s another door opening for him, one that he can open for his family.”

Another story stands out on this day for Lee.
The summer of Thomas’ senior year at North Moore, there was talk of a playoff appearance in the fall. Thomas was being heavily recruited in his home state, and the word was out about the rising Mustangs.
And so on the morning of North Moore’s first summer scrimmage, the team gathered at the school to board the buses to take them to the big-deal scrimmage at Catawba College.
No Cam.
And so they waited.
And waited some more.
And then Lee couldn’t wait anymore. He drove to Thomas’ trailer, and found his star there.
“Cam, what’s going on?” Lee recalls in telling the story. “We’ve got to go.”
“I can’t, Coach,” came the reply.
“You can’t?”
“Mom says I can’t go anywhere this weekend.”
“Geez, Cam, what did you do?”
“I didn’t clean my room. Mom says I can’t doing anything this weekend. I was supposed to clean my room.”
And so Lee left — without Cam Thomas.
“His mom had said no,” Lee recalls now, “and nobody changes her mind.”
On Saturday, perhaps because of all the times his mother or stepfather said no, the NFL said yes to Cam Thomas.
And Lee made sure he heard them say it.

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Filed under ACC, Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, NFL, North Carolina Tar Heels, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels

For the Duke haters…

Nolan Smith and the Blue Devils are on their way.

Editor’s Note: Here is Sunday’s column as it was written, before Duke continued its cruise to its fourth national title. This for all of those who were rooting against the inevitable.

It’s the Final Four, so anything can happen. We all know that much. Grainy highlights of Jimmy V and Ed Pinkney remind us of that often at this time of year. But given The Herald’s early-ish deadlines on Saturday night, this sports section — as you can clearly see — does not have the result of the national semifinal between Duke and West Virginia, which did not finish until after our presstime.

Chances are, faithful reader, you already know what happened. And you’ve probably heard the game broken down in myriad ways. And you’ve likely digested all of the postgame comments.

So what you find here in this space is obviously not an analysis of what transpired between the Blue Devils and Mountaineers, no dissection of Duke’s striking ability to snare offensive rebounds that went for second-chance 3-pointers or its towering inside presence and physical, tough-as-nails defense.

There won’t be anything in here about the Devils again finding a way to make an opponent’s best player rather ineffective, in this case, Da’Sean Butler. Or their vast experience taking control in the game’s final 7 minutes, where a close game gets stretched to a 7-10-point lead as Duke does every single little thing right down the stretch to close out the victory.

None of that is in here. Honestly, you don’t need it. It was readily apparent on the TV screen you watched last night.

But what you will find here is a completely unbiased portrait of a brilliant season by the Duke Blue Devils, a season in which a team without ready-made NBA talent used three go-to scorers, outstanding rebounding, a game-changing, legendary coach and a grinding style that belies their true nature — that of wily, cagey and deft precision basketball in the most important of moments.

It’s truly amazing how Duke does it, by…um…by…hold on a minute…I’ll get it out…

It’s truly amazing how Duke does it, by…um…by…

Oh, forget it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all know how good Duke is. We all know why they’re good. You don’t need to hear it again. And I don’t need to write it again.

Got that? Got it? Yeah, I respect Duke. Respect the heck out of them. They win the right way. Play a brand of basketball not at all unlike any of the other three teams in the Final Four. That’s why they’re there. That style of basketball won this year, and the last four standing are a testament to it.

And Duke’s the best of them.

And the Devils will win it all.

Doesn’t mean someone, possibly someone like me even, has to like it.

The questions is always out there: can a person report on his school’s rival, watch it and write about it in an unbiased, completely objective manner for his or her readers?

You bet he can. Some have been doing it for over a decade. Even longer. It’s out there, people, believe me. I did it, in fact, a little higher up in this here column. You know, just to prove a point.

But I ain’t doing it now. Not anymore.

Because I know what most North Carolina or N.C. State or Wake Forest fans are thinking this morning.

And this is for them.

Take it, leave it, ball it up or line the birdcage with it, I don’t really care right now.

Because I know they don’t want Duke to win the national championship. Not now.

Not ever.

Yeah, I said it.

And meant it.

Maybe that makes them bad people.

Tough. ’Cause they don’t mind.

I went to the University of North Carolina, and I’m a Tar Heels fan. Can’t lie. That’s my school. And that means some things to some of us.

And one of those things is to root against Duke.

Every time.

Especially now.

Not every Heels’ fan or UNC grad is like this. They wish well for the state of North Carolina, or for the added prestige of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

That’s fine.

But I ain’t talking about them.

You can, though. Criticize them all you want, Dukies. Rub your national title in their faces and wax poetic about the winning ways of Coach K, Singler, Scheyer and Smith.

Go ahead and dance on the Tar Heels’ grave and say they are sore losers.

You’re right.

And so were some of you last year.

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Akeem Richmond vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels

Like a lot of people in Sanford this week, I’m torn.

I graduated from the University of North Carolina. I reveled in the Tar Heels’ winning the national title twice in the last five years. And while I shuddered at the thought of caring even a little about the Heels’ chances in the NIT, I have to admit that I’ve been watching the games.

All along, though, as soon as the NCAA Tournament brackets were released without Rhode Island, the NIT did get more than just a tad interesting for us who live in Lee County.

I’ve followed Akeem Richmond and covered his games since he was at West Lee Middle. Tonight, he’s playing in Madison Square Garden against the Tar Heels. I know a lot of people will have tuned in to see how Akeem and his Rams performed, but here are my thoughts about what I saw in Tuesday night’s game.

Pregame

First things first, I’m not sure I see UNC winning this game.

While Rhode Island doesn’t exactly seem to thrive in halfcourt defense — maybe that’s how the Heels win this game — the Rams can flat-out run and gun. It’s the perfect offense for someone like Richmond to join and contribute quickly, and the exact kind of offense that UNC has had such trouble with this season. Unless Rhode Island wilts late, I think I’m leaning toward the Rams in this one.

I’m also interested in seeing who from UNC will be guarding Richmond when he’s in the game, and who Richmond will be matched up against. I get the feeling he’ll be pretty jacked for either of those assignments.

Should be fun no matter what happens.

First Half

Richmond will likely come in after the first TV timeout, and as we all know, his job is to hoist 3-point jumpers if he gets even a sliver of an opening.

I know, I know. You’re thinking what I’m thinking. Against Carolina’s typical 3-point, ahem, defense, the kid from Sanford just might have a big night.

A freaking big night.

OH GOOD GOD, THERE’S AN NIT CONSOLATION GAME!?

Yes, Tar Heels’ fans, your team can play for third place in the NIT two days after losing… in the NIT. What’s worse? Winning the NIT or finishing third in it?

Seriously, isn’t that a legitimate question?

(Wait, this just in — there doesn’t appear to be an NIT consolation game. Whew.)

You know, as the lowest seed left in the NIT, UNC only had to bring one set of uniforms.

Again, in the NIT.

Hurry up and get there, Harrison.

15:19 Being a running diary (of sorts) involving the Heels, I’m contractually obligated to mention this:

Deon Thompson is soft. Enough with the front-rim fadeaway, Deon.

There, I feel better now. Glad to get that out of the way.

13:49 And Richmond is in the ballgame. Here we go.

12:05 Richmond gets stuck defending Travis Wear for some reason, and after missing the mismatch (that’s our Larry Drew II) twice, Wear makes URI and Richmond pay with a put-back.

TV timeout should help resolve that situation.

11:14 Not long after Leslie McDonald slips Richmond for a deep deuce, Richmond gets a look and tries one from beyond the NBA 3-point line at the top of the key. Long.

10:02 Richmond suffers a turnover — just a little hesitant with an entry pass. But grabs a rebound on the defensive end. Oh, Heels 23-17, by the way.

7:45 Richmond on the break, on the left wing, good look from 3 — just misses.

6:11 He might just be a tad too far out. I know, I know, Akeem’s in range once he gets off the bus. Still, this one with a foot on the NBA line comes off the front rim.

But, and this should be noted, the Heels had Marcus Ginyard on him that possession.

5:11 Richmond has it, bringing it up the floor, weaves toward the right wing and lets it fly — and it’s off the other side of the backboard. Just hurried right now and trying to do too much.

And Rhody coach Jim Baron gets the freshman out of there. Give him time to settle down, though this is about the spot he usually comes out.

3:16 OK, talk me off the ledge here. Is it me, or is Tyler Zeller getting better?

Tie game at 30 at the half. Ugly first half. Richmond needn’t feel bad. The teams are combining to shoot 31.6 percent from the floor.

Second Half

15:28 Frenetic pace to start the second half, and Rhody leads 39-36 at the first break. Richmond should be in soon after the break, and shouldn’t feel bad about his first-half struggles. Only four 3s have been the entire game to this point. He’s standing out a lot less in the crowd.

But as we all know, he’s gonna keep shooting. And he should. It’s what he does, and, more importantly, what he’s asked to do by people who know a lot more about basketball than we do.

14:28 Rhody’s Delroy James just made a play that you had to see to appreciate.

13:12 UNC’s best offensive play might be laying it softly off the glass, missing, and having Jon Henson dunk it home. 42-41, UNC.

12:58 Richmond is in, and after missing another 3-point attempt, comes down the floor offensively, battles 7-footer Zeller for the rebound, and bounces it off the big man. Rhody ball.

Good play. Basketball play. A play you need to make when the shot isn’t falling.

11:38 Heels respecting Richmond’s shot, though. There’s no other way to say it. By placing Ginyard on Richmond — a long defender with good reach and a defensive reputation — it’s clear Roy Williams doesn’t want the No. 2 prep scorer from North Carolina to get any open looks.

11:13 Richmond tries to drive to the hole as three Heels converge. Trying to draw the foul. Didn’t happen.

10:51 A pass just off Richmond’s fingertips on the break.

8:59 Just not his night. Shot clock winding down, a late pass, hand in his face, Richmond air-balls a deep 3 from the wing. Too bad.

OK, THIS GOES IN ALL CAPS. I’VE JUST BEEN TOLD THAT WOODY DURHAM HAS CALLED AKEEM “RAYMOND” ALL NIGHT. UM, WHAT?!

7:59 And with that, Raymond Richmond is out.

6:13 Turnovers. Blocked shots. Missed shots. Ugly game, which the Rams lead 52-51.

6:00 Alley-oop, and it’s an 8-0 Rams’ run. 54-51.

4:37 Great line by Bill Raftery: “I can’t recall a more electric game with as few of finishes.”

3:45 Has anybody in college basketball had more shots rim out this season than Will Graves?

You know, with Rhody up by three here, Akeem Richmond could be sitting on another chance to play a big game in the Garden.

We might get a chance at a “Richmond Redemption” type headline in a couple of days.

Good closeup on Richmond during a montage highlight package of Delroy James by ESPN2. As rough a night as he’s had, Richmond is being a good teammate from the bench. No sulking there. That’s expected, but still good to see.

3:39 Why in God’s name is UNC shooting 3s when they have a huge size advantage? The Heels are 1 of 15 from behind the arc. That’s been by far the most frustrating thing about this team all season long. So careless with the ball and so careless mentally.

1:28 Big fader by Drew as the Heels trail 59-56.

Sorry, but I’m really, really torn here.

1:16 Turnover Rhody.

Foul Rhody. Oh boy.

No big deal, Heels can’t make foul shots.

Oh look, Drew made one. Heels are 4-11 from the line. 59-57.

55 seconds You know what? Drew isn’t scared. Give him that. After a missed front end by Rhody, Drew takes it to the hole and the game is tied.

26 seconds Oh, Rhody — four straight missed foul shots. Heels ball and the shot lock is off.

0:00 What the hell was that? Why call timeout? Surely Roy didn’t draw that up. Surely. Drew takes a bad 3 instead of driving to the hole, and we’ve got overtime.

Overtime

You know what? Rhody, so far, has given this game away. At least Richmond wasn’t on the floor for that last 3-minute debacle.

2:15 Well, would you look at that? Heels going inside in overtime. Zeller has five points and Thompson heads to the line for a three-point lead. Well well well.

41.3 seconds Dammit, Deon! High and soft rebound off the glass, and Thompson tries to tip the putback. Henson dunks that. Of course it’s a miss. SO FRICKIN’ SOFT!

22 seconds Heels up one, 68-67, and keep the ball.

0:00 Oh God, it ends like that?

Heels had the ball, Graves puts up a shot as the shot clock is winding down (Rhody didn’t foul with a 6-second shot clock discrepancy), and there’s a loose rebound.

Rams go after t — 3 seconds left — the chance of a run-out is there, but the Rhody player trips and falls and the ball falls to UNC as the clock winds out.

All year long, that specific play has been a point of emphasis for officials. No matter how innocuous it looks, a foul must be called there if the trip comes from the opponent.

Rhody should’ve had a chance to win it at the line.

And didn’t.

And Akeem Richmond’s sterling freshman season ends in an ugly way.

Final 68-67, Heels.

I have to say, I’m a little numb. I guess I’m glad the Heels won, but I hate the way it happened. Rhody gave the game away in the last 90 seconds of regulation, then the officials didn’t give the Rams their rightful chance at the end.

I feel bad for Akeem (0-6 FGs, 0-6 3FGs 0 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist 1 steal ), who clearly struggled, and I think I know now what I wanted to happen when the game was in the balance.

I think I wanted Rhody to win to give Akeem another chance at the Garden. I wanted to see him play again on TV and to continue to follow the reaction and love affair Sanford has had with him during this run.

But the Heels won.

And now we get to see another game where Deon Thompson shrinks in the paint, where Marcus Ginyard dribbles off his foot as he remains a shell of what he once was, and Larry Drew throws passes away in what is a meaningless tournament for a program like North Carolina.

Yeah, I think I would’ve rather seen Akeem get another crack at it.

In fact, I’m sure of it.

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Filed under ACC, Akeem Richmond, Alex Podlogar, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Prep sports, Rhode Island, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels

The PODcast — More Southern Lee Saga and Akeem Richmond’s NIT run

Sanford's Akeem Richmond is playing well at Rhode Island.

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.03.26-08.59.01-dedit.mp3″

Part 1

Sanford’s sports talk radio show, with Alex Podlogar and Ryan Sarda of The Sanford Herald, break down the problems with the posting of Southern Lee’s head football coaching job before going into Akeem Richmond’s run with Rhode Island in the NIT.

Part II

http://podlogar.podhoster.com/download/1782/17343/2010.03.26-09.30.00-d.mp3″

The guys break down the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, take a look at the Bobcats’ improving playoff chances and finally, Ryan settles on his new favorite MLB team.

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Filed under Akeem Richmond, Alex Podlogar, Charlotte Bobcats, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Eric Puryear, Final Four, Major League Baseball, North Carolina Tar Heels, Prep sports, Rhode Island, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels, WDCC 90.5 FM