With the ACC Tournament now a thing of the past, North Carolina will have plenty of time to reflect on how this season developed, or more aptly, fell apart.
From recent comments by coach Roy Williams and some key players—most notably, Marcus Ginyard—it appears the process has already begun.
Long before the 82-50 shellacking at Duke and last Thursday’s tournament loss, Ginyard offered some revealing words that insinuated the team never had a chance this year—that it was destined for mediocrity, or worse, failure from the start.
Shortly after the Tar Heels hosted media day, they played a preseason scrimmage against Vanderbilt, where they got throttled by 30 points.
“That scrimmage was terrible,” Ginyard said. “That was the whole season right there in that scrimmage. It was exactly the way this whole year has gone down. We were playing a good team, and we weren’t ready to play when we got there.”
The loss itself was not reason enough to worry, but the way UNC lost the game should have posed a troubling sign for a young, inexperienced team that should have had the drive to prove themselves. After all, even in the wake of lower expectations, the Tar Heels still commanded the national spotlight as defending champions.
Consequently, the team held a players only meeting to discuss what went wrong and to prevent similarly atrocities in the future, and it appeared for the non-conference leg of their season, the Tar Heels played with their embarrassing preseason episode in mind.
Then, a turning point of the worst kind occurred in December before the face-off against the College of Charleston. At least it appears that way when you inspect UNC’s record from that point.
Some have speculated that a falling out among players happened or a few players decided to stop heeding the instructions of their coach, or some combination of both. Others have presumed various scenarios, but in the end, everything is hearsay unless confirmed. The only certain outcome was that the team that performed well against competitive teams, including Syracuse, disappeared after winter break.
Prior to the Charleston debacle, teamwork was still clearly not a strong suit of the Tar Heels, as I have stated in many previous stories. North Carolina’s eventual unraveling just goes to show that a high-talent team without team chemistry is worse off than a less talented team that plays together seamlessly.
In another bit of journalistic repetition, Williams confirmed my long-held impression that this year’s squad of UNC youngsters had a steeper, self-imposed learning curve.
“I’m tired of saying the same thing over and over and over,” said Williams. “If you get into this University, you’re fairly intelligent. At some point you’ve got to change. That’s education. At some point, you’ve got to change your behavior.”
His comments portray a team that either refused or did not have the capacity to hear constructive criticism and correct mistakes. There was no followthrough to the point where Williams disgustingly gave up on repeating the same coaching instructions.
Now, we could debate all day long about who should bear the brunt of the blame. Is it mostly the players fault, or is the coach responsible for keeping the team in line? The laundry list of shortcomings is both extensive and exhaustive.
At the end of the day, both parties hold some sort of responsibility; however, I see no benefit in pointing fingers while trying to absolve others, especially if the behind-the-scenes stories of the players’ apathetic, recalcitrant behavior or Williams’ abandonment of coaching is true.
Furthermore, overanalyzing any comments from the players or coach may actually create a climate of misunderstanding or simply ignite existing tensions—even if the original intent of said comments were negative. Assigning fault rarely rectifies apathy and noncompliance or motivates instruction.
For everyone involved in North Carolina Tar Heels basketball—players, coach, and fans—let the past bury any hard feelings and failures of the past season. It is time to look to the future with a clean slate with the hope of promising results.
Soon after Georgia Tech defeated UNC, freshman John Henson tweeted, “Takin it down..headed to the hill tommrow morning..... Next season starts later that evening when I go to the gym...”
Like Henson, who is already looking forward and planning ahead, the rest of Tar Heel Nation should take his lead.