Tar Heel Tour invades Durham
The annual Tar Heel Tours give North Carolina coaches a chance to meet face-to-face with members of the Rams Club, a collection of boosters who donate money to the athletic department.
Though the tour visits eight to 12 sites a year, it made its first appearance in Durham in more than 10 years Tuesday night with a stop at the Carolina Theater.
“It’s great to be in Durham at a place called the Carolina Theater,” UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said.
“Well there are a lot of Tar Heel fans in this city to be sure,” responded emcee Woody Durham, the former “voice of the Tar Heels.” “Because I think most of the Duke fans are up in the upper reaches of the east coast.”
The Triangle has about 5,000 Rams Club members, by far the most of any area. By comparison, there are about 1,300 members in the Charlotte area.
The Tar Heel Tour makes annual stops in Charlotte, the Traid and the Triangle regions but recently had gone to Raleigh or stayed on campus instead of venturing to Durham.
“It’s so good to see all these Carolina people over in Durham,” women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell said.
Besides Cunningham and Hatchell, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and football coach Larry Fedora also spoke to the crowd.
The event mostly served as a celebration for UNC’s three biggest coaches — this past season, Hatchell won her 900th game and was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Williams capped a 25-win season with his 700th career victory and Fedora finished tied for first in the Coastal Division in his first season.
All three coaches received standing ovations as they took the stage.
“I hope in 10 years you’re still standing up for me,” Fedora said. “That’s my goal.”
Hatchell will join Williams in the Hall of Fame, making UNC the only school with two active inductees.
“For a basketball person like myself, being in coaching 38 years, the Naismith Hall of Fame is the next best thing to heaven,” Hatchell said.
Hatchell said she’s looking forward to having the best women’s basketball conference in the country when the ACC expands. National power Notre Dame joins next season, and NCAA finalist Louisville will arrive in 2014-15.
“The competition will be even stiffer, even tougher,” Hatchell said. “But hey, that’s why I’ve done this all these years, that’s why I’m so passionate about it, because I love competing. So it’s going to be a challenge, but you know what, they have to play us, as well.”
Like Hatchell, Williams finished in the top three in the ACC regular-season standings, lost in the ACC Tournament final and fell in the NCAA Tournament round of 32.
That tournament loss was to his former school, Kansas, which was matched with UNC in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season after the Tar Heels received a No. 8 seed and were sent to Kansas City.
When asked about the selection committee’s decision, Williams said that the team’s RPI was better than eight higher-seeded teams and that UNC had the eighth-most difficult schedule.
“It was stupid, flat-out,” Williams said. “I’ve got no problem telling (the committee). They don’t sign my paycheck or anything. I told them I thought it was stupid.
“I’ve been a head coach for 25 years, and that’s the first time you’ve ever heard Roy Williams complain because I do realize the job is so hard, but I’m tired of that junk.”
The Tar Heels clinched an NCAA bid by using an unconventional lineup that didn’t include a center, but Williams said he planned on going back to a traditional lineup in the future.
Williams also said he had “no earthly idea” what will happen with Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s top unsigned recruit. Wiggins is currently deciding between UNC, Kentucky, Kansas and Florida State, where his parents went to school.